Book #15

The Man Without Shelter by Indrajit Garai

Lucy, a young lawyer, is on fast track to partnership in her firm. Arnault, a convicted felon, leaves prison after two decades through a piece of evidence in his favor. The two of them come together during a rescue operation at the centre of Paris, and then they go on with their separate lives.

Months later, their paths cross again at a camp for migrants on the edge of Paris.

The important message in this novel is how we view and treat those we feel are below us, whether this is due to their living situation, their wealth, or even their past. We see our protagonist, Arnault, attempt to reintegrate into society after being released from prison, and the obstacles which spring in front of him as he does so. Getting a job requires identification, getting identification requires an address, getting an address requires a job, and so on the cycle goes.

Arnault’s storyline merges with Lucy’s, a young lawyer who is desperately trying to help people like him - those on the fringes, the invisible. The contrast between them is clear; they differ in background, motivation, wealth and knowledge, and yet seeing this contrast feels important.

It’s a really bleak but important story to absorb. Arnault’s story won’t be dissimilar to that of many others, and the way we forget them is something we should all be reminded of.

I would say this could do with a closer look at translation and grammar - sometimes the errors were a bit of a distraction, taking me away from the story. Overall, however, it was engaging, enlightening, and taught me many things, mostly about myself.