Literary Saloon
Site of Review.

Trying to meet all your book preview and review needs.

the Best
the Rest
Review Index




to e-mail us:

support the site

In Association with Amazon.com

In association with Amazon.com - UK

In association with Amazon.ca - Canada



In association with Amazon.it - Italia

the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


The Scream

Laurent Graff

general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase The Scream

Title: The Scream
Author: Laurent Graff
Genre: Novel
Written: 2006 (Eng. 2012)
Length: 97 pages
Original in: French
Availability: The Scream - US
The Scream - UK
The Scream - Canada
Le cri - Canada
The Scream - India
Le cri - France
  • French title: Le cri
  • Translated by Cheryl Robson and Claire Alejo

- Return to top of the page -

Our Assessment:

B : quite nicely turned novella about a world falling apart

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Le Figaro . 15/10/2007 Astrid Eliard

  From the Reviews:
  • "Laurent Graff nous invite à le voir, ce monde éthéré et plein de poésie, caché derrière la grisaille des péages et des restoroutes" - Astrid Eliard, Le Figaro

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

- Return to top of the page -

The complete review's Review:

       The Scream is a very short novel, narrated by a highway toll-booth attendant who determinedly goes on with his routine even as the world around him seems to be coming to an end. Each day, fewer and fewer cars pass through, until the roads are almost completely deserted, but he keeps up with his routine and responsibility until it has clearly become pointless, only then moving on. His little outpost and routine seem to have given him a sense of comfort and responsibility -- "I feel as if I'm sitting at a strategic point, on the axis of the whole world".
       He interacts with relatively few people as the world falls apart around him. One is a woman who repeatedly comes through the toll on her way to or from visiting her husband and her lover in hospital, the two of them brought together and badly injured in the unlikely accident they were involved in. Another is the local highway policeman, whose radar trap serves less and less purpose each passing day.
       Despite there being fewer and fewer people about, and day-to-day life having broken down, the characters seem relatively unperturbed, going about their usual routines and only slowly adapting to -- and beginning to take advantage of -- the new conditions.
       What exactly has shaken the world so is only eventually revealed; oddly -- though appropriately --, it began a week after Edvard Munch's famous painting, 'The Scream', was stolen from the Oslo City Museum. [That's an unfortunate slip: the Oslo City Museum does not have that Munch (there are, however, several versions of the famous painting); the theft Graff must be referring to is the 2004 one from the Munch Museum.] As it happens -- and as the world disintegrates around him -- the toll -booth attendant comes into possession of the stolen painting, and:

     Now Munch's masterpiece is in my toll booth; its mute rebellion, its voiceless scream blends into the silence of the highway.
       Eventually, the narrator does abandon his post, leaving behind the acquaintances he had shared some time with, wandering off: "straight on towards infinity."
       The narrator seems like a fairly passive and very calm fellow; it's no coincidence that he mentions a novel-figure recognizable as the protagonist from Graff's Happy Days. He , too, seems content to take things as they come. He is among those unaffected by what is bringing collapse all around, and, indeed, he goes around obliviously in more ways than one.
       For a long stretch Graff seems to be offering a portrait of a rather simple man who finds himself facing an apocalypse that remains beyond him and that barely touches him. The man sticks to his routine because that is all he seems to have in life. He seems like an innocent, and he does not express much curiosity or concern about the collapse of civilization around him.
       As it turns out, he isn't quite who he seems; there is more to him, and there is more to this situation. The theft of Munch's painting seems to have triggered what unfolds here -- but differently than we first imagined. Able to follow events only from the narrator's perspective, a significant part of the story only comes into focus in the closing pages -- and immediately changes the meaning of nearly everything that has come before. This is a novel of a world falling apart -- but not quite the one readers first were led to believe is collapsing.
       Graff pulls this off fairly well. The narrator's passive, placid voice suddenly takes on a whole new meaning retrospectively; the painting that he lugs around echoes in yet a new way. The shift from lightly comic to poignant is done well.
       It's a small but clever work, nicely turned in its affecting conclusion.

- M.A.Orthofer, 6 March 2013

- Return to top of the page -


The Scream: Reviews: Other books by Laurent Graff under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of French literature at the complete review

- Return to top of the page -

About the Author:

       French author Laurent Graff was born in 1968.

- Return to top of the page -

© 2013 the complete review

Main | the New | the Best | the Rest | Review Index | Links