Translated by Matthew B. Smith
Selected as one of the best books of 2009 by Time Out New York
A European man arrives in Shanghai, ostensibly on vacation, yet a small task given him by his Parisian girlfriend Marie starts a series of complications. There is a mysterious Chinese man and a manila envelope full of cash. Later, he meets a woman at an art gallery and they agree to travel together to Beijing, yet when he joins her at the train station, the Chinese man is along. Events eclipse explanations, and soon he surrenders himself to the on-rush of experience.
Nb of pages 120 p.
Publication Date 01 November 2009
Nb of pages 120
List Price $12.95
Would it ever end with Marie? The summer before we broke up I spent a few weeks in Shanghai, but it wasn't really a business trip, more a pleasure junket, even if Marie had given me a sort of mission (but I don’t feel like going into details). The day I arrived in Shanghai, Zhang Xiangzhi, a business associate of Marie’s, was there to meet me at the airport. I’d only seen him once before, in Paris, at Marie’s office, but I recognized him immediately, he was talking to a uniformed police officer just past customs. He had to be in his forties, round cheeks, facial features swollen, smooth, copper-colored skin, and he wore very dark sunglasses that seemed too big for his small face. We were waiting at the edge of the baggage carousel for my bag and we’d hardly exchanged a few words in broken English before he handed me a cell phone. Present for you, he told me, which plunged me into a state of extreme bewilderment. I didn’t really understand why he felt the need to give me a cell phone, a used cell phone, rather ugly, dull gray, without packaging or instructions. To keep an eye on me, be able to locate me at any time, watch my every move? I don’t know. I followed him silently through the airport terminal, and I felt a sense of unease, heightened by jet lag and the tension that comes with arriving in an unknown city.
This is Toussaint's darkest novel yet, one in which everything seems to be heading towards the blackest night imaginable. Yet even this looming presence of death is made to feel somehow exhilarating. It is further testament to Toussaint's standing as a master craftsman of the contemporary novel that he can give such shifting insouciance its weight.
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Genres : Fiction : Europe : Western Europe
Countries : Belgium