Brodeck “survived” the war. He returned home to find his wife speechless, a daughter he didn’t know about, and his old “nanny”. His village seems the same, though, until the Anderer arrives. The Anderer turns upside down the whole village, and Brodeck is the one chosen to write about the event. He is forced to do it. He has to write the story to make others understand why they had to kill the Anderer. But Brodeck wants us to know that he has nothing to do with it. He had no part in it.
What was the fault of the Anderer? An eye to read people, to know what they are like, and to paint them, as they are, not as they seem.
Brodeck starts writing two stories at the same time: The Anderer’s murder, and his story.
This novel reminds me of Grey souls. It was in part the same feeling when I was reading. The narrative is slow, only shades of grey, no colours at all, and I read with a sinking heart the whole story.
I knew all the time that they were not safe, and I wanted to warn them: Brodeck, his wife, the Anderer. But I was only the reader, I was not part of the story even if I felt part of it.
The description of the war and the people of the village reminded me how dangerous people are when they are scared, because it is then that they are capable of the most horrid things to feel safe again, not matter what happens to others.
This is the main character, Brodeck: “I have grown accustomed to my solitude.”
“I have the feeling that I am the wrong size for my life.”
Diodeme is the scholar of the village, and some of his quotes are the best of the story.
“What I’d like to do is to understand. We never understand anything, or if we do, not much. Men live, in a way as the blind do, and generally that’s enough for them.”
“I’ve loved questions, and I’ve loved the paths you must follow to find the answers.”
The fear is the emotion that accompanies the reader throughout the story.
“Yes, I was the only one.
As I said those words to myself, I heard all of a sudden how dangerous they sounded: to be innocent in the midst of the guilty was, after all, the same as being guilty in the midst of the innocent.”
“The camp was always inhabited by the same silhouettes and the same bony faces. We were not ourselves any more. We did not belong to ourselves any more. We were not men any more. We were just a species.”
And other quotes are just wise ones or thought-provoking considerations.
“… sometimes it’s best not to go back to where you came from You remember what you left, but you never know what you’re going to find there, especially when madness has raged in men for a long time.”
“Man is an animal that always begins again.”
“The flowers were still quivering with life, as they had not noticed that they had just passed the gates of death.”
“Sometimes you love your own scars.” The ones that make you stronger?
This is one of those stories that deserve an attentive and deliberate reading.
Philippe Claudel (born 2 February 1962) is a French writer and film director.
In addition to his writing, Claudel is a Professor of Literature at the University of Nancy.
He directed the 2008 film I’ve loved you so long. Much admired, it won the 2009 BAFTA for the best film not in English.
After studying in Nancy, he remained there and for eleven years worked as a teacher in prisons. Contact with his students inspired short stories, novels, and then screenplays. He has said that the experience made him give up his simple opinions about people, about guilt, about the necessity to judge others. “It’s clear to me now that it would have been impossible for me to write a novel like Brodeck’s Report or Grey Souls, to make a movie like I’ve Loved You So Long, if I hadn’t been in jail.”
His best-known work to date is the novel Grey Souls, which won the Prix Renaudot in France, was shortlisted for the American Gumshoe Award, and won Sweden’s Martin Beck Award. He won the 2003 Prix Goncourt de la Nouvelle for Les petites mécaniques, and the 2010 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, for Brodeck’s Report, ‘ his hallucinatory story – almost a dark fairy-tale in which Kafka meets the Grimms– of an uneasy homecoming after wrenching tragedy.”
Quelques-uns des cent regrets: roman, 1999.
Le Bruit des trousseaux, 2002.
Grey souls. 2003.
Monsieur Linh and His child, 2005.
Brodeck’s Report , 2007.
The Investigator, 2010.