This is a compact and yet lyrical novel. A beautifully crafted novel of ideas. It deals with tough subjects, lost men, and the implacable forces of history. Yet, not unlike the deft and humane short novels of Joseph Roth, Mr Ferrari's compassion is boundless and at the same time quietly and utterly convincing. The style is spare, the insights precise and often unsettling, and the translation by Mr Strachan ( whose translations of Makine obviously recommend him) has wonderful simplicity too.
It deserves a wide readership. I hope you find it as significant and inspiring as I did.
Jerome Ferrari's novel (translated by Geoffrey Strachan) is one of poacher turned gamekeeper under battle conditions. The irony of two military compatriots who were imprisoned victims of torture find themselves on the other side of the bars during the Algerian War of the mid-1950's.
Lieutenant Andreanni equates his own horrific experiences to the interrogation and torture after the capture of the leader of the Algerian rebels, Tahar. He takes this task as some sort of routine procedure to a captured enemy. His colleague Capitaine Degroce, his fellow captive now torturer follows the book of 'extreme interrogation' until he begins to ask questions of himself and the morality of his actions. This leads to discussions and differences of opinion between Andreanni and Degroce as to the reasoning of the methodical degradation of Tahar.
There is an inevitable conflict that arises beteween the two, with recollections and flash-back experiences to their own captivity and inhumane treatment and what it achieved now that they are replaying a role-reversal on Tahar. The relationship becomes more complex as Degorce finds solace and sympathy for Tahar whereas Andreanni, having a close relationship with Degorce, continues on the malicious, sadistic road of victim interrogation as the way it should be. As Tahar states 'a martyr is a thousand times more useful than a fighter'. Retention, detention and torture are still widespread. Ferrari portrays a diverse view of the mix of inhumane and compassion that befalls the perpetrators of these evil deeds with their associated inner motives and doubts.
A captivating and horrifying insight of captivity, 'interrogation', and torture. It hardly needs me to say that these trials and tribulations persist throughout 'civilisation'. An unforgettable read.
Jerome Ferrari is a great writer. This work is both passionate and world weary but full of complex emotion and beauty. At times it reads like a work of reportage mined out from the darkest places of human nature; lost men fighting a lost cause where everything is mired in cruelty and failure.
Where I Left My Soul is a profound insight into the world of the torturer and the cost to the individual of inhabiting such a place.
It is a rare privilege to read such a disturbing haunting masterpiece, such a raw fragment of the human soul.
André Degorce is a child of the French Enlightenment. He studied advanced mathematics. He is aware of the deeper moral insights and meanings of Christian religion. But an unrelenting sequence of brutalisation starting in the Gestapo station in Besancon, then in Buchenwald concentration camp, through the misery of defeat at Dien Bien Phu and incarceration in a Vietcong re-education camp, then the Algerian war, destroys his soul. Ugly base humanity capable of inflicting atrocity is exposed in him. War is a social organisation that overwhelms enlightenment. There is a brief hope of remission as Degorce tries to treat the Algerian resistance leader Tahar humanely, but he fails as the army machine kills Tahar regardless, and Degorce himself is soon horribly brutalising Robert Clément. This short powerful novel deeply challenges the assumption of human virtue.