Seven Houses in France by Bernardo Atxaga

Seven Houses in France

Bernardo Atxaga

A strange new officer causes unrest among the soldiers and native servants in a 1903 Belgian-occupied Congolese garrison. A puzzling read as the narrative changes between several men - I struggled to distinguish between their voices - and the title is inspired by a woman’s ambition but there are no female characters. I found some of the camp’s views off-putting, but then it was evocative of the era. A stifling, amusing, melodramatic read.

Extract

Chrysostome's character and that of the landscape visible from the Roi du Congo chimed perfectly. His way of speaking was as inexpressive as the noise of the steamboat's paddles. 'Stupide?' That was the adjective that popped into Lasalle's mind, but at that very moment, he caught the look in Chrysostome's eyes, as if Chrysotome had read his thoughts. It was a hard, frightening look. Laselle immediately swallowed the adjective and saw, in its place, the caption he would give to the photo he would take: 'L'enigme de Chrysostome Liegé'- 'The enigma of Chrysostome Liegé'.

Parallels
  • The Dream of the Celt by Maria Vargos Llosa
  • Pandora in the Congo by Albert Sanchez Pinol
  • The Catastrophist by Ronan Bennett

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