cover image Special Envoy: A Spy Novel

Special Envoy: A Spy Novel

Jean Echenoz, trans. from the French by Sam Taylor. New Press, $24.95 (256p) ISBN 978-1-62097-312-7

At the start of this mildly amusing send-up from Echenoz (I’m Gone), an aging general in France’s intelligence service, for reasons never explained, moves forward with a plan to destabilize North Korea. His first step is to order the kidnapping of Constance, a bored Parisian housewife married to Lou Tausk, an over-the-hill pop musician. Lou had one huge hit in his career, and it happened to be sung by Constance, whose voice has always entranced North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. After being held outside Paris for a few months, Constance is sent to Pyongyang as a sort of cultural ambassador, yet her strategy for weakening Kim’s rule is unclear, and the resolution of her mission is unlikely to satisfy fans of traditional spy thrillers. This is as much a portrait of a marriage that has run its course—Constance seems totally comfortable in her captivity, and Lou goes on with his life as if nothing has happened—as it is a parody. Those fond of the droll humor of the author’s other novels will best appreciate this attempt to play around with the machinery of the genre. (Nov.)