The River of Dead Trees
I had only been in Trempes for seventy-two hours and already I was under the impression that the sun would never stop its fall, that each day would be a declining day from dawn on, without the promise of a future. Before me, the diagonal traced by the shadow of the hanged man indicated that it was 4:30 according to the sun's time, 5:30 according to the time of men, which was only important insofar as I maintained the illusion of a bit of clarity.
Middle-aged and short on prospects, Charles Wilson returns to Trempes, the village of his childhood, and discovers the body of his childhood friend, Paul Faber, hanging from a tree in the clearing where they played as boys. Thus begins Wilson’s obsessive quest to exhume the secrets of his past and to understand the reasons for his friend’s death. But memories shift, people change and things are never as they seem. Soon Wilson finds himself caught up in a delusory spiral that threatens his very existence.
This is at once a neo-Gothic metaphysical thriller and a meticulous meditation on the unapologetic betrayal of memory and imagination. Wilson’s story bubbles up from the faults between mystery and fairy tale, brimming with characters haunted and tortured by the past, where truth and deception are wound up in time like the gnarled branches of old, grizzled trees.
Reviews of the French edition, Le Pendu de Trempes:
‘This book will make readers experience moments of anxiety bordering on insanity.’ – Radio-Canada
‘This is a fascinating book, and the experience of reading it is absolutely entrancing.’– Le Devoir