x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Book review: a wartime interrogation in Algeria leaves its mark

French writer Jérôme Ferrari's English-language debut plunges deep into the viscerally evocative realm of the darkness of war.

Where I Left My Soul
Jerome Ferrari (translated by Geoffrey Strachan)
Maclehose Press

 

French writer Jérôme Ferrari's English-language debut plunges deep into the viscerally evocative realm of the darkness of war. Written in the form of shifting dual narratives - one first-person, the other third-person omniscient - following the course of an army interrogation, the terrible bleakness of the story's surroundings is eclipsed only by the bleaker souls that wander through it.

It is Algeria in 1957 and the country is on the cusp of rebellion against its French colonial rulers. Capitaine Andre Degorce interrogates captured instigators with a cool head prepped for strategic negotiation. When that fails, as it usually does, he and his unit turn to harsher methods to glean information, even as Degorce's hold on sanity slips beneath his calm façade. As his attachment to an enigmatic captive grows too strong to go unnoticed by his subordinates, one of them decides to take matters into his own hands.

With his map of the abyss of the human soul, Ferrari veers right off the beaten path of war story clichés. Through the haunted minds of his protagonists, it becomes all too apparent that the consequences of their actions will remain etched in them forever.