Monday, January 6, 2020

Le Suspendu de Conakry: An Easygoing Slowpaced French Mystery

Since coming back from France/Toulouse, less than one month ago I can't stop thinking about the overwhelming feeling of being home in the language. Ten years of Germany and many others across the world that brought new languages and cultures into my life did not change at all the familiarity I have with the French language and the easiness of feeling at home anywhere on the French territory. Compared to Germany, no one is asking me where I am coming from because I am automatically considered a local and using the language outlines this belonging.
Although I do not believe in New Year's resolutions, I wish to myself more French books and more trips to France in the next month, because this conundrum of culture and civilization is an important part of my identity and personal history.
I brought from France a couple of books not necessarily belonging to the Top 10 - and definitely no Houllebecq - but that caught my attention for very specific reasons. Among them, Le Suspendu de Conakry by Jean-Christophe Rufin, member of the French Academy and one of the founders of Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders). The catch: the short presentation on the cover about a Romanian consul that helped to solve a mystery. 
This Romanian, Aurel Timescu is a hilarious creature: speaks French with a bad accent - got his position in Quay d'Orsay - the headquarters of the French diplomacy - due to a good marriage connection, is semi-alcoholic (he loves Tokay, as partly Hungarian) and a bit psychotic and used to play piano in a brothel before. While working in consular affairs at the French Embassy in Conakry, Guinea, he is isolated and constantly humiliated professionally. While on professional assignment outside the embassy he dresses completely indequate, with an old world touch that adds even more awkwardness to the character. Flashes of his Romanian past during the communist times are constantly sparkling during the story, and they integrate well into the bigger narrative.
Completely on himself, and without informing his superiors, he is solving the riddle of the killing of a French national whose body was found hunging in the port of Conakry. By using almost medium skills and lucky connections with the locals, plus a bit of intuition, he's able to find the solution, but justice after death will not be delivered though. Aurel Timescu is that hilarious anti-hero which is following his own way but his satisfaction is mostly personal. No upgrade of his peculiar diplomatic status either.
The book is one of those airplane or weekend reads that you finish in one reading. It has some traits of the classical mysteries, with out-of-the blue hints that only the author can predict. As a reader, one feels like a passive receiver of information but regardless how much you know you will never manage enough to solve the case yourself.
Also, it has way too many aesthetics which beautifully add some literary drama to the story but it is not necessarily what I am looking for in a mystery. 
As for the Timescu guy, he has a unique personality, but it is the kind of people I usually avoid both in my real and literary lives, as it has 'looser' written all over.
There are another 2 books that will be part of the series but most likely would love to try another new French author instead.
De gustibus, after all...

Rating: 3 stars 

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