If you are seeking a novel that will pump life into your flagging book club, Brodeck by Philippe Claudel, is a gargantuan needle of adrenaline to the heart. It is a powerful allegorical tale with a thousand points of discussion.
In broad strokes, little orphaned Bodeck is brought to an out-of-the-way border town by the forever old gypsy Fedorine. He grows up seemingly accepted in this town of kindly villagers. Recognizing his smarts, they even elect him to be the one young man to get an education and return to serve the town that sponsored him. However, when Brodeck returns, it is on the winds of war and soon the town is occupied by enemy troops. The enemy is generous at first, but when the enemy commander insists that the locals cleanse their village, Brodeck is remembered as an outsider. An Other. Thus, he is shipped to a concentration camp and, sacrificing his dignity for his life, he becomes a Brodeck the Dog.
After the war, the villagers are stunned when Brodeck returns. Though he is a reminder of their past weakness, they allow him to remain among them. After things settle, enter the Anderer. The Other. A flamboyantly dressed imp that, unlike any other visitor, came specifically to their isolated locale. But why they all ask? Different in every way, he quietly paints their portraits and local landscapes. These pictures, like holograms, look very differently at different angles. A benevolently smiling fellow seen from the left is a malevolently sneering fellow from the right. Like windows to the soul, these portraits incite their subjects to murder The Anderer. Brodeck is one of the few villagers whose knife doesn’t stick the Anderer, and seemingly since he is the only educated villager, he is charged to write a report whitewashing the crime.
There is no point summarizing the plot any further. Just know that the book is replete with thought-provoking themes, observations and vignettes. Honestly, some Illuminado would not let the meeting break-up and then would not leave after it did. The book is required reading. Nuff said.