The Enemy—Robert Pinget (translated from the French by Barbara Wright)
Paperback/89 pages/ 12.95/ ISBN 0-87376-071-9
The Enemy is made of 144 sections. Each section seems to have a life of its own. The characters (the master, the servant, the curator, the child victim, the secretary) appear through all of them but at different periods of time, in different guises and with differing relationships to one another. The Master is writing his memoirs. A secretary helps him to organize them then departs. Another replaces him who must deal with:
Fragments of totally unrelated reports, resolutely contradictory statements.
The master questions the secretary.
Well then, still in the shit? …you’ve attached too much importance to some statements that were no more valid than others…
The master struggles with an adversary who may be his double. He searches for a presence.
The translator is Pinget’s virtual twin: a shadow double glimpsed in a mirror… as through a glass darkly… Barbara Wright is at ease (or perhaps at finely attuned unease) with the shifting registers of The Enemy.
Its only subject, is the unfathomable text, composing and decomposing, elusive, fragmentary… (like the ancient portrait with its inviting, recognizable family traits and impenetrable patina.) …The reader becomes the crossroads which are absent from the obsolete and wrongly marked map of the district: Pinget is central to that crucial contemporary inquiry into the limits of the lacunae, the contradictions and charismas, of language.
The International Fiction Review—Peter Broome
That dream in which he is his own double. People are talking and he replies in an unknown voice whose words are articulated in his breathless mouth. Someone is going to disappear, someone takes over, searches for a presence in the darkness confused with the murmur of the speakers.
A line of the argument that asserts itself by its logic dominates the murmur, and measures out erudite words that appear in writing in a feverishly-consulted book.
The nightmare is followed by disconnected images, a particular element of one suddenly looming up in the following one, a particular element of the following one in the following one…
He wakes up.
from The Enemy