10 September 2016

Pascale Roze: Le Chasseur Zéro (1996)

Pascale Roze, born in Vietnam, was inspired to write on reading Marquerite Duras, who was of course also born in Vietnam, then known as Indochina. Coincidentally, Roze won the Prix Goncourt with this novel, and the woman before her who won the Goncourt was in fact Duras, with L'Amant in 1984. That's twelve years between, which in the 113-year history of the Goncourt makes it about average for a woman. The gap between men and women writers is perhaps beginning to close slightly, but nevertheless in those 113 (soon to be 114) years only eleven women have been successful. There must surely be something wrong here because I can't believe that men are naturally better writers than women – the mere suggestion is absurd.

But to return to Pascale Roze's Le Chasseur Zéro, which was incidentally her first novel. The first person narration is by Laura Carlson (born of a French mother and an American father), a woman who has never known her father and grows up with her psychiatrically disturbed mother and her very odd grandparents.

With the encouragement of her school friend Nathalie she begins to research into her father's past, much to the anger of her grandparents and her mother. Andrew Carlson died in the aircraft carrier Maryland in Okinawa in 1945, killed by a kamikaze pilot in a plane with the same name as the book: 'Le Chasseur Zéro'.  Laura investigates more, reads the journal of the kamikaze pilot Tsurukawa, and becomes obsessed.

Obsession is a dangerous thing as it can lead to psychiatric disorder. Laura becomes preoccupied by Tsurukawa, hears the sound of war to such an extent that she has to take sleeping pills and wear earplugs in an attempt to muffle the noise in her head. Even her long relationship with the musician Bruno is destroyed by it.

No comments: