Tuesday, October 05, 2010


Money corrupts, money buys, money crushes, money kills, money ruins, money rots men's consciences.

Francois Mitterand, 21st President of the French Republic, 1981-1995

I finished reading Dominique Manotti's superb thriller Affairs of State last night, and it reminded me of the TV series Spiral in its portrayal of the way the French business and political elite are protected by a network of favours owed, and a web of secret arrangements. It also reminded me of reading accounts of the French Mutiny of 1917 when it was noted that the biggest social gulf between officers and men was apparently not in the armies of Imperial Britain or Imperial Russia, but in the army of Republican France.
I am not sure how true that was but after watching two series of Spiral, and reading Dominique Manotti, 'liberte, egalite, fraternite' does sound rather hollow.

'Francois ? Pontault here. I hope you are enjoying your little party....'
'You're not calling me just to say that?'
'.......because it's not going to last long. Turkey has just announced that a Boeing 747 cargo plane has vanished from its airspace.....'

Affairs of State is set in 1985, and the astonishing amount of complex action for a 200 page book means that I am not going to attempt a plot synopsis.
However the story does involve illegal arms deals with Iran, the RGPP [the Paris police intelligence service], an unaccountable Elysee special unit, the International Bank of the Lebanon, investigative journalists, lawyers, a high class brothel, international corruption, endemic abuse of power, and a large cast of characters, two of whom are particularly memorable.

Investigator Noria Ghozali, a new recruit of North African origin, who has escaped a restrictive and abusive home background to face racism and sexism within the police force.
It is her investigation which begins to shake the pyramid of corruption, and an intriguing character who I hope will feature in future books.

And Francois Bornand, a great womaniser, close advisor to the President, pro-American, fiercely anti-Communist, and a man for whom the terms, amoral and corrupt are far too benign.

In a flashback to 1943:
He follows Thomas with his eyes and says nothing. Vichy, the new homeland, building the Europe of tomorrow, destroying Communism, the enemy of Western civilisation, is he the only person who believes in it?

Dominique Manotti, ably aided by her translators Ros Schwartz and Amanda Hopkinson, has written a sharp indictment of the French political elite and proved that a complex plot, with well drawn characters and real excitement can be generated within a shortish [by modern standards] novel.
It is interesting that the novel was written in 2001, about events in 1985, contains a strategic lesson within its pages that possibly should have been obeyed by other nations.

'France is not Iran's enemy......'
'That won't be sufficient.'
'.......but in the Middle East, the age-old balance between Arabs and Persians must be maintained.'

More reviews of Affairs of State by Maxine of Petrona, and Glenn at International Noir Fiction.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Norman - Thanks for this review. Novels such as this one always remind me of the Santayana quote: Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

7:00 AM  
Blogger Jose Ignacio Escribano said...

Norman yo make me run to start reading it,..... and I don't mind.

9:04 AM  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

I've been wanting to read this book. It's not in my local library nor in the city's system.

So I'll have to purchase it from Amazon, which I will do now that I've read another good review.

4:43 AM  

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