“The Passengers of the Rain”: sadness and deep rage in Bordeaux

It’s snowing on Bordeaux in Marie NDiaye’s new novel, revenge is mine. It’s raining at Hervé Le Corre, Bordeaux is soaked, drowned, with, but rarely, splinters of “Cold sun” that hurt. Wind “Slap the windows with his big wet hands”, the wind is like “A cold scarf”. In this atmosphere, weariness finds its place at best. The weariness of Commander Jourdan, whom the novel picks up at a time in his life when “He can’t take it any longer.” He can no longer see the cooled meat, children murdered by their father, their bodies lined up in the hallway. The poor girls and their filthy pimps, and a raging killer: Jourdan feels himself wavering. He must face a “Unstable mixture of infinite sadness and deep rage”.

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Lassitude of Louise, too, who lives for Sam, her little boy. She does housework, takes care of the elderly. His parents were teachers, they died. Louise slowly climbs up the walls of hell, but it slips. Her ex harasses her, comes to her house to hit her, refuses to let go. She would gladly kill him, if that was possible. Louise’s weariness meets Jourdan’s, and for a moment subsides. Jourdan, whom his wife no longer watches, likes Louise’s voice, a little hoarse by “A veil, like a tragic elegance, placed over everything she says”.

Women are attacked, mutilated, massacred. The third character that we follow in Cross the night is the killer, Christian. He works at Gascogne Matériaux, delivers concrete blocks. In front of a corpse that will have to be removed, he has this thought: “I have to call mom.” Call mom for help, hope mom is proud of him. To hell with it, mom. Christian is tired, too. His mother forces him to sleep with her, he has more than enough. But without mom, the despicable mom, how to live without her So at night, Christian is looking for women.

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In the first scene of the book, a giant defends itself at the police station. We found him in the rain, prostrate at a streetcar stop, his T-shirt full of blood. The blood of one of the victims. But Jourdan very quickly has the intuition that he is not the murderer. His intuition will also lead him to listen attentively to calls for witnesses which should make it possible to identify this false culprit, before setting out on the trail of the real thing.

The characters circulate, the trajectories cross, a sinuous line orders the construction of the book. People who fight, people who help each other, do what they can, and then the others, who prefer the worst, thrive on weakness, humiliate and kill: such is human material. Hervé Le Corre will stop at nothing. We must keep in mind Jourdan’s awareness of his state of fatigue. He’s on the brink, and that’s where the novel stands.

Cross the night, by Hervé Le Corre, Rivages, 318 pp., € 20.90.


Claire Devarrieux

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