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“It is by not looking that you will find.” How could the Investigator in Philippe Claudel’s new book have guessed? How could he have known that this routine investigation would be the last of his life? Put in charge of explaining the causes of a wave of suicides in a company based in a town that, sadly, feels familiar to us all, the Investigator is given a task that he has to see through to the end as he always has. He gradually succumbs to signs of anxiety: the hotel he moves into plays host not only to cheerful noisy tourists but also distressed displaced people. At the company where the staff are meant to be expecting him to come and resolve his enquiry, no one is waiting for him and everyone is hostile. Has he fallen into a trap, is he prey to a real-life nightmare? He is not allowed to drink or sleep or eat, his questions are only ever answered by more questions. Even the staff keep changing, sometimes affable, sometimes threatening. As he makes new discoveries, the Investigator begins to wonder whether he himself will be the next victim of an infernal machine poised to crush him as it has others. We begin to understand that the Investigator’s powerlessness in concluding his enquiry reflects our own powerlessness in the face of a world we ourselves have built for our own destruction.
Faithful to his favourite themes, and having evoked the traumas of past wars in Les Ames grises, La Petite fille de Monsieur Linh and Le Rapport de Brodeck, in this painfully prophetic novel Philippe Claudel explores a war without allies or enemies that threatens us now and in the future.
Philippe Claudel is the author of Les âmes grises (winner of the 2003 Renaudot prize and the Elle reader’s 2004 literary Grand Prix, and was Lire magazine’s 2003 Book of the Year) which has been translated and published in nearly 30 countries; La petite fille de Monsieur Linh (Stock, 2005); and Le rapport de Brodeck (winner of the 2007 Goncourt des lycéens). His first film, Il y a longtemps que je t’aime, 2008, with Elsa Zylberstein and Kristin Scott Thomas won two César awards. He has also written to stage plays, Parle-moi d’amour (opened in 2008) and Le Paquet (opened in January 2010).