Monday, June 06, 2011

Dominique Manotti, apolitical political novelist

The recent discussion of Dominique Manotti's Affairs of State in this space has leapt from grammar to gender and sex, and that means politics can't be far behind.

That's appropriate for Manotti, who writes about greed and decadence among France's ruling elites. Though Manotti is decidedly of the left politically, her books shun politics in the everyday sense of policies, debates, and party affairs. The bad guys in Affairs of State are Socialists, but that's only because the Socialist Party, in the person of Francois Mitterand, held the French presidency in the mid-1980s, when the book is set (though certain details of Mitterand's past may have fired Manotti's imagination). In Manotti's world, money is all that matters. (She's an economic historian when not writing award-winning crime novels.) Here's how she begins a short afterword to Affairs of State:
"In France, the 1980s were commonly referred to as the `years of easy money,' because during this decade money came to represent, for an entire political class and regardless of whether they were in power or in opposition, an end and a value in itself, at a time when entrepreneurs and financiers became the new heroes of modern times."
Manotti is not quite as bleak as Jean-Patrick Manchette, but she shares with him an aversion to overt partisanship that makes her books all the sharper as social critiques — and all the more effective as fiction.

© Peter Rozovsky 2011

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26 Comments:

Blogger Shawn Cannon said...

Is the movie of tthe same title?

June 06, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

The book was apparently adapted into a French film called Une affaire d'État, a literal translation of the novel's English title, but oddly enough not the book's title in French. The novel was published in French as Nos fantastiques années fric, which means something like "Our fantastic money years."

June 06, 2011  
Blogger Shawn Cannon said...

Have you watched it?

June 06, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Nope. I don't know that it's ever been released in North America. IMDb has no listing for it, for example.

June 06, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

In fact, I would not be surprised if the phrase translated in the afterword to the edition I read as "years of easy money" is the novel's French title.

June 06, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

I not only did not know that Manotti was French, I did not know that he was, in fact a woman.

Got some catching up to do.

June 06, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I suppose that the recent headlines about Dominique Strauss-Kahn could create gender confusion among those not up on French conventions about names.

I have read three of Manotti's novels that have been translated into English, and I recommend all. Why not start with Lorraine Connection, a worthy winner of its International Dagger award?

June 06, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

Sounds like a plan--once I get through the more pressing elements of my TBR pile.

v word--billo

June 06, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I had a good v-word earlier today: whywine The answer is self-evident. Either that, or an enigmatic Gallic shrug.

I would recommend moving Manotti closer to the top of the pile, to the extent that this is possible.

June 06, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

Thanks, I will. I have a strong suspicion that I will enjoy her.

June 06, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Manotti also has a fine story in Serpent's Tail Paris Noir, edited by Maxim Jakubowski, not to be confused with Akashic Books' Paris Noir. The story is a kind of complement to this novel. It focuses more on the victims of fiscal manipulation than on the perpetrators -- the low rather than the high.

June 06, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Oh, yes. She's sharp, analytical -- everything that a reader with a brain ought to like.

June 06, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

I know we've had both collections. I'll try to remember to see what we have when I'm back on Wednesday.

June 06, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Manotti would make a nice complement to Manchette, as well. She knows how to write icy portraits of cynical members of the ruling class without going over the top into cliche. She is French, so naturally her treatment of sex has much to do with this.

June 06, 2011  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

I guess I better move Affairs of State further to the top of my TBR pile, although there are many contenders for that position.

Manchette is a good idea.

June 07, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Kathy, you might also try Manotti's "Rough Trade" or "Lorraine Connection." Each offers the same sort of critique of French elites as "Affairs of State" does, but both contrast that critique more strongly with portraits of the lives of people affected by what the elites do.

June 07, 2011  
Blogger Photographe à Dublin said...

I've come across a book that you might find useful (nothing to do with crime novels, I'm afraid).

It's "The Late Age of Print" by Ted Striphas, available in a very large file at:

"techrisk.se/wp-content/uploads/books/Striphas_complete.pdf"

June 07, 2011  
Anonymous I.J.Parker said...

I get bored with making the wealthy always the villains. Mind you, they often are villains (white-collar)in real life, but I still get tired of having all the crimes in mysteries pinned on them. Ian Rankin works or worked that way also.

June 07, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks for the pdf, P a D. I shall print it and read it at my leisure.

June 07, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I.J., I think you made a similar comment when I posted about Manotti once before. All I can tell you is that Manotti does not do what you think she does. Her villains are not bad guys because they're folks like you and me who got rich by grasping a little harder than the rest of us do, They're a ruthless political class who violate the public trust on such a massive scale that the question of the public does not ever occur to them. Her books are more about the corruption of an entire ruling class than they are about any one or two criminal acts.

I've read a bit of Rankin. He's no Dominique Manotti.

June 07, 2011  
Anonymous I.J.Parker said...

Yes, but isn't that what goes on all around us? Does it need pointing out? Again and again? Or maybe the Europeans have just now discovered this particular aspect of political power.
The ties between the super wealthy in the business sector and the elected are very visible, aren't they?

June 07, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

It may be what goes on all around us, and I suspect that the French may have discovered this before we did. But Manotti makes the corruption shocking by introducing it to the people who practice it. Her cool, detached style (yes, this may by a typical French trait, but it works very well here) makes the picture all the sharper. There is no easy moral rage in her writing.

June 07, 2011  
Anonymous I.J.Parker said...

Well, I'll keep her in mind.

June 07, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

She's worth a look on your next trip to the library.

June 07, 2011  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

FYI to one and all: Abe Books has several used copies of Manotti's titles at both U.S. and British booksellers, the U.S. stores being a bit less costly due to shipping prices.

June 07, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks on behalf of any possible future Manotti readers out there.

June 07, 2011  

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