by Philippe Claudel
Stock, 508 p., 23 €
In a remote village of an Empire with indefinite contours but very Mitteleuropa, at an imprecise time, the priest was assassinated. Two children discovered him stiff and frozen in the snow. Nourio, the Policeman, whimsical pace and disturbing behavior, sees in this crime the perfect opportunity to come out of the shadows, make a name for himself, access a promotion and finally leave this hole in which he is bogged down.
But he is dominated by the flashes of an irrepressible desire that is no longer content to have a submissive and resigned wife at hand… dreamy head, shot through with flashes of poetry. Rumors, rancid thoughts, acrid stench are fermenting in this rough country, which the unresolved mystery of this crime only fuels.
Very quickly, the Muslims are suspected. The imam tries to calm things down, to plead for his community, to prove that no one can incriminate one of its members. But the arrival with great pomp of the bishop and the ceremony of the Stations of the Cross, punctuated by ostensible stops in front of the houses of the Mohammedans, throw oil on the smoldering fire. It marks, with its solemn firebrands, the beginning of a rural crusade in this region where Catholicism is dying out while on the other side of the border, “a fiery, turbulent and fanatical fervor” flourishes and raises a flowering of mosques.
Ascent to extremes and race to the abyss.
Little by little the stake of a collective conflagration is set up. The populace turns to violence, encouraged by the benevolent inertia of the authorities. The time comes for desecrations, lynchings, murder and a collective massacre. “Human beings cherish the times of possible disaster, which give value both to their miserable existence and a violent spice to the aftermath of which they do not yet know what they will be made of”, writes Philippe Claudel.
With this bloody fable, a cruel tale of absolute darkness on human nature, the novelist surveys his favorite terrain, the gray and tormented souls, delivered to their impulses and their troubled passions, in the precipitate of a neglected country. Painter of psychological meanders, sharp portraitist, Philippe Claudel deploys a gallery of characters à la Gogol, lost and grotesque, a dark atmosphere, a climate of anguish, with a chiseled, ample and powerful style, to sink into the depths of a deaf savagery.
A disturbing novel
Twilight is also an acid novel about the eternal return of evil, with the death of God as a backdrop. “Why does the Devil always enjoy coming back to Earth? asks one of his damned. From vague suspicions to accusations, from false news to falsified official truth, the infernal mechanics of a war staged from scratch, a prelude to all genocides, can no longer be stopped. She crushes everything to feed her insatiable madness, drunk on unreason. This disturbing novel recounts the death of empires and the decline of humanity. After Les Âmes grises, Le Rapport de Brodeck and L’Archipel du chien, Philippe Claudel signs his darkest and most ambitious book.
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