The French title for this strange novel translates approximately as "The Chimerical Tenant", that is, a tenant who is two creatures or persons in one. And that pretty much indicates the puzzle that unfolds in the story. A lonely young man moves into an apartment and starts behaving obsessively. Is the building genuinely weird? Is he being psychologically possessed by the former tenant, a girl who committed suicide? Or is there some other explanation? Is he as normal as he seems?
Cleverly written and very carefully paced, the story just draws you in. There are touches of Gogol in this tale, also Meyrink's The Golem
, and it clearly is influenced by Barbusse's novel of a similar drab Parisian building, Hell
. But it fits firmly with certain French mid 20th century novelists - it strongly brings to mind Alain Robbe-Grillet's The Erasers
, In the Labyrinth
, books which likewise trick readers who assume that the protagonist is an ordinary person with a stable identity, and the world is alarmingly out of kilter. The truth is more complex.
Definitely worth reading. And you won't believe the final twist!