This extravagant novel marks the English-language debut of one of France’s most exciting and controversial writers. At the center is a mysterious excavation site in southwest France, where the skull of a 500,000-year-old man has been discovered. Simon, a journalist assigned to do a story on the cave, is a voluptuary keenly responsive to his surroundings, finding an erotic patina over everything he sees, hears, touches, imagines.
As he and a young archeologist from Cameroon find themselves drawn into a whirlwind of sexual hunger, the surrounding countryside fills with strange and exotic visitors: an escaped Basque terrorist, a roving lynx, a redheaded biker queen and her latest conquest (a village waitress), tourists from Northern Europe, a hermit, a gold prospector, a madwoman. . . . All these characters and narrative strands come together at the conclusion as the countryside goes up in flames.
In The Cave of Heaven Grainville explores the mystery of origins, the convergence of the prehistoric past on the technologic present, and the primitive impulses that still reside in the modern heart and mind. The journalist Simon encompasses in his visionary imagination both epochs, the savage and the civilized, united by his Rimbaudesque sensitivity to extremes (of language as well as behavior).
“Nature out here is subject to unpredictable excesses,” he notes, which Grainville matches with the unpredictable excesses of his highly imagistic prose, superbly rendered here in Dominic Di Bernardi’s translation.