Thursday, January 9, 2020

Short French: "Frantic" by Nol Calef

Short French: Frantic by Noel Calef, 1956 for France and 2019 from Stark House, 9781944520663.

When this started I was expecting a murder thriller as the protagonist tries to clean up the mistakes he made in the murder. That main character - one of several - has murdered a loanshark in the office building both men use. Murderer is leaving the building for the weekend when he recalls he left evidence behind. He rushes back into the building and is taking the elevator up to a top floor when the building manager shuts down all the power in the building. Murderer is stuck there.

Meanwhile Murderer's wife is eagerly awaiting the cad. She's a nervous and troubled woman. She is expecting the philanderer home after a loving phone call with him where murderer was feeling lovey-dovey. Murderer was feeling intense relief by dodging his debt to the now dead loanshark and made promises to his wife. when Murderer does not appear the Wife goes looking for Murderer at his building. She sees his car parked on the street. While she checks inside a Teen Jackass steals the car. Wife comes out, sees the car gone, fears her husband split with his latest dolly.

Anyhoo things happen. The guessed at thriller of guy-stuck-in-elevator turns into something else. Wife runs to her ever attentive brother. Brother has a habit of fixing her problems. Brother's own wife is pissed at Wife for being such a over emotional and manipulative pain in the ass.

Meanwhile Teen Jackass takes his girlfriend for a drive in the stolen car and a weekend in the country. Teen Jackass is full of himself as a soon-to-famous film director, as a man of great intelligence and insight, as a fighter of all that is bourgouise. Girlfriend is pregnant and just wants a reliable guy - her bad luck is to be in love to a jackass.

More things happen, there is another murder, and we mostly leave Murderer in his elevator box. Mid '50s France isn't so bad. Society and economy are still being rebuilt after the war. Manners and morals are changing.

Calef explores different relationships among couples:
- the young lovers with Teen Jackass.
- the disintegrating marriage of Murderer and his unstable wife.
- the Brother's marriage and the tensions caused by his needy sister
 - an older couple who own a rural hotel where Jackass and his girlfriend stay. The older couple love each other and still have their differences
- a final couple where the husband is trying to care for a mentally ill wife.

1. The weekend at that time is a lousy one-day weekend. "Weekend" just means a day off for Sunday after a 6 day work week.
2. I made notes about the How the Dead Live and that both world wars were still a part of daily life. Dead Live is set 30 years after this novel and the war is never much an issue in this story.

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