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When a bailiff turns up a teenager tries to salvage her mother their dignity and the TV When a bailiff arrives at a housing project on the edge of Paris to draw up a routine inventory of goods in view of seizure the reception he receives from Rose Melle and her teenage daughter is than he has bargained for Rose forever unhinged by the trauma of childhood spent under Nazi occupation mistakes him for a collaborationist thug and assails him with her alternately tragic and hilarious memories of Vichy France In a narrative that lurches giddily between 1942 and 1997 Salvayre picks at the sores of recent French history exposing its continuing authoritarianism The Company Of Ghosts won the Prix Novembre in France


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    This book made me reet proppa melancholy as they say in the North of England By this I don’t mean the sort of heartsick longing melancholy one finds in a Camera Obscura LP or a French classic I mean full on Weltschmerz—the sort of sadness that takes all week to shake off You roll around on the floor beating the boards cursing the naturally evolving world constructed within a naturally evolving series of universes and multiverses desperate for a better tomorrow for you and your children or if no children you pray for the opportunity to ever have children with an actual woman This preamble you may have observed is a typical MJ ploy to fill the review box with my own ramblings and thus hook the reader into caring about the book Don’t you dare start skipping This novel takes place in a French slum in 1997 when a process server or repo man arrives to make an inventory of the repossessable items in the hovel of a mother and her daughter The mother is tormented by memories of Nazi thugs in her childhood and torments her daughter by eloquently recounting these memories in detail before lapsing into endless tormented screams Meanwhile the virginal daughter is tormented by romantic longing and her own murderous thoughts Torment is the operative Like Salvayre’s The Power of Flies this novel probes in dark psyches unflinching in its warts and warts depiction of how the vilest aspects of our pasts invade our present The novel suffers from a lack of focus and stretching the conceit too far plus confusion as to who is narrating The bonus short story here is a dark Swiftian piece that seems chillingly real