Libédossier’s Livres notebook Every week, a reader chronicles a favorite. Today, a tour of vices.
“There is so much to accomplish on earth. Tobacco and cunnilingus. Abstentions and aces of clubs. But what to do ?” Sultry mediation of two men who are now separated by everything. Once friends, they meet again one night, in the depths of Finistère. Sitting on a Togo sofa facing the sea, drinks in hand, they recount their memories, those of a childhood spent in the Luberon. And their lives. Embedded confessions, to try to tell the truth, what is close to their hearts – a meager attempt at honesty in the immensity of the dissimulations and secrets of each character, each rapacious in their own way. Gilles Kraft, billionaire, runs the Rodnon company – formerly an herbalist business, today, a vermouth business. He has the money, and the money has allowed him to conquer the hearts of bad French actresses and broke students. Like Angèle with whom he falls in love and whom he corrupts with gifts, trips and a beautiful apartment facing the Tuileries. The other guy is William Hodnel, a handsome musical man. He delighted the heart of Janice, the girl they coveted as teenagers. He has just lost her after thirteen years of union.
Precarious bohemianism for rich kids
Already the flies, an immoral fresco, tells of the excesses of an environment, its corruptions, its hatred. Gilles is the example. He drinks, consumes Subutex and Valium, consumes himself in Parisian swingers clubs. He strikes and imposes brutal sexuality and reckless violence on his companions. In his vices enabled by money and unreason, he leads Angèle – ironically nicknamed Angel – into them. She does not get used to this daily life, to “this business of vulgarity”. But what do we have left? Contempt for literature, college benches, rolled tobacco, cheap pints, precarious bohemia for rich kids. After all, “without the injustices, who knows, maybe we would be bored.”
Matthew Peck is cruel. The style is concise, concise, concise. The mind is sharp. Short sentences. They resemble the maxims of La Rochefoucauld – cited in the highlight. “There are heroes in both bad and good.” Evil lurks in every character – no one is pure. “Rather death than defilement,” proclaimed Janice, refusing employment to decorate the bedrooms of busy billionaires. With brutality, Matthieu Peck leaves his characters in a disarming solitude. It’s everyone’s own way, everyone’s vices, everyone’s disavowals. Casualness is the best attitude. The method: observing what is most stinking, most vulgar, most macabre in us. All this quickly becomes shabby under Peck’s pen. When you play big, you have to know how to lose, otherwise binoculars are better than fire-mongers.
Matthieu Peck, Already the flies, Gallimard, 240 pp., €20 (ebook: €14.99).
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