Cannonball Read V: The Investigation by Philippe Claudel
The Investigator arrives on a train and finds that there is no taxi waiting for him. He has come to conduct an Investigation at The Enterprise. He starts walking blindly, sure that he will find his way. He asks for directions. Pretty much everything belongs to The Enterprise, he is told. Any road will lead him there, one way or another. It starts to snow.
His suitcase breaks. His socks, toothpaste, and polyester pants spill into the wet streets. He blunders on and finds The Guardhouse. The Guard refuses him entry -- it's too late to come in to The Enterprise today. Come back tomorrow. Can he recommend a hotel? "We're not the Tourist Office."
The Investigator is a specific man, specifically described; he is small, round, middle-aged, balding. But he has no name. He has only a role. And so it is with each character in this book: The Waiter, The Policeman, The Founder, The Guard. Occasionally an individual will switch roles. No man is without one.
The Investigator's journey is a wandering one through an exaggerated dream of modern life. The bed in his hotel stands alone in the middle of the floor, the only furniture in a room that measures twenty feet by thirty feet. The attached bathroom is a closet; so small he dares not close the door. He goes to breakfast the next morning. The dining room is full of table after table of Tourists eating cheese omelets, smoked fish, fruit-studded soft rolls, and pineapple juice. The Investigator requests toast and orange juice. The Server says no. He gets bitter coffee and two rusks. The Investigator accidentally breaks a towel dispenser. The Policeman questions him, demanding he reenact the 'crime' again and again.
The Reviewer arrives on page one and finds there is no plot waiting for her. She has come to construct a Review of The Book. She starts reading blindly, sure that she will find her way. Each distorted incident, each twisted setting, presents a jaded, Kafka-esque take on the hollow modern world. The Investigation, somehow, does not get off the ground. The Investigation, improbably, does.
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