Olivier Pauvert, , trans. from the French by Adriana Hunter. . Counterpoint, $14.95 (256pp) ISBN 978-1-58243-447-6
In this atmospheric quest through a nightmarish, right-wing–ruled France, an unnamed man discovers he's lost 12 years of his life and is wanted for a brutal murder. The National Party controls daily life, and the Ministry of Racial Differences doesn't allow nonwhites out during the day. Slowly the man learns that he's now a “Spirit,” casting no reflection, able to kill by allowing people to see into his eyes, with the authorities constantly on his trail. This scenario allows Pauvert to describe much of his country, from Nice to Paris, from the seaside into the Alps, as well as sing the praises of stolen motorcycles. Winner of the Prix Carrefour for Best First Novel, this episodic, poetic book takes an introspective look at identity and dim shadow worlds, where the Fugitive-like figure has the presence of mind to understand that he's “a ghost in a world of zombies.” Those expecting a traditional thriller with narrative drive will be disappointed.
Reviewed on: 10/06/2008