Skip to content

The dark backrooms of the mind. Masterfully Philippe Claudel dissects human behaviour in his new novel 'Twilight'

In his new novel Twilight as ever, Philippe Claudel dissects man's dark drives.

French author Philippe Claudel does not have an overly cheerful view of humanity, as his compellingly told novels show. Twilight is the latest shoot on the impressive tree of his oeuvre, and fits in seamlessly. As he did in earlier novels like Grey souls (2003), Brodeck's report (2007) or, for example Archipelago of the dog(2018), he again exposes with extreme precision the opportunistic machinations behind human behaviour.

Even the most peace-loving people have dark back rooms in their brains, Claudel writes. 'And it takes little, a brief moment of weakness, a stupid coincidence, a single word, to break open the locks of those infernal places and unleash forces more fierce than you would ever suspect.'

Small spark

Policeman Nourio and Deputy Baraj are law enforcers in a small mountain village in an empire somewhere in Europe. They don't usually have much to do, but then one day the Pastor is murdered. The Imam feels the pinch: this is bound to be blamed on his small community. Because even if a minority seems to be seemingly accepted, most of the time there is tolerance at best, and then it only takes a small spark to turn togetherness into enmity.

Nourio, a scrawny, haughty and oversexed man, however, thinks it will not be so bad and mainly sees an opportunity to raise his own profile. But it is indeed not long before stories start circulating, a strangled piglet is hanged in front of the mosque door and the houses of Muslim families are daubed with blood.

Slowly, Nourio is made to understand that finding out the truth may be less desirable than creating a 'workable truth' to restore peace. If an easy scapegoat is available, why not make use of it?

Chain of violence

As a chain of violence is set in motion, the Policeman, who himself is by no means pure of heart, discovers that he himself is also just a cog in a machinery over which he has little control.

That this is going to go wrong is clear from page one. But Claudel would not be Claudel if there were not the occasional light peeking through the darkness. If only because of his unforgettable characters, his evocative storytelling and sumptuous style.

Philippe Claudel, Twilight (414 p.)
Translated from French by Manik Sarkar
De Bezige Bij, €24.99

Appreciate this article!

Happy with this story? Show your appreciation with a small contribution! That's how you help keep independent cultural journalism alive. (If you don't see a button below, use this link: donation!)

Donate smoothly
Donate

Why donate?

We are convinced that good investigative journalism and expert background information are essential for a healthy cultural sector. There is not always space and time for that. Culture Press does want to provide that space and time, and keep it accessible to everyone for FREE! Whether you are rich, or poor. Thanks to donations From readers like you, we can continue to exist. This is how Culture Press has existed since 2009!

You can also become a member, then turn your one-off donation into lasting support!

A Quattro Mani

Photographer Marc Brester and journalist Vivian de Gier can read and write with each other - literally. As partners in crime, they travel the world for various media, for reviews of the finest literature and personal interviews with the writers who matter. Ahead of the troops and beyond the delusion of the day.View Author posts

Small Membership
175 / 12 Maanden
Especially for organisations with a turnover or grant of less than 250,000 per year.
No annoying banners
A premium newsletter
5 trial newsletter subscriptions
All our podcasts
Have your say on our policies
Insight into finances
Exclusive archives
Posting press releases yourself
Own mastodon account on our instance
Cultural Membership
360 / Jaar
For cultural organisations
No annoying banners
A premium newsletter
10 trial newsletter subscriptions
All our podcasts
Participate
Insight into finances
Exclusive archives
Posting press releases yourself
Own mastodon account on our instance
Collaboration
Private Membership
50 / Jaar
For natural persons and self-employed persons.
No annoying banners
A premium newsletter
All our podcasts
Have your say on our policies
Insight into finances
Exclusive archives
Own mastodon account on our instance
en_GBEnglish (UK)