Lorraine Connection

November 15, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Lorraine Connection, by Dominique Manotti. Translated in English by Amanda Hopkinson – Ros Schwartz

I always find it difficult to write about crime fiction, especially to sum up the plot without giving away too many details. Here is the blurb of Lorraine Connection:

“In Pondange, Lorraine, Daewoo owns a plant that manufactures cathode-ray tubes. It’s the only job provider in this area, which used to live on iron and steel industry. Nobody really cares about working conditions, until the employees start a riot. The factory is on fire. Is this fire really an accident? It’s Fall, 1996, the Daewoo plant is in the middle of a strategic fight to takeover Thomson, a blue ship of French economy. Matra, allied to Daewoo, won the bargain. But Alcatel, its supplanted rival, doesn’t give up the fight. And when such a firm fights back, it’s with considerable means. Murders, backhanded blows, underhand manoeuvres, nothing daunts the rivals that fight in this giant Monopoly”

The warning at the beginning of the book is clear: “This is a novel. Everything is true, everything is a lie”.  Indeed, Dominique Manotti writes crime fiction novels based on economical scandals and true facts.

Lorraine Connection was published in 2006 and is about the Daewoo plant which was built with European funds on the premises of former iron and steel works in Lorraine. The iron and steel crisis of the 1980s was a tragedy for this region. Factories closed one after the other, people were either unemployed or early retired (at 50). The landscape was made of dead factories, ghostly remembrance of a glorious past, when this place was an economical champion for France. I come from this region, not from the Fensch valley, described in this book, but from a nearby valley. Dominique Manotti found the right words to describe the place, its inhabitants, the atmosphere after the economical debacle. She even thought of culinary details, like when someone brings a “tarte aux questches” (a dark-red plum pie), which is a very local desert. Pondange doesn’t exist but sounds like many towns in that area, were names ending by ‘ange’ are widespread. I think Pondage corresponds to Hayange.

The only thing that sounded fake was the characters’ names: Maréchal, Quignard, Lepetit. The local dialect is based on German. The iron and steel industry attracted massive immigration waves from Italy, Spain, Poland, Portugal and later, from Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. So those very francophone names are strange. When I was 15, I can only recall of one pupil having a francophone name in my about 25 students class. All the others had, like me, a foreign name, mostly Italian or German.

That’s the major flaw I found in this book. Otherwise, all clicks well. Dominique Manotti’s style is efficient and easy to read, with a good rhythm. That this book based on true facts makes me shiver. Only the characters were born from the writer’s imagination and fit in the Noir pattern: silly police officers, a private detective with his own wounds, moral code and tainted past, a handsome woman directly linked to the events. A good read, like a good movie.  Recommended.

Here are links (in French, sorry) about the Daewoo waste, if someone wants to learn more about it.

PS: This book was the 2008 winner of the Duncan Lawrie International Dagger prize, to award crime fiction books in translation.

  1. November 15, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    Thanks for this. I’m a crime fiction fan, and foreign crime fiction offers a change of pace. It looks as though this author has several novels translated in English. I’d never heard the name before.


    • November 15, 2010 at 3:09 pm

      I’d never heard of her either, the Lorraine title caught my eyes.
      According to your posts, both on crime fiction and literary fiction, I think you’ll like this one.


  2. November 15, 2010 at 11:41 pm

    It looks as though it’s part of an entire line I’d never heard of: Euro Crime. I’m interested in the title Dead Horsemeat.


    • November 16, 2010 at 10:11 am

      Euro Crime : You mean you’ve been on this site http://www.eurocrime.co.uk/ ?
      I wonder if Rough Trade should be read before Dead Horsemeat as it seems to be the first title of the Daquin serie.

      I saw the Malaussène saga from Daniel Pennac on this site. I loved it when I read it.


  3. November 16, 2010 at 9:02 am

    It all sounds rather industrial with all those company names! I am sure this is a fascinating read however, and I can only sympathise with you in your difficulties in writing about crime novels.


    • November 16, 2010 at 10:05 am

      Yes I suppose it can be difficult to read for someone not familiar with French economical environment. Usually, I’m not particularly attracted to that kind of novels, I mean the ones talking about finance, stock markets and related criminality.
      But this one was about a place I know well and about a true story. It was entertaining as events followed at a good pace and frightening at the same time when you think most of it is true.


  4. November 16, 2010 at 9:33 pm

    Eurocrime: It’s a subset within Arcadia Books

    And that other saga you mentioned looks good too.


    • November 16, 2010 at 10:42 pm

      Thanks. I’ve seen the translation of the blurb of French Connection : translation is definitely not a carrier path for me.


  5. November 17, 2010 at 12:45 pm

    Career path I’m afraid.

    That aside, I find your translations very helpful when you do them.

    This sounds very good. I like that disclaimer about how everything is true and everything is a lie. The error with the names is unfortunate, but it sounds like the only real one.

    And the subject is fascinating. I’ll be taking a note of this to check out in future.


    • November 17, 2010 at 12:54 pm

      Thanks for the “career” thing. In French it’s “carrière”, I must have mixed the languages


      • November 17, 2010 at 1:00 pm

        I wouldn’t normally have been that pedantic, it just stuck out in that particular sentence.

        I do appreciate the parallel texts/translations you do. It’s interesting.


        • November 17, 2010 at 1:14 pm

          It’s not pedantic, it’s educational. I appreciate it. When I can, I use translations I find online (for classics) and I usually mention it. Otherwise I translate myself. I’m glad you find quotes in both languages useful even if you don’t speak French.


  6. September 10, 2014 at 10:32 am

    This one sounds very interesting, Emma. It’s good to hear you liked the rhythm of Manotti’s writing as I thought Escape was very well-paced (and thought-provoking, too). The ‘everything is true, everything is a lie’ disclaimer is interesting as it suggests a blending of fact and fiction but with a sense of ambiguity as to which elements are true vs fictional.


  1. November 18, 2010 at 5:44 pm

I love to hear your thoughts, thanks for commenting. Comments in French are welcome

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