Top critical review
25 January 2018
I'm glad I read it. It's very French. I don't mind its Frenchness at all, in fact it adds to the appeal. But I cannot hide the fact I found the book a disappointment. There are snippets of what is to come but these are few and far between: 'In hindsight, the journalists of the centre left seemed only to have repeated the blindness of the Trojans. History is full of such blindness: we see it among the intellectuals, politicians and journalists of the 1930s, all of whom were convinced that Hitler would 'come to see reason'. There are sounds of distant explosions, and gunfire, but as he says, ' I was struck by my colleagues' lack of concern. They seemed completely unworried, as if none of this had anything to do with them.' The drip drip drip of encroaching doom is therefore well played out, but it is very slow. Meanwhile we are subjected to the main character's sexual fantasies and enactments which seem to be the most important thing to him. It's interesting the author forecasts Turkey joining the EU, which we know about, but also Tunisia, Algeria, and then Egypt. When the new regime inevitably takes over he initially appears disinterested, until one of his close friends acquires a 40 year old wife for 'cooking and cleaning' and a second 15 year old wife 'for the other things'. It's this sexual aspect that inevitably draws him to the new way of life. Crime is lower, and unemployment is solved overnight when women are banned from going to work. Sex is removed from public life altogether because all women are totally covered from head to foot, so even our sex mad main character begins to forget it. It's the slow inevitability of it that is the most convincing; as though all the population of France gave one enormous Gallic shrug and accepted their fate. One would hope this novel is a warning to them not to be so dangerously apathetic in real life.