In the cinematographic Pulp Fiction it was the undaunted Lord Wolf who was in charge; and on television Blacklist, Lord Kaplan (although he was a woman) did the same. His work seems a true delusion, the son of a sadistic and deranged mind or very cunning and refined: professionals specialized in cleaning crime scenes … at the service of murderers. “I do not know how to enter the dark web, but I am convinced that in real life they exist ”, assures the French Sandrine Destombes, who has placed one of those cleaners, Blanche Barjac, as the axis of her novel Madame B (Reservoir Books).
“I have put a bit of imagination and even some grandmother cleaning technique”, the 49-year-old French writer half jokes, to turn the protagonist of her already seventh novel, the Ligue de Ligue award, into a reputed professional in this particular criminal sector. l’Imaginaire 2020, which consolidates it in the leading squad of the prolific French polar. After 15 years of trade and 92 cleaning missions, Madame B (lonely, discreet, capable of leaving spotless from a carpet to the hard drive of a computer, going through a profile on social networks or, the easiest thing, getting rid of a corpse ) he discovers among the belongings to be removed from his last job a white handkerchief; a trifle, something without much difficulty for her if it weren’t for the fact that it is precisely the one her mother wore when she committed suicide 20 years ago. So someone is Cleaning also his life.
“I wanted to get out of the closed framework of the police-justice system, very busy and with even linguistic limitations, and to escape from that logic I didn’t feel like using the hackneyed investigative journalist, so I looked for someone who could not turn to the police: a Cleaner opened up many possibilities; from the outset, that a woman takes care of such work ”, admits Destombes, one of the virtual protagonists of yesterday’s BCNegra Festival session.
On Madame B It seems that every action one commits has a consequence, which does not seem to be consistent with real life. “I think it is so; Another thing is that a crime may not have a punishment; Maybe it doesn’t have legal consequences, but it certainly does have personal consequences… I think it was Sartre who said that we are what we choose; what we are is what we have decided ”, he assures. Also as a metaphor the novel distills that forgetting, erasing the past, is mission impossible. “It would be a mistake to do so because we always build the present from the past; one of the problems today is that the world is going too fast and we do not analyze the past, we are going too fast towards a future about which we do not know anything ”.
Blanche drags an ancient trauma that even casts doubt on her mental health, and oscillates in a gray area through which Adrian, her stepfather and the one who taught her the trade, somehow also run, or The Hound, hitman and one of Blanche’s most methodical clients. “I am reluctant in my work to discern too much between good and evil because that has to do with morality and what is today, not tomorrow; That is why I do not describe my characters physically or morally, I let them have many shades of gray because I want the reader to choose and, unconsciously, create their character and give them a moral; in that, literature gives more space to the reader than cinema ”.
Madame B It hints at a certain empowerment of women, even if it is on the dark side of crime, a position that reinforces the presence of a Madame C, a powerful criminal in whom the famous French pimp of the 70s Madame Claude is sensed, with a portfolio of clients Among those who were politicians and big businessmen from half the world. “There is still a long way to go for parity: for example, in French there is no feminine cleaner for hired killer.” On the other hand, there are many authors of polar in France. “It happens that they have little presence in the media and are poorly translated; the curious thing is that his works always have a very dark and hard transcript ”, he confirms.
Destombes admits that he prefers “the management of the enigma, the more old-fashioned research, than the predominance of technology”, in plots that he usually narrates “in images, like a cinematographic montage”, the result of his origins in the audiovisual sector. For this reason, he soon cites as references Hitchcock, Truffaut, Kubrick and Scorsese and, in the literary sense, Agatha Christie, Henning Mankell (“I had a hard time saying goodbye to a character like Wallander”), James Ellroy and Antonio Manzini.
Perhaps “the effect of confinement” due to the pandemic (“he is a character who has done me good”), Destombes is recovering these days the figure of its curator Max Tellier, who has already starred in three of his first works and whom he is facing morally , he advances, “to the reverse of the consequences and if there is a punishment at the height of the acts or not.” Perhaps you will come across a cleaner, a figure whose existence, at least in real Catalan and Spanish criminal life, is unknown. Or that it has never transpired because they left it, like Madame B, so clean that they were never caught.