What I’ve been reading: November

So, it’s November and once again, I’ve found myself at the end of a highly unproductive month where blogging is concerned. I did manage to pick up one book this month, out of the many that are waiting to be read. As it turns out, I picked a pretty complex one at a time when I could have made my life a lot simpler…

Emmanuel Carrère and his novel, The Adversary were both unknowns to me. But, in the spirit of branching out and expanding my horizons, I decided to give it a go.

Truth be told, I’ve developed a love-hate relationship with this novel. On the one hand, I love its unashamed modernity. It’s gritty, it’s intense, it’s framed as a tale of real people and shattered illusions as they try to come to terms with forming a bond with a killer (in the case of the author – Carrère’s own cameo) and, with uncovering years’ worth of lies and blank spaces as the killer’s friends do. The quote on the cover sums it up: “a true story of monstrous deception”. What’s not to love?

However, I found much of the story stilted and a little frustrating. We start in Luc, the best friend’s, narrative, before moving swiftly onto the narrative voice of the author where we constantly shift between the immediacy of the trial and the tale of what happened. I understand the concept of frame narratives – we’re meant to believe this is a true story, after all. But, I was constantly distracted from the “action”, instead being diverted to what I felt were clumsily placed insights into “Carrère’s” relationship to the killer, Jean-Claude.

Overall, I think the concept of this novel is pretty cool; it’s basically Carrère’s counter to Truman Capote, who extracted himself from any involvement, emotional or otherwise, with the criminal subjects of his semi-fictional novel In Cold Blood. Instead, The Adversary explores the possibility that even the most evil acts aren’t always cold blooded, and life as we know it is more complicated than it seems.