There is no point trying to pretend that the Nobel Prize awarded to J.M.G Le Clezio did not influence the purchase of this book. You always want to find out for yourself if the plaudits are worth it and so it was with a half open mind, you expect to be stirred by a Nobel winner, that I set out on the Interrogation.
In some respects it reminded me of The Stranger by Albert Camus because of the central figure’s detached view of the world. But there is something here about the danger of solitude and the impact on the mind of someone who has time to delve deep into themselves.
As he walks around a seaside town Adam Pollo cuts n odd figure following dogs, putting himself into the mind of rats and living a life of sunbathing, thinking and begging money from his girlfriend. But nothing is ever clear. For instance did Adam desert from the army or end up being discharged because of a psychiatric problem? Then there is the relationship with his girlfriend. Did he rape/assault her or was that an exaggeration and a joke between them?
What is sure is that after deciding to stand up in the middle of the promenade and start sharing his views of the world he winds up in a mental hospital where he is dragged in front of a bunch of students for the interrogation to begin. They have made up their minds what is wrong with him but he shows them through his various opportunities to answer questions that not only is making judgements a difficult art but the power is in his own hands as to whether or not he pulls himself through.
He seems to decide that he is going to opt for a slow slide into a dream like state of embracing the institution of the hospital and those students that are questioning him for the most part seem unaware they are witnessing the moment when an individual decides to switch their mind onto a course set for a semi-vegetative state. What is disturbing is the message that the book implies about the consequences for individualism and the inability for society to cope or understand anyone different from the norm. Adam could try to make them understand but in the face of the futility of that he makes the sane choice and opts for winning the battle in his own head rather than in a room filled with medical students and doctors.
Having established that Adam is stuck in a house all alone and prone to odd behaviour it comes a little surprise he decides to build into his routine the chance to follow a dog.
He trots after the dog through the town and then returns to find a big white rat sitting near the billiard table. He destroys the rat with the two swapping personalities during the battle.
Although that sounds odd but simple those moments are accompanied by heavy description with not just the wind blowing through the reeds but the heat of the summer coming across in the words he chooses to put down on the page.
Adam is so anti-social that it is almost beyond him to try and figure out ways he could avoid people if he was ever evicted from the house he is squatting in. he even admits that he hasn’t got the ability to fill 24 hours a day of peace. That is his major problem living alone with that much time eventually becoming more and more strange.
This book is almost like watching a film stood right up next to the screen with the wider picture reduced to small details that end up being concentrated on by the main character Adam Pollo.
Pollo appears to have done a bunk from national service, he is French, and found a home on the coast that is deserted. He has moved in and leads a relatively lonely and quiet life. The result is that he becomes obsessional about things and when he does talk to other people the lack of exposure to normal conversation causes him to sound abrupt, rude and odd.
There is a girl friend of sorts but they play games, which seem to involve some sort of rape that it is not clear whether it is part of the game or if it happened. That relationship reminds you a bit of Les Enfants Terribles but the coastal beach setting has echoes of Camus’s Stranger.
But the less that Adam does the more uncomfortable it becomes to read. His introspection heightens and he starts to focus on things that most of us would not notice. That creates a growing sense of unease that this odd character will say and do the wrong thing and offend the general sensibilities of the local community.
Okay, so its only 50 odd pages in, but already this feels like it is going to be the sort of story that gnaws away at the imagination for quite some time to come.