Thursday, February 10, 2011

7. Les Sept Jours du talion by Patrick Senécal

[title translates to The Seven Days of Retaliation.]

Patrick Senécal is a very popular writer here in Quebec. Two of his earlier books (5150 rue des Ormes and Sur le Seuil) were made into movies (as was this one). I read Sur le Seuil, which was one of the first novels I read in french. It's the story of a psychologist investigating people who start suddenly going on killing sprees. It was quite gripping and I was particularly impressed with how extreme Senécal was willing to go with his plot (jusqu'ua bout!).

I was not interested in Les Sept Jours because I saw the trailer of the movie before even knowing about the book. And like so many trailers today, it gives away way too much. There really needs to be a law about that. And it looked like a harrowing, unpleasant subject matter and I closed my mind to it. Not that I'm against that stuff being in books and movies, but I just find it so difficult to watch or read about that I just avoid it. However, a friend of mine strongly recommended that I read the book, to the point of lending me his copy. It sat on my shelf haunting me, both because the subject matter looked rough and reading it in french makes it twice as hard for me.

The story is a simple one. A young girl is raped and murdered and the doctor father kidnaps the sex maniac responsible to get his revenge. He holes up in a cabin and tortures him for 7 days. You can see why I might have been reluctant to read this book. I'm definitely not a fan of torture porn. However, what that simple premise leaves out is the psychological depth of the book and the suspense. It's a real page-turner! Right from the first page, you are caught up in medias res with the doctor preparing to carry out his kidnapping. There is a lot of cool procedural stuff in flashback while he's waiting in the car outside the courthouse and you really want to find out what happens next.

Then when we do get to the cabin, the book is just as engrossing as you follow the police trying to find him, society's divided reaction to the doctor's actions, the affect on his wife and ultimately how the doctor himself starts to unravel. This is some dark, rich shit. It poses the question, what would you do in this situation and is it the right thing? It answers that question in a deep psychological way with a frisson of the supernatural. Very gripping and enjoyable read. What I like about Senécal, among other things, is that even his side characters are interesting. The team of cops, though playing a smaller role (except the main detective on the case) seem very real and kind of cool.

I also have to add that the things they guy does to his victim are pretty fucking harsh. I've seen some harshness in fiction (especially in the movies) and there are things that go on here that really had me quite freaked out. It's not only the excess or the twisted creativity, but also the way it is delivered to the reader and put into the psychological context.

It's also interesting to read this alongside Sur le Seuil. Sur le Seuil does it much more explicitly, but both suggest that there is a true evil in the world, but that it is something that is linked to our own psychology. We can access it and it can take us over, but we can also choose to fight against it. It is, however, a real thing out there (especially, it seems, in rural Quebec!) waiting for us to give it access.

Here is my question after reading this book. Why the fuck has it not been translated into english and properly marketed? Is this the fault of lame Toronto-centric publishing houses, trapped between their ignorance of the francophone market and their fear of anything "genre"? Is this the fault of navel-gazing Quebecers who can't imagine their written work would have any value in the rest of North America? Because this book seems highly marketable to me. It's a real page-turner and delivers the horror goods. There is a huge market in the States and anglo Canada for this kind of horror. Will somebody please sell it? Or if not, please explain why.


Christian Jarry said...

Glad you liked it. It's a very good book. The movie is pretty good too. Especially when you read the book.

I really recommand 5150 rue des Ormes and Aliss. After that, Le vide. His best book IMO. Most think it's Aliss which is VERY good but I think Le vide is even better. If you're interested, I got them all >:D

meezly said...

So when are we gonna watch the film?