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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Nazis in the Metro

Didier Daeninckx

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To purchase Nazis in the Metro

Title: Nazis in the Metro
Author: Didier Daeninckx
Genre: Novel
Written: 1996 (Eng. 2014)
Length: 160 pages
Original in: French
Availability: Nazis in the Metro - US
Nazis in the Metro - UK
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Nazis dans le métro - Canada
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Nazis dans le métro - France
Pulp und die alte Linke - Deutschland
  • French title: Nazis dans le métro
  • Translated by Anna Moschovakis

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Our Assessment:

B : brisk and a bit far-flung, but a solid thriller with some added depth

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
FAZ . 29/8/1996 Werner Ross
The Independent . 17/4/2014 Barry Forshaw

  From the Reviews:
  • "Literarische Anspielungen, in Frankreich mehr geschätzt und leichter erkannt als bei uns, häufen sich, werden aber noch von einer betont zur Schau gestellten Kennerschaft auf gastronomischem Gebiet überholt. (...) Es bleibt der fatale Gesamteindruck, daß es mit dem neuen Bündnis der urbösen Nazis und der in Sünde gefallenen Linken auch nicht viel schlimmer kommen kann, als es schon ist." - Werner Ross, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

  • "The Paris we see here is not the tourist city of Woody Allen, but a Stygian world of squats, graffiti and racist thugs. Time for this prolific author to get the attention he deserves across the UK" - Barry Forshaw, The Independent

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The title of this compact thriller of course intentionally echoes Queneau's famous Zazie in the Metro, and writers, books, and bookstores are featured throughout; as usual with Daeninckx, however, Nazis in the Metro isn't so much a literary thriller as it is one steeped in (ugly) history.
       The novel begins with seventy-eight-year-old writer André Sloga, brutally attacked in his building's parking lot; when private detective "Gabriel Lecouvreur, also known as the Octopus" reads about it he decides it's something he has to look into
       [Lecouvreur is 'Le Poulpe' (the Octopus), the central figure in the long-running series published by Baleine in which different authors write thrillers using the same basic outline (specifically in how the books open and close); to date there have been nearly 300, written by dozens of authors; see also the (French) page explaining the series (and the basic rules authors follow). Daeninckx has written several Le Poulpe-novels; the Melville House translation includes a brief 'Interview with Didier Daeninckx' but asks only: "What drives your detective, Gabriel Lecouvreur ?" without getting into the whole Le Poulpe-concept (or, indeed, even acknowledging that he is not Daeninckx's detective, but rather a much-shared character).]
       Sloga is the kind of writer Daeninckx would approve of (or sees himself as): politically engaged, uncovering dirty political secrets, his 1940 novel The Innocents: "causing a full-scale debacle ... Almost the entire edition was pulped after the superior race cleansed the reading committee --".
       Published by Gallimard in the good old days, Sloga went too far even for them:

He'd written too pointedly about the free use of the guillotine in Algerian prisons, and the Gestapo-style torture the French army was endorsing in the Aurès mountains ... This was in 1955. He left Gallimard and slammed the door on his way out ... Twenty years later his fury would have made him famous; his fatal flaw was that he was ahead of his time.
       Sloga was beaten very badly, and can't be much help in Lecouvreur's (or anyone's) investigations. Lecouvreur doesn't have much faith the police could possibly look into this properly, and so he decides to look into things himself; as Inspector Vergeat suggests, Lecouvreur and Sloga are similar characters (and no doubt Daeninckx sees himself similarly too):
The same stew floats in both your hydrocephalic skulls ... Defiance of law and order, unmotivated hatred of uniforms, simplistic challenging of statute ... Pains in the ass, that's what you are. Congenital pains in the ass !
       Lecouvreur collects some of Sloga's mail, and he's off on the hunt -- one that leads him to an odd provincial murder-case (the kind of revenge fantasy that was still possible in the mid-1990s). However, the heart of the case lies elsewhere -- notably in what else Sloga uncovered in working on his new book.
       Lecouvreur finds that Sloga was reading some rather unsavory stuff, by the likes of Joseph Delteil, Lucien Rebatet, Drieu La Rochelle, and Céline, authors (in)famous for their strong fascist and anti-Semitic leanings. Here's the crux of the matter, as a bookseller smugly tells Lecouvreur: "These are authors who are coming back into vogue."
       Sloga stumbled into something nasty, finding a revival of the close ties between extreme right and extreme left -- as also revealed in the crossover of popular writing between the two. As someone reminds Lecouvreur: "Le Pen's horde has become the number one labor party in France !"
       Nazis in the Metro isn't quite a roman à clef -- as Sloga's novel is -- as Daeninckx focuses more on a phenomenon than specific contemporary representatives, but he makes all the connections to that not so venerable French literary-intellectual tradition that he sees rising up anew. As such, Nazis in the Metro is a bit specific to French circumstances (and also the time -- two decades on the issues and responses are slightly different, even as that ugly old guard still rears its head); in what amounts to a sketchy presentation -- Nazis in the Metro skims along a great deal of surface -- it's not all readily accessible to those not well-steeped in French literary (and general) history.
       Still, it's a solid, stylish thriller even without full understanding of the background (and the basics are certainly clear enough). Besides, any novel that culminates in a messy scene at the Académie française -- complete with a newly-installed 'Immortal' drawing his ceremonial sword -- is surely practically worth it for that alone.

- M.A.Orthofer, 23 March 2014

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Nazis in the Metro: Reviews: Other books by Didier Daeninckx under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       French author Didier Daeninckx was born in 1949.

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© 2014 the complete review

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