Jean-Philippe Toussaint packs so much into the 104 pages of Reticence that only an act of similarly heroic concision could do it any justice in this space. Be warned, readers: I stake no such claim to heroism.
A few days before we join the action of this short detective novel, its narrator sent a letter to a man called Paul Biaggi to let him know in advance that he’d be taking a little holiday in Biaggi’s small seaside town. Now he has arrived, though, the narrator finds himself outside Biaggi’s house, overcome by a strange reticence somehow preventing him from calling in. He checks the mailbox to discover his letter still unopened, whereupon he decides to steal it and another three letters for good measure. The constant reference made by the narrator to Biaggi’s typewriter seems to cast the un-recipient in the role of author. So it is, then, that with the theft of Biaggi’s letters, Reticence begins with the narrator committing upon the author an act generally associated with identity fraud.
As if that old chestnut weren’t enough, visual echoes abound throughout to make the text – so full of silhouettes and shutters – seem more closely related to photography than to the novel. A rather busy holiday snap, this book: perfectly-framed and fully-developed.