Lydie Salvayre - The Power of Flies

The Power of Flies

Lydie Salvayre

1995 / English translation 2007

Dalkey Archive Press

I’m a bit late to the party with my review of this book, so I see no reason to go over the various plot points or the rather unique approach that French author Lydie Salvayre took with this book. I found “The Power of Flies” interesting and quite readable, although the protagonist was very difficult to empathize with or to really care about. His recollections of his childhood living in fear of his abusive father and victimized mother are harrowing and give the reader an understanding of why this man is so consumed with hatred that he is unable to love anyone except maybe the spirit of philosopher Blaise Pascal. Still it is hard to read his telling of how cold and cruel he is to his own wife and with the people he works with. The title refers to the power of hatred, which consumes the soul of this wretched man. As he recounts the story of his life, it is unclear for much of the book exactly what he is on trial for, as there is no remorse for his crime in his monologue. Later, it becomes evident that he is on trial for murder, but the reader (or at least I was) is unsure of who he killed since he passionately hates his boss at the museum, his wife, his co-workers, and, of course, his father. This is obviously not light, easy reading, but it is an interesting character study and moves along at a good pace. It is quite short and concise, as novels go, so it never quite reaches the point where you just can’t wait to get out of this guy’s head. I found myself thinking about the many people we encounter in life who often blend into the woodwork or who sometimes seem a bit odd. How many of them are like this man? That’s frightening!

Kathy Parsons