In a small town on the Franco-Belgian border, on the morning of the festival of St. Woelfred, the population wake up to find that there are dead fish scattered everywhere, seemingly blown in by the wind. The lives of six people who live in the town are about to be changed forever.
Nofel wedi'i lleoli mewn tref ar y ffin rhwng Ffrainc a Gwlad Belg. Mae'n fore gŵyl Sant Woelfred, ac wrth i drigolion y dref ddihuno, sylweddolant fod pysgod marw wedi'u gwasgaru dros y lle, wedi'u chwythu gan y gwynt. Caiff bywydau chwech o'r trigolion eu newid am byth.
Belgium: it’s not all beer and chocolate. According to Christien Gholson’s novel, fish are also big there. A Fish Trapped Inside the Wind is aptly titled. For a start there’s the fishy breath of those who have gone before. Within this short, complex book at least one character is obsessed with the nineteenth-century French poet Arthur Rimbaud. Others seem to represent elements of his well-documented bohème.
The most attractive of these is Philippe Souzain. As the young poet’s reincarnation, wandering and watching, Philippe is susceptible to any rough magic his dull little birthplace – all cement lorries, quarry and nasty canal – has to offer. Then on the morning of St Woelfred’s Day the boy is first to discover a fall of fish. A miracle? A sign? The smell of these real, stinking cod and the oil of mackerel will get onto everyone and everything. But the quarry is about to become a toxic waste dump, so perhaps an early Rimbaudesque metaphor for human greed and its gangrenous by-product?
A half-dozen residents will speculate, weave the phenomenon into the past and/or let it colour futures. Father Leo, having failed a true believer in St Woelfred, the abused Marie, has no explanation. But then he rarely knows what he is going to say at Mass. Guy Foulette, the illusionist, seems content to limp through life as the lover of Leisl, the plot’s most active ingredient, a German girl determined to save the environment for its bovine population. She has no immediate solution to the fish either but, ‘if you wait around to map out every single twist and turn of the mind, you’d never do anything.’
The libidinous teacher, Casimir, is hoarder of Rimbaud’s juvenilia, which ‘have to be kept and protected in this family as a final safeguard…’, but Gholson seems to suggest there are no safeguards, not for anyone, not anywhere.
A novel of ideas, then, rather than a mystery: some readers will revel in its Gothic horrors such as Poisson – yes, sounds fishy – who literally bites the heads off live chickens. Others will have their sympathy teased out for his victim, whose gaping mouth shows a black void where her front teeth once were.
It is possible to use this review for promotional purposes, but the following acknowledgment should be included: A review from www.gwales.com, with the permission of the Welsh Books Council.
Gellir defnyddio'r adolygiad hwn at bwrpas hybu, ond gofynnir i chi gynnwys y gydnabyddiaeth ganlynol: Adolygiad oddi ar www.gwales.com, trwy ganiatâd Cyngor Llyfrau Cymru.