Éric Faye wrote a novella called Nagasaki about a strange but true event, squeezing from a seemingly harmless crime, as crime goes, some extremely thought-provoking observations. Or perhaps he just allowed us to make them if we would. The tale was similar to an experience I had when I lived in Indianapolis. For a period of a few weeks I would find things missing from my home. Aside from my Catahoula hound, I lived alone. At first I chalked off missing beers to my own forgetfulness. Then an unopened bottle of Bombay Sapphire Gin disappeared. A small stash of emergency cash I had stuffed behind my socks came up missing. Then half a dozen free passes to the movies were gone. There may have been more thefts, too small to notice, and too small to matter. Though the items were impersonal, it was the violation of my home that bothered me.
As I put the pieces together, I realized that the thefts usually happened on a Friday while I was at work. One Friday morning I left early, parked my car a block over, went back to the house and stayed in my darkened bedroom, waiting for the intruder. I waited all day, without TV, a radio, or anything to eat, hidden in the bedroom. Waiting. No one came that day or, as far as I know, ever again. Based on the fact that my dog, wary of strangers, apparently didn’t object to the thief, I have narrowed it down to two suspects, one of dubious character, but who had been in my home a couple of times and another, a neighbor’s teen son possibly giving into youthful temptation — the movies, the money, the alcohol. A softcore juvenile delinquent. I left it at that. If one of them had done it, I wouldn’t have done anything about it, anyway, other than scold.
Faye’s story is a bit different and far more interesting (“Thank goodness,” I hear you say). Yet, however strange his short tale is, it is not at all far-fetched. And that is what makes it scary. The main character is a single, middle-aged, middle class, behind-the-scenes high-tech weatherman. He lives a modest, unambitious, orderly life. He discovers that little bits of his food and tea have begun to disappear. The thefts are so small, why would anyone bother? But, unless he’s crazy, someone is invading his private space, spending time in it while he’s gone. He decides to set up a remote camera in his kitchen that he can access from his work computer. Because he has only noticed food disappearing, he sets up the camera in the kitchen and he watches it on his computer screen at work while he works. His clever ploy pays off. Someone’s there. The police are called. Justice seems to prevail. But the story is far from over. There are ramifications.
It’s preferable the author take you further with regard to the unknown cohabitant and the effect on his life the discovery causes. But briefly, life as our man so carefully planned it, as he so modestly lived it, and thoughts he had so limited could no longer be contained.
Éric Faye is a French journalist and novelist. Nagasaki was awarded the 2010 Académie Français Grand Prix du Roman.