30 October 2016

Marie Redonnet: Nevermore (1994)

Unsurprisingly, Marie Redonnet's Nevermore is translated into English using the same title. Slightly surprisingly, though, the Times Literary Supplement review described it as a 'frenetic erotic thriller'. Frenetic is certainly is: in the space of just 160 pages many characters appear (and often disappear), and many things happen. Also, unlike the other two Redonnet books I've read – Rose Mélie Rose and Seaside – this is certainly a thriller, a kind of detective story with a great deal of mystery, many twists, dead bodies, etc. But erotic? Well, there are a few brief moments of that, plus a few brief moments of sexual abuse, but if a reader is looking for an erotic book this is not it.

This may have some of the hallmarks of Rose Mélie Rose and Seaside – a strange, haunting atmosphere throughout, the prominence of decay, the suggestion of prostitution and iffy clubs, etc – but other things are very different. The minimalism has gone, there's a much stronger (and often bewildering) plot, and there seem to be (half-hearted) attempts at satire on (or parody of) the American detective genre with the bourbon-swigging and the casual treatment of women.

The novel has mainly American-sounding names (Willie Bost, Ronie Burke, Cassy Mac Key, etc), and appears to take place in a vaguely American west coast border town. And the reference to film-making inevitably made me think of Hollywood, and for some reason of Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard in particular. And yet the frequent use of the word 'pissotière' (site of two murders and one suicide) resolutely returns us to France.

There's a sense of immediacy that adds to the raciness of the story, underlined by the use of the present tense. There are also delightfully-expressed touches of pessimism virtually throughout: of San Rosa (where the novel is set): 'if it weren't for the town center like a poisoned wound, San Rosa could be a paradise'; and (with surely a hint of Beckett?) of Willie's soon-to-be-abandoned book: 'he doesn't see any way of making sense of life other than by bearing witness to what no one wants to know'. (My translations.)

Nevermore begins improbably with Cassy casually meeting Willie and towing his broken-down jalopy into town in her new Pontiac, and ends with their disappearance after viewing the bones of a whale in a grotto. Only no one knows where they've gone to, and by the state of most people's memories (memory being a central theme) they'll no doubt soon be forgotten. Intentionally.

Links to my other Marie Redonnet posts:

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Marie Redonnet: Rose Mélie Rose | Rose Mellie Rose

Marie Redonnet: Seaside

Marie Redonnet: Tir & Lir

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