Saturday, January 21, 2012

Five best: French noir fiction

R.J. Ellory's novels include the bestselling A Quiet Belief in Angels, which was the Strand Magazine's Thriller of the Year, nominated for the Barry Award, and a finalist for the SIBA Award. His novel, A Simple Act of Violence, won the Theakston's Crime Novel of the Year Award.

He named his five best French noir novels for the Wall Street Journal.

One book on the list:
The Stranger
by Albert Camus (1942)

The brilliance of Camus in this book is to make us feel something for a man who feels nothing. The French-Algerian writer—a World War II Resistance fighter, a philosopher, a journalist—once advised: "Always go too far, because that's where you'll find the truth." Yet in "The Stranger" he gives us Meursault, an unremarkable man who drifts in and out of situations, never seeming to connect with the people or circumstances he describes, even when he is drawn into the sordid melodrama of a neighbor's romantic life. On a hot afternoon on an Algerian beach, Meursault encounters a man who has been part of that dispute and shoots him—leaving us wondering whether Meursault has perpetrated this act of violence simply to see if he would feel something. He has gone too far, but we're not sure what truth he has found. His arrest, his trial, his conviction—they play out with Meursault observing them as though they were happening to someone else. Unsettling, disturbing and unforgettable.
Read about another novel on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue