In the literature of the novel, blessed are the authors that are able to grab our attention from the first words and not let go right up until the end. The novelist Ayerdhal is one of those. Listen to the opening of his latest thriller Transparency.

"A crowd in motion has some striking similarities with fluid mechanics at least when the result is considered from the point of view of its homogeneous properties. Density, speed, vectors, mixing, as long as you observe it from a distance and with eyes squinted to render the details a bit fuzzy, then the example behaves according to a whole set of mathematical models. It’s a little more complicated when you are actually in the group because each individual is a potential source of chaos."

The image is captivating, the style dynamic, and there we find ourselves from the start launched into the thematic metaphor of Ayerdhal’s work.

I would say that on the whole that 95 percent of humanity – maybe even more than that – is completely caught up by the crowd and there are people that are specialists, who take advantage of the phenomena. Yes it’s a metaphoric image to describe those who use others in life, those who manipulate people but it’s also that in a crowd you can observe individuals who are… who are at ease, who know how to move about in the flux, who know how to grab for themselves what’s there for the taking, who know how to impose themselves, who know how to catch a momentary look, who know how to trigger an attraction with the slightest effort, a small motion, a little gesture, a quick smile and instantly they create a relationship. But these people are rare and it’s astonishing to watch them work because they do it in the beginning by instinct then after a certain time they acquire experience, a technique that enables them to succeed every time.

And the power to impose ones will to Ayerdhal is an act of violence, almost of sinister beauty.

"The leather awl was once again in her left hand. It entered on an angle between two ribs and pierced right through the heart. She simply wiped it on pulling it out, on the back of the thug who tumbled away from her in complete astonishment."

For me manipulation is a form of violence, I mean each intention to modify the behaviour, the attitude, the thoughts of another, and every act conceived for that purpose, is therefore a manipulation and it’s a violent act because it interposes itself between the reality that an individual has built for himself and the reality that is seen in wider sense and that is imposed upon that individual.

This is my problem in a nutshell; since I was small I’ve had an extremely ambiguous relationship with violence. I adore it. I find it beautiful. I think that as a means of expression it is probably very effective whether on the scale of a civilization or a group of people in terms of a revolution or of a riot or on an individual level as a rebellion against an established order, against verbal aggression or against the aggression of someone else… its true that I find it beautiful and at the same time I find it ugly, that is… I’m a violent pacifist or a non-violent aggressor, really I’m not able to define myself, I’m a bit ashamed of it sometimes, it upsets me because there are times when I feel myself become violent, and while I don’t believe that it is a solution there are moments when I think that the only way to get things moving is violence. I don’t know it’s contradictory.

In Transparency we follow Stephen Bellanger, a psychologist with Interpol, in the hunt for a young woman of whom all trace has been lost since she was convicted of killing her father. Right away we suspect that her disappearance is not pure chance…

Ayerdhal is on of the best known science-fiction writers in France and Transparency is his first who dun it thriller. He explains to us how anger forced him to come back to earth. Anger at fist against the manipulators of the world:

At a certain time I realized that the same people controlled at once governments, the economy, major industries and the media and that all were going in the same direction with results that seemed to me completely abnormal. That is when I investigated, quote unquote, into this and I saw that there were methods used that were far reaching. NASA has power at its disposal that is huge. NASA by itself has a budget that is more or less the budget of the French State. In the end what I want to say is that it’s a phenomenal thing and a tool that allows a manipulation of the rest of the world. I felt like making a production out of that, to present it and to say “wake up Big Brother has arrived”. 1984 has been surpassed for a long time now and what is more we have been so well manipulated that today we think of it as normal. On re-reading 1984 I realized that what made me shout out loud at the time, well today I see without… it offends me from time to time but beyond that… I should have taken up arms well before this.

And then anger against daily misery:

"At the end of fifteen days of throwing in his daily contribution, he found himself face to face with him with empty pockets and a single bill of two hundred francs in his wallet that he didn’t want to break.
-I’ll have to get some change at the bake shop, he offered as an excuse.
-If you re going to the bake shop, bring me back instead a chocolate croissant and a coffee with two sugars."

Misery of a general nature, we see it, we live with it, we feel it, and we know it exists, we experience it, and we do nothing. What I mean to say is that from time to time we send a cheque to a food bank, or buy the latest disk that talks about what is happening in Ethiopia or elsewhere, but our acts stop there. It doesn’t occur to us in our daily life, be it professional or domestic to make an investment even though it is very easy for a butcher at some point to give a steak to someone that doesn’t have the means, or for a plumber to go and repair the pipes in a squat. After all there is always… we can always intervene with respect to misery and we don’t do it. We prefer to close our eyes. We close them; we close them so tightly that at some point we feel attacked by that same misery, by those people that make demands, who dare to make demands, who dare to beg for a little dignity a little money a little something to eat.

Invisible powers, people that have become invisible… Both are brought together in the idea of transparency:

We could know everything about everything. The problem is that everyone manipulates everything; that which facilitated the famous glasnost, transparency, doesn’t exist at all. Nothing is transparent. All communication which is made by the media, by a politician, by a police service is a lie and a manipulation. And by the same token, there are those who are now saying that in effect all those people are themselves phantoms for us, in other words they hardly exist for us… Well I wanted to put the two, not in contrast but in the forefront… I am speaking of a duality rather than a contrast, in order to show that one is maybe the result of the other.

Ayerdhal places himself in the French tradition of a form born in the United States.

The American detective story from the 30’s to the 50’s was extremely violent, very dark. The dark novel was born in the United States. In France we have a thriller that is violent but it’s a violence that is more social than military, than belligerent really. It is a social consequence, I would say that there is a politicization of the novel; to be brief the use of the novel was from the beginning in every domain, moreover this is something unique to the novel.

I call it meta-history. I mean we have some characters, it’s a world that is relatively closed since there are quite few of them, personally I don’t know, there are maybe twenty or so that as we move from place to place, we see quite well but we feel their presence behind the scene, world wide, throughout its history and its geopolitics.

Ayerdhal is sure to come back to the thriller.

The next novel is a science fiction work, a space opera, nothing else, on the other hand I will go back to the thriller immediately after because… for a long time I’ve had the desire to write a thriller, I lacked a subject, there was a long period when I needed to develop it in my mind, I needed to envisage writing in another way. Now that I have gone through that first experience which went very well indeed, to my great surprise – not the experience because that was very difficult for me but the result was gratifying, my only desire is to start again, that is as soon as possible. But I don’t want to abandon science fiction either as I don’t want to… I don’t want to deprive myself of anything, I also have a fantasy novel in mind, I have a historical novel in mind, also I would like to write a fictitious novel about myself that I would call ‘mythography’ in order to tell my daughter about the seventies, I mean, it is… there you have it. There are lots of things that… There are desires; sometimes I achieve them, because they develop a sufficient amount of time and because present events don’t swallow me too much. Present events, when I say that it’s because those events sometimes force me to write something, because they are too… they assault my thoughts, my concept of life and in that case it becomes urgent that I write something and I forget sometimes the ideas that were there for six seven eight and nine years, so we’ll see. But the thriller I’ll come back to it that is certain.

$Id: 2005_04_cul.htm 35 2021-02-12 12:17:35Z alistair $

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