Monday, June 4, 2012

Fiction: The Investigation by Philippe Claudel

Publisher: Nan A. Talese/Knopf Doubleday
Translator: John Cullen
Date: 2010; July 10, 2012 (English)
Format: ARC
Source: LibraryThing Early Reviewers
Read: for review (disclaimer: I received my copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)
Pages: 220
Reading time: three hours

From GoodReads: The Investigator is a man quite like any other. He is balding, of medium build, dresses conservatively—in short, he is unremarkable in every way. He has been assigned to conduct an Investigation of a series of suicides (twenty-two in the past eighteen months) that have taken place at the Enterprise, a huge, sprawling complex located in an unnamed Town. The Investigator's train is delayed, and when he finally arrives, there's no one to pick him up at the station. It is alternating rain and snow, it's getting late, and there are no taxis to be seen. Off sets the Investigator, alone, into the night, unsure quite how to proceed.

So begins the Investigator's series of increasingly frustrating attempts to fulfill his task. In the course of hours of wandering looking for the entrance to The Enterprise, he bumps into a stranger hurrying past and spills open his luggage, soaking his clothes. When he finally reaches the Enterprise, he is told he does not posses the proper authorization documents to enter after regular hours. Asking for directions to a hotel, he is informed "We're not the Tourist Office," and must set off to find one himself. Time and time again, regulations hamstring him, street layouts befuddle him, and all the while he senses someone watching him, recording his every movement.

My review: The Investigation in three words - surreal, absurd, enchanting. It's a difficult book to review because, while I very much enjoyed reading it, I really don't feel like the writing and plot combination is all that great. Though I grasped some of the satirical points being made about modern society, I did not think they were very clear in the story. Their obscured, sporadic state seemed to indicate that they were not actually the main message of the book, leaving this ulterior meaning to be nonexistent in the wake of contrasting interpretations of the purpose of the novel.

I read The Investigation in one sitting. For much of the book, I was absorbed in the story more as something interesting to do than because the plot was exciting and engaging in a can't-put-the-book-down way. Not that the plot was boring; it was just a bit slow and...odd. What was at the beginning a nightmarish landscape and set of scenarios, however, turned into a bizarre sequence of events that left a more benign, enchanted feel to the book. Towards the end, I did become completely absorbed in the novel because I was intrigued by how the story would conclude. The ending was unexpected and a bit shocking, nothing at all what I had expected. Even for the nature of the book, I thought it was unusual and fascinating, which is what turned what would have been a four-star (good read) novel into a four-and-a-half star (great read, but not perfect) book for me.

1 comment:

  1. I fully agree with what you have written.. however, I'm having great trouble understanding the end. The question, "What is it that I have found?"....