Echoes of post-war Paris

Napier Courier - - NEWS -

Paris Echo — Se­bas­tian Faulks (Pen­guin Ran­dom House, $37.00) re­viewed by Louise Ward, War­dini Books

Among the plethora of nov­els deal­ing with the ev­er­last­ing fall­out of World War II some stand out. This is one of them.

We are in Paris, city of light and love, but it hasn’t al­ways been that way. Dur­ing the Ger­man oc­cu­pa­tion from 1940 Parisian women formed re­la­tion­ships with Ger­man sol­diers and the scars re­main. Paris Echo is a mod­ern day in­ves­ti­ga­tion into a city that still har­bours its ghosts.

Hannah is a post­doc­toral re­searcher with Parisian ghosts of her own — the great love af­fair of her life played out in the city and her re­turn to re­search the women of the oc­cu­pa­tion is at once painful and cathar­tic. Tariq is a self­ob­sessed teenager, bored with his com­fort­able life in Al­ge­ria, who sets out to find adventure in Paris where his dead mother once lived. He skirts the mi­grant quar­ters try­ing to make a liv­ing, find­ing that this dark, dirty Paris may an­swer ex­is­ten­tial ques­tions he didn’t know he had. He meets Hannah by ac­ci­dent and, although worlds apart, they con­nect through Tariq’s lan­guage skills and the archived tes­ti­mony of the women of the war. The echoes of the ti­tle play out in Paris’s bloody his­tory. Tariq finds traces of his fam­ily in ref­er­ences to the Al­ge­rian War and the Paris Mas­sacre of 1961, events he was ig­no­rant of be­fore meeting Hannah. His love of the Metro leads him to meet characters who seem to have the abil­ity to weave in and out of time, although rooted to Paris, and their sto­ries fill a hole in Tariq as he pieces to­gether the past. Hannah’s ghosts ap­pear through her re­search and the sub­jects’ sto­ries are com­pelling tes­ti­monies of re­sis­tance and col­lab­o­ra­tion, pro­pa­ganda and protest.

Paris Echo is at once com­plex and read­able, a well-crafted novel of how the past de­fines the present and how the echoes re­main if we lis­ten hard enough, as Tariq tries to do: “… I hoped that maybe it would have meant some­thing to them to know that many years later, some­one, even just a no­body from Africa like me, would come to lis­ten to their voices”.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.