A beautiful and very young prostitute gets killed in the beginning of “Proud Beggars” which sets off a journey of self-discovery. Also everyone is likable, including the young girl's murderer. Welcome to the world of Albert Cossery!
The narrative takes place in what we believe is in Egypt – perhaps Cairo? Cossery is from the Middle-East but lived in Paris most of his life. A hardcore member of the St-Germain crowd, Cossery is a writer of incredible charm, that is full of poison. What is fascinating is that via this novel we enter into a world of beggars – where it is not only a choice for some, but a desired lifestyle. Poverty worn as a sign of pride. Of course there is anxiety in knowing where one is going to sleep that night, or where the next meal will come from (if any at all), but the sense of freedom that goes with the lifestyle is the addiction where these characters roam with great joy.
The detective who is investigating the murder, is a closeted homosexual who is deeply attracted to the people he's after. A strange dance or chess game with all the characters who are expressing a certain school of existentialism – Cossery, as a writer, has the knack of expressing a culture in a light hearted way but again, with a sense of great wit, and this book is a very dark comedy. The murder was committed with no real purpose, which is shocking, but what is more shocking is how the characters react to the crime. A very strange book in that sense and it reminds me a bit of Paul Bowles' work. Maybe because its a strange culture to me, but the surrealism of the scenery and the joy that the beggars (at least the main characters) have with life is kind of upsetting. This is another remarkable novel by a great writer.
|The Dandy Albert Cossery|