“Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.
Sunday, September 28, 2014
Reviews: Gerald Seymour, Louise Phillips, Dominique Manotti, Conor Fitzgerald
The fifth of French author Dominique Manotti’s novels to be translated into English, Escape (Arcadia Books, €11.99) opens in 1987 with a prison break in Italy. Filippo, a petty criminal, and Carlo, a former leader in the Red Brigades, immediately go their separate ways; but when Carlo is subsequently shot to death during a bank raid, Filippo makes his way to Paris, claims refugee status, and writes a novel about his experience. The book’s blend of fact and fiction makes it a literary sensation in France, where Lisa, an expatriate Italian journalist, and Carlo’s former lover, realises that Carlo’s death was a murder designed to cover up political corruption. “People don’t do politics any more in Italy, they do business, it’s the grand ball of the corruptors and the corrupt,” Lisa tells one of her friends, which gives a flavour of the bracing cynicism that underpins Escape. Translated by Amanda Hopkinson and Ros Schwartz, and rooted in the radical Italian politics of the 1960s and 1970s, it’s an unconventional tale more concerned with the unintended consequences of writing a political crime novel than pandering to the genre’s traditional pursuit of justice. Indeed, there may well be an autobiographical aspect to the character of Lisa, as Manotti – who was herself a union activist during the 1960s – charts Lisa’s growing awareness that fiction rather than fact may prove the more effective long-term strategy in ‘the battle to salvage our past’.
This column first appeared in the Irish Times.