The Gulf of the Years by Georges-Oliver Chateaureynaud
Section: Reactionaries and Revolutionares
Genre: Science Fiction
Rating: 2.5/5 Rating
You know what really grinds my gears? This time-travel theory
About the author:
Georges-Oliver Chateaureynaud is a French novelist and short-story writer, with ver one hundred short stories and nine novels to his credit. He has been described as one of the most original contemporary French authors. His words have been compared to Kurt Vonnegut, Franz Kafka, and Julio Cortazar. This story was translated from the French by Edward Gauvin and published for the first time in English in the collection A Life on Paper in 2011.
Before I get to my issue with the time-travel possibility, there was actually nothing else I was too thrilled about. Nothing much happens here (not in a good way, like How the Future Got Better), and narrative style of switching between characters was tad bit confusing.
Manoir is on a train heading back home to see his mother one last time. After he gets off the train, instead of heading to his mother house, he rushes to the elementary school so he can talk to Jean-Jacques Manoir. This is not Manoir’s son, or younger brother, or any type of family that would first come to mind. Jean-Jacques is in fact, Manoir’s younger self. He has traveled back in time to the day his mother died in a bombing attack when he was away at school, and Manoir has comeback in time, to set things right.
Before I get to my issue with the time-travel possibility (and yes, I know I’m repeating that sentence), let me explain that narration style. I did not have problem with the voice. I don’t read French, or have any idea what Chateaureynaud’s prose is like in his native tongue, but I think the translator, Edwin Gauvin, did an excellent job at making this readable. What I have a problem with is how Chateaureynaud decided to narrate it.
It is told from the 3-person, but our narrator will switch randomly between different characters without Chateaureynaud giving us a heads up. The only way you know that a change is coming is when there is a section break. I did not realize this until a few sections in when Manoir, went from be refered to as “he” to “the stranger” to “cousin”, all depending on whose shoulder the narrator was looking over. The voice of the narrator did slightly change with the character as well, but because there is no indication at the start of the section about who we are following, it can take a bit of time before I know who “he” or “she” is – particularly when we get 3 to 4 characters all in the same room.
My BIG issue was with the time-travel. If you go back in time for whatever reason, it is safe to assume that where ever or whatever your past-self at that time is doing, they are alive and will stay live, because if you were to do something that would kill your past-self, then you would have never been able to go to the past in the first place!!! If you are dead, how could you have comeback? Physically impossible… Unless you are a believe of the multiple time-line theory, in which case, when you go back in time, you create a new time-line (separate from the one you left), so if you kill your past-self, you can still live, because that past-self of you is of a different time-line.
But this begs the question: why would you want to kill your past-self? (See Spoilerfic Speculations for more on this)
Spolierific Speculations: (Highlight to read)
The whole time I was expecting Manoir to go home and save his mom, or at least let his past-self go back to school, because he just wanted to see his mother one last time. What I DID NOT except was for him to murder his neighbor and past-self, along with himself.
I get it, coming back in time to see your mother one last time and die with her – very poetic. But to drag other innocent people into it too? And can you honestly tell me that his mother would have wanted him there too? If she knew the truth, I guarantee she would have told him (both of hims) to get the heck out off there as quick as possible! If my future son came back to me and said I was going to die from a bomb and he came to be with me for it, I’d tell to get out there ASAP and go live!
Also, I’m assuming Manoir must be clinically depressed at this point in his life. He could have just as easily took his past-self and mom, and left the house and lived! Instead though, he basically chose suicide and murder.
If your comments contains a spoiler, please type “SPOILER:” at the start of your comment to alert fellow readers and comments. Thanks!
Maybe Chateaureynaud choose Manoir to be like that on purpose, I don’t know. But without some kind of explanation or back story, I have no idea what motivated him to make the final decision that he made.
As I said, I like the translation of Chateaureynaud’s prose ; I just didn’t like the plot and main character.
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See you next Thursday for Enoch Soames: A Memory of the Eighteen-Nineties by Max Beerbohm