Second blog after being online
Review article 01
Welcome to my blog,
today I am going to present you my impressions of a series of detective novels I read last year and of which I wrote four short reviews in German – as yet unpublished. Since all I do here somehow relates to Oscar Wilde, let me briefly state why I consider these books important. Like Wilde who was Irish and lived in England, looking at both countries with the eyes of an outsider, Benjamin Cors looks at France from outside since he lives in Germany and writes in German. It is through Wilde that I have become familiar with such an attitude which means that, superficially, there is a close assimilation to the host culture and language, while, subliminally, there are other currents as well. As a translator, I have become particularly aware of such undercurrents, and I want to point them out in review and other articles which I will insert into my blog at irregular intervals. Consequently, I am going to give them general titles as well as numbers.
Review article 01
“Flotsam and jetsam” is the translated title of the first detective novel written by Benjamin Cors who is half-French and spent his childhood summers in Normandy. Now he is a TV journalist writing novels about the French bodyguard Nicolas Guerlain. The title is ambiguous for apart from the usual things one finds on the coast of a morning, Guerlain one day finds a hand that doesn't fit the description of a missing photographer in Trouville. This is a place next to Deauville where Guerlain grew up and met his girlfriend Julie, who has been missing for quite some time only to reappear for brief moments when only Nicolas is convinced of having seen her. Working for the French government, Nicolas is back in Deauville to prepare a summit while having been relegated from his customary post. The original title “Strandgut” doesn't translate into English but Cors' sense of things French does show very well in this novel full of suspense which makes you want to read the sequel.
Benjamin Cors: Strandgut. Ein Normandie-Krimi. dtv. ISBN: 978-3-423-21716-3 / pp. 430. 10,95 €.
“Coastal strip” is the translated title of the second instalment of the Nicolas Guerlain series by Benjamin Cors. Like the first, this title has a second meaning, referring to the illegal brothel with prostitutes who are minors run, as it turns out, by an aristocrat who grew up in Deauville at the same time as Guerlain. Again, he is back home, so to speak, meeting his divorced mother, still looking for his missing girlfriend Julie who had been engaged for the French Secret Service by Nicolas' father, the president of this powerful institution. One day, a man is found dead hanging from the Pont de Normandie who might have been shot from the castle of the Count of Tancarville living close by. The action is told in three books from three different points of view, so that the reader needs to piece things together, learning eventually at the same time as Guerlain how various parts of the plot are related.
Benjamin Cors: Küstenstrich. Ein Normandie-Krimi. dtv. ISBN: 978-3-423-21722-4 / pp. 382. 10,95 €.
“Changing tides” is the translated title of the third instalment of the Nicolas Guerlain series by Benjamin Cors. The “play of the tides” of the original title cannot be rendered in English, while it is important for the action which is set at the Normandy coast both before and on one of the commemorations of D-Day. One cannot but admire the way Cors develops his series for on the one hand it is only now that the dimensions of the manipulations Nicolas and Julie have suffered at the hands of Alexandre Guerlain as head of the French Secret Service are gradually being unravelled. It is interesting to see on the other hand how such intrigues are countered by improvisations on the part of the less powerful such as Nicolas Guerlain himself and his friends. Cors proves to be a good guide to both the machinations of the Secret Service and the political plans hedged by people who seek to undermine the trust the French might still have in the functioning of their democratic and judicial institutions. Last but not least, Cors shows how individuals work together on the one hand and how they deceive others on the other hand to think they have been working with a whole of range of others while actually being alone for most of the time.
Benjamin Cors: Gezeitenspiel. Ein Normandie-Krimi. dtv. ISBN: 978-3-423-26141-8 / pp. 448. 15,90 €.
“Beacon” is the translated title of the fourth instalment of the Nicolas Guerlain series by Benjamin Cors. It is also the first to have become a bestseller, so that the literary qualities of this close-knit multi-volume story have eventually turned it into a financially successful series, too. Rather than being ambiguous as its predecessors, the title this time is more or less a symbol of what is done. Again, two strands are running parallel. While Nicolas is still trying to prove his girlfriend Julie's innocence, he is asked to help people in Vieux-Port, a small place on the River Seine, to find out who is threatening to destroy the life of the village community. Both cases come to a head in a novel full of passages set on the River Seine or on its banks, and it becomes clear at the end that Guerlain's personal quest is going to continue, so that the fans of the series can hope for further instalments.
Benjamin Cors: Leuchtfeuer. Ein Normandie-Krimi. dtv. ISBN: 978-3-423-26210-4 / pp. 432. 15,90 €.
Thinking of the series as a whole so far, I cannot but re-iterate my admiration for the way Cors has succeeded in translating his intentions into a literary language that allows for a deeper understanding of things French – even though he is writing in German. He doesn't pay lip service to French cliches or the history of French detectives while showing how both the police and the Secret Service work in France. It is going to be a challenge for both film-makers and translators alike to render this series in a different medium or another language, for it is not just well-made.
2nd January 2019