The Scapegoat

Daniel Pennac

translated from the French by Ian Monk
Harvill Press 1998 [1985]
A book review by Danny Yee © 2003
Benjamin Malaussène works for a department store as a professional scapegoat, looking so pitiful when customers come in with complaints that they abandon them. When bombs start going off in the store, however, it seems he may be scapegoated for that, too...

The Scapegoat is a light-hearted entertainment. Its plot has enough twists and turns to keep one hooked, and though it's somewhat surreal and not particularly plausible it doesn't take itself seriously enough for that to be a problem. Much of the entertainment comes from the menagerie of characters, starting with Ben himself and the extraordinary family he heads, consisting of five half-siblings (the result of their mother's wanderlust) and a stinking, epileptic dog. Then there is the statuesque investigative journalist with whom Ben becomes involved, a Nazi-sympathising bookseller, police inspector Coudrier, and assorted other denizens of the Beleville Arab quarter of Paris in which The Scapegoat is set.

One wonders how well Ian Monk has translated what must clearly have been heavily idiomatic dialect in the original, but perhaps this is comparatively easy for someone who has also translated Georges Perec.

April 2003

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%T The Scapegoat
%A Pennac, Daniel
%M French
%F Monk, Ian
%I Harvill Press
%D 1998 [1985]
%O paperback
%G ISBN 1860464432
%P 215pp