First Sentence: My name is Brodeck and I had nothing to do with it.
This book won the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize in 2010. Like Monsieur Linh and His Child it is set in an unnamed place, though it does not take long to deduce that the time is not long after World War Two, and the place is some remote French village. The protagonist and narrator, Brodeck, has returned from a concentration camp and usually spends his days doing up reports on the local flora and fauna. All is as it should be in this peaceful village until the Anderer (the ‘other’ / the ‘foreigner’) arrives and unsettles the local community. One night the men of the village kill this Anderer and Brodeck, being a man of letters, is called upon to present a report of the killing to the mayor. As he investigates, he uncovers dark truths about our fear of anything different. This almost reads like a fable, and really, time and place are irrelevant with a book like this because the lessons learned could be applied to anyone, anywhere, at any time. This book is sometimes dark, often rambling, but never dull and is definitely worthy of its reputation. Though personally, I preferred Monsieur Linh…
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Last Sentence: Brodeck.
Last Sentence explained: The book ends with Brodeck reiterating the fact that he had nothing to do with the killing. And then he says his name, just so we’re sure. It’s not a great closing sentence but hey, there’s enough going on beforehand to make up for it:
It has always been difficult for me to speak and express my innermost thoughts in person. I prefer to write. When I sit down and write, words grow very docile; they come and feed out of my hand like small birds, and I can do almost what I will with them, whereas when I try to marshal them in the open air, they steal away.
Random quote from the book:
“Old Fédorine knew me like a pocket she had put her hand into several thousand times.”