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.
In a highly original work that is both absorbing and fascinating, Claudel undertakes a sweeping critique of the contemporary world through a variety of modes. Like Kafka, Beckett, and Huxley, he has crafted a dark fable that evokes the absurdity and alienation of existence with piercing intelligence and considerable humor.
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"Starred Review. Spare and taut, the tale unfolds with the inevitability of fate, drawing readers into the profoundest of human enigmas. Felicitously translated from the 2010 French original, this masterwork adds luster to the stellar reputation Claudel established with his prizewinning By a Slow River (2003) and Brodeck (2007)." - Booklist
"A technocratic Kafka nightmare - heavy on surreal diagnosis of the world's ills, light on the traditional rewards of storytelling - crossed with Alice in Wonderland and a hint of Buster Keaton." - Kirkus Reviews
"There's no subtlety or ambiguity; nothing is left to the imagination, from the lives of the characters to the ideas Claudel intends to illuminate. Few readers will be able to draw any parallels between the author's vision and contemporary society." - Publishers Weekly
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Philippe Claudel is the author of many novels, among them By a Slow River,
which has been translated into thirty languages and was awarded the Prix
Renaudot in 2003 and the Elle Readers' Literary prize in 2004. His
novel La Petite Fille de Monsieur Linh was published in 2005, and Le Rapport de Brodeck won the Prix Goncourt des Lycéens in 2007 (published in the UK in 2009 as Brodeck's Report and in the USA as Brodeck)
Claudel also wrote and directed the film I've Loved You So Long starring Kristin Scott Thomas and Elsa Zylberstein, which opened in movie theaters in the United States in the fall of 2008 and in thirty other countries around the world.
Claudel is a Professor of Literature at the University of Nancy.
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