‘Congratulation to the Swedish Academy.’ Peirene beams contentedly across her face. ‘They’ve chosen well for the Nobel prize in Literature this year: A French man who writes novels around 130 page short, his language deceptively simple and he loves plot – detective stories seems to be his favourite genre. He is our kind of man.’
‘I know,’ I agree. ‘But sadly Patrick Modiano has so far slipped our attention. And now big English publishing houses will snap him up and he’ll become far too expensive for us.’
‘Well, you had a meeting with his publisher last year in Frankfurt,’ the smile has suddenly disappeared from Peirene’s face. ‘You could have made an offer.’
‘They didn’t mention him to me,’ I say slightly defensively. Then I return to the book that I am holding between my hands. I am lying on the sofa in the sitting room. It’s Saturday afternoon and I am for once doing what I preach to our readers – I am taking the afternoon off to read a two-hour book. So, I’d really appreciate if the Nymph would leave me alone. She, on the other hand, appears intent on a chat.
‘What are you reading?’ she asks, perching now on the armrest of the sofa.
I lift the book without lifting my gaze off the page so that Peirene can see the title.
I nod. It’s a fantastic book. In fact another title that could have been a Peirene book. I’m half way through. It’s only another 60 pages and I want to stay in the ‘zone’.
But alas, she must have mind-read my last word, because she continues:
‘Have you read ‘Zone of Interest’?’ She doesn’t wait for an answer. ‘What a remarkable book. It shows like no other novel the shocking grotesqueness that the English linguistic insularity can lead to. The story tries to portray the Nazis from ‘within’, while the author doesn’t speak German and has only read books about Nazis rather than looking at Nazi literature and the literature that influenced Nazi thought.’
‘Peirene. Be quiet. You shouldn’t badmouth other books.’
‘I’m not!’ she exclaims indignantly. ’I’m praising the book. It holds up a perfect clear mirror to the Anglo-Saxon world, showing them their own distorted view of the Nazis. I am sure every reader will see that.’ She jumps down from the armrest. ‘And anyway, if they really wanted to read something that would give them a different insight into the Nazi era, they should read A Meal in Winter. The last ten pages are stunning. I’ll leave you to it.’
She finally exits the room and I return to my book. The last pages are truly thought-provoking. I spend an extra hour on the sofa contemplating them, while I hear Peirene complaining to my husband in the kitchen, how I could have possibly overlooked Patrick Modiano.
Image by Thomas Fisher Rare Book.