The N'Gustro Affair - Jean-Patrick Manchette

NYRB Classics

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The N'Gustro Affair by Jean-Patrick Manchette, translated by Donald Nicholson-Smith / ISBN 9781681375120 / 180-page paperback published by NYRB Classics

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The debut novel of a pioneering author of French crime thrillers.

Mean, arrogant, naive, sadistic on occasion, the young Henri Butron records his life story on tape just before death catches up with him: a death passed off as a suicide by his killers, French secret service agents who need to hush up their role—and Butron’s—in the kidnapping, torture, and murder of a prominent opposition leader from a third-world African nation in the throes of a postcolonial civil war.

The N’Gustro Affair is a thinly veiled retelling of the 1965 abduction and killing of Mehdi Ben Barka, a radical opponent of King Hassan II of Morocco. But this is merely the backdrop to Jean-Patrick Manchette’s first-person portrait (with shades of Jim Thompson’s The Killer Inside Me) of a man who lacks the insight to see himself for what he is: a wannabe nihilist too weak to be even a full-bore fascist.

Jean-Patrick Manchette (1942-1995) was a genre-redefining French crime novelist, screenwriter, critic, and translator. Throughout the 1960s Manchette supported himself with various jobs writing television scripts, screenplays, young-adult books, and film novelizations. In 1971 he published his first novel, a collaboration with Jean-Pierre Bastid, and went on to produce ten subsequent works over the course of the next two decades and establishing a new genre of French novel, the néo-polar (distinguished from traditional detective novel, or polar, by its political engagement and social radicalism).

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