This short novel by the French writer Antoine Volodine came out in the mid1990s and in part deals with French reckoning with both their role within the Cold War but more specifically with their role as fading empire in various parts of the world.
We are witnessing a series of speech acts and interviews in a kind of criminal or political investigation in a former colonial space or more specifically what seems to be an authoritarian context in some kind of South or Central American country.
The person being interviewed is pretending to be psychologically damaged as he weaves his tale to a series of interrogators to avoid the violent consequences he assumes will await him.
In a lot of ways, this feels like the ways in governments and especially Western governments, or more broadly anyone with power attempts to create the narratives around the violence they have created. It’s a very human act and one that even I recognize in myself, narrating reality to suit the psychological result we wish to feel or have as a result of being confronted by the violence we are active participants in or are complicit with. It’s one of those kinds of uncomfortable truths we have to try to reckon with in terms of thinking life ethically. However, what might also be true is that we don’t do these kinds of moves because we ultimately have to live with ourselves and others and always confronting the complexities of these lives we’re living doesn’t allow us to fully comprehend them.