Book Review: Article 353 by Tanguy Viel

Article 353 – Tanguy Viel (Other Press, 2019)

I received an Advance Readers Copy of this novel. It is set for release on March 12, 2019

One of the great things about reading books from other languages and cultures is that voice and topic can vary so broadly. I wasn’t familiar with Tanguy Viel’s work before picking up this book but it looks like at least a couple of his other titles have been translated from French to English. (This one was translated by William Rodarmor.) The voice of the narrator – and thus the tone of the story – feels very un-North American.

What do I mean by that? The story unfolds slowly but steadily. There isn’t a rush to get to the end. In fact, we know how part of the story ends. Our narrator, Martial Kermeur, has thrown another man off a boat and then driven away. What we don’t know is what brought Kermeur to this point. Kermeur is narrating the story as he also narrated it to the judge who oversaw his case. It’s an interesting way to give perspective on the tale – essentially we are reading what Kermeur told the judge but with the added distance of hearing it after the case is over.

The judge is a vague sort of character. We’re given a brief physical description of him and learn one or two personal details but overall there is the sense that Kermeur is being judged in a bubble, not in the French legal system. There is the sense that maybe Kermeur is, in fact, being judged by God.

Kermeur’s story is simple and not particularly thrilling. It’s sad and frustrating but, unfortunately, nothing new. The characterization is interesting and there is some tension provided from the fact that we know his son is in prison but we don’t know why. In an American or Canadian novel I feel like there would have been something more scandalous revealed but there aren’t a lot of surprises here.

I enjoyed the voice and the steady rate of revelation in Article 353. In the end, I’m not entirely sure why this is a story that needs telling but I also don’t regret reading it.

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2 thoughts on “Book Review: Article 353 by Tanguy Viel”

  1. ha yes, sometimes I’ve finished a book and thought ‘why is this a story that needs telling?’ That’s not always a bad thing, but it doesn’t make the book too memorable either…

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