They met at the dawn of a new era, after a mysterious virus from Hong Kong wiped out entire cities, reducing those who contracted it to ghosts trapped in their memories, doomed to reproduce without stop the same gestures. Spared by Shen fever and probably the only survivors of a global pandemic, members of the small group led by Bob, a religious and authoritarian guru, took refuge in an old Chicago mall and marauded to loot homes. deaths. Among them is Candace Chen, the narrator, a 30-something Chinese-American who works for a Bible maker. A few hours before the Beginning, an apocalyptic era where none of the old benchmarks are valid, she separated from her boyfriend, Jonathan, because he wanted to leave New York and permanently break with an alienating way of life.
Post-apocalypse and ultramodern solitude
Located in 2011 and published in the United States in 2018, long before the coronavirus pandemic, Les Enfévrés bear chilling similarities to the world we have lived in for a year. Coming from Asia, the virus reaches the respiratory tract and is transmitted by suspended spores. Companies are distributing protective masks and latex gloves to their employees, and are rapidly setting up teleworking. The survivors isolate those they suspect of breaking the rules and leave the towns, dreaming of a countryside they know nothing about.
In the tradition of post-apocalyptic novels, Ling Ma describes a New York stationary, overgrown and emptied of its substance, reminiscent of images of the bankruptcy of Detroit or those of the surrounding area of Chernobyl after the nuclear accident. Candace, the narrator, maintains a photography blog, New York Ghost, which documents the disaster and becomes a source of information for locals who no longer trust newspapers or TV stations. Anguishing and premonitory, Les Enfévrés three narrative shots alternate: the present, the few hours before the disaster materialized by a violent storm, the past of Candace, a Chinese immigrant who arrived in America at the age of 6 to join her parents.
Through the character of Candace Chen, a young woman without ideals who has lost almost all ties to her native country and spends her salary on uniquely American consumer products, Ling Ma paints the portrait of a generation captive to capitalism. globalized. It is very dark, remarkably constructed, of great accuracy on ultramodern solitude, alienation at work, the absurd quest for individuals crushed by a system at the end of the race. An impressive first novel.