The Gun Seller : morceaux choisis

Comme la version française de The Gun Seller (Tout est sous contrôle) doit paraître en janvier, il est tant d'en parler un peu...

J'ai pas envie de faire un résumé, non pas parce que je suis une grosse faignasse (un peu quand même), mais parce qu'au-delà de la page 5, il y a des déjà des twists !

A la place, j'ai choisi des passages qui m'ont particulièrement amusés ou que j'ai trouvés très intelligents. De temps en temps, j'ai mis une petite réflexion. Je voulais les traduire, mais comme la version française va bientôt sortir... Et puis ça réduit de moitié la taille de cet article !

Un petit commentaire quand même !

Franchement, je dis pas ça parce que c'est lui, mais c'est vraiment un bon bouquin. Evidemment, je ne m'y connais pas bien en thriller/espionnage. C'est pas mon genre préféré, si ça se trouve il est pas terrible dans le genre. N'empêche qu'il n'a reçu que de bonnes critiques quand il est sorti, donc, même sans connaître bien le genre, je ne dois pas trop me tromper...

Pour faire bref, ce serait un mélange de [MI-5] et Jason Bourne (Robert Ludlum est cité justement) avec pas mal de dérision, à la limite, James Bond sans le côté clinquant et je-tombe-tout-ce-qui-bouge-dans-mon-beau-costume.  

Ce qui est bien, c'est que Hugh écrit comme il parle. C'est certainement pour ça que j'ai pas eu de problème de compréhension : question d'habitude.

D'ailleurs, Thomas Lang (le héros), c'est Hugh qui aurait changé de boulot. Non seulement, il parle comme lui, mais il a le même âge, même taille, même moto, mêmes goûts (apparemment), même faciliter à imiter les accents... Dans la 2e partie du livre, il a même la barbe comme Hugh l'avait au moment de la parution (à cause des 101 Dalmatiens). Il s'est certainement fait plaisir à s'imaginer en héros.

Un détail rigolo : les citations en début de chapitre. On a du Shakespeare, Proust, la Bible, même Mike Jagger (tu m'étonnes!)... et d'un coup, John McEnroe ! C'est Hugh, quoi... 

Voir aussi les différentes jaquettes

Remerciements : 

I am indebted to the writer and broadcaster Stephen Fry for his comments; to Kim Harris and Sarah Williams for their overpowering good taste and intelligence; to my literacy agent Anthony Goff, who has been unstinting in his support and encouragement; to my theatrical agent Lorraine Hamilton, for not minding that I also have a literary agent, and to my wife Jo, for thing that would fill a longer book than this. 

p. 10 

I think I'd known she was going to be American before she opened her mouth. Too healthy to be anything else. And where do they get those teeth ? 

Maintenant, il sait ! 

p. 30 

'Lang, I want you to know that I could have you arrested the second you leave this building.'

I turned and looked at him.

'For what ?'

I suddenly didn't like this. I didn't like this because, for the first time since I came in, O'Neal looked relaxed.

'Conspiracy to murder.'

The room was very quiet.

'Conspiracy?' I said. 

You know how it is when you're caught up in the flow of things. Normally, words are sent from the brain towards the mouth, and somewhere along the line you take a moment to check them, see that they are actually the ones you ordered and that they're nicely wrapped, before you bundle them on their way towards your palate and out into the fresh air.

But when you're caught up in the flow of things, the checking part of your mind can fall down on the job. 

O'Neal had uttered three words: 'Conspiracy to murder'.The correct word for me to repeat in an incredulous tone of voice would have been 'murder'; a very small, and psychiatrically disturbed section of the population might have opted for the 'to'; but the one word out of the three I most definitely should not have chosen to repeat was 'conspiracy'. 

Of course, if we'd had the conversation again, I'd have done things very differently. But we didn't. 

p. 45 

'It doesn't matter who told me, ' said Sarah.

'On the contrary, I think it matters a lot. If a salesman tells you that a washing machine's great, that's one thing. But if the Archbishop of Canterbury tells you it's great, and that it removes dirt even at low temperatures, that's quite different. 

p. 93

Bisou imprévu. C'est moins sauvage que le baiser Huddy, mais mignon... 

'So,' she said, taking a pace towards me. 'You on the team ?'

We looked at each other for a while, and then I smiled back, and shrugged, and started to say the word 'well', which is what I always do when I'm stuck for words. And you'll find, if you try this at home, that to form the 'w' sound, you have to pucker your lips into a kind of pout - very similar in shape to the one you'd use for whistling, say. Or, perhaps, ­even kissing. 

She kissed me. She kissed me. 

What I mean is, I was standing there, lips puckered, brain puckered, and she just stepped up and threw her tongue into my mouth. For a moment, I thought maybe she'd tripped on a floorboard and stuck out her tongue as a reflex - but that didn't seem very likely somehow, and anyway, once she'd got - her balance back, wouldn't she have put her tongue away again ?

No, she was definitely kissing me. Just like in the movies. Just like not in my life. For a couple of seconds I was too surprised, and too out of practice, to know what to do about it, because it had been a very long time since something like this had happened to me. In fact, if I remember correctly; I was an olive-picker in the reign of Rameses III when it did, ­and I'm not sure how I dealt with it then. She tasted of toothpaste, and wine, and perfume, and heaven on a nice day. 

'You on the team?' she said again, and I realised from the clarity Of her words that at some point she must have taken her tongue back, although l could still feel it, in my mouth, on my lips, and I knew that I'd always be able to feel it. I opened my eyes. 

She was standing there, looking up at me, and yes, it was definitely her. It wasn't a waiter, or a hatstand. 

p. 125 

We were heading south down Park Lane in a light blue Lincoln Diplomat, chosen from thirty identical ones in the embassy car park. It seemed to me a trifle obvious for diplomats to use a car called a Diplomat, but maybe Americans like those sort of signpost. For all I know, the average American insurance salesman drives around in something called a Chevrolet Insurance Salesman. I suppose it's one less decision in a man's life.

p. 139 

The dressing-table had a scattering of pots and brushes on it. Face cream, hand-cream, nose-cream, eye-cream. I wondered for a moment how serious it would be if you ever got home drunk and accidentally put face-cream on your hands or hand-cream on your face. 

Excellente question, je préfère ne pas savoir. 

p. 139 

I walked back through to the bedroom and looked around, hoping for a sign of something. I mean, not an actual sign - I wasn't expecting an address scrawled in lipstick on the mirror - but. I'd hoped for something, something that should have been there and wasn't, or shouldn't have been there and was. But there was no sign, and yet something was wrong. 

p. 144 

When we finally made it back to her flat, she unlocked front door, stood to one side, and asked, in a strangely little girl voice, if I wouldn't mind going in first. I looked at her for a moment. I think perhaps she wanted to gauge how serious the whole thing was, as if she still wasn't quite sure of it or me; so I put on a grim expression and went through the flat in what I hoped was a Clint Eastwoody sort of a way - pushing open doors with my foot, opening cupboards suddenly - while she stood in the corridor, her cheeks spotted with red. 

Clint Eastwood ! Il fallait qu'il le cite au moins une fois. Ca m'a étonné qu'il ne parle pas Steve MacQueen... 

p. 160 

'Oh, of course.' I slapped my forehead. 'I hadn't realised. You're going to give all the money from the sale of these weapons to The Save the Children. [...]' 

L'association familiale une fois !

p. 163 

We drove out of the M4 for about an hour, turning off, I would think, somewhere near Reading. I'd love to be able to tell you exactly which junction, and the umbers of the minor roads we took, but as I spent most of the journey on the floor of the Diplomat with my face being ground into the carpet, sensory data in-flow was a little restricted. The carpet was dark-blue and smelled of lemon, if that's any help. 

The car slowed for about the last fifteen minutes of the ride, but that could have been for traffic, or fog, or giraffe on the road for all I know. 

And then we reached a gravel drive, and I thought to myself - not long now. You could scrape up the gravel from most driveways in England, and come away with about enough to fill a sponge-bag. Any second now, I thought, I'll be outside, and within screaming distance of a public highway. 

But this wasn't an average drive. 

This one went on and on. And then it went on and on. And then, when I thought we were turning a corner and pulling over to park, it went on and on. 

Eventually, we stopped. 

And then we started again, and went on and on. 

I had begun to think that maybe it wasn't a drive at all; it was simply that the Lincoln Diplomat had been designed, with fantastically precise manufacturing skill, to disintegrate into very small pieces as soon as it exceeded its warranty mileage; perhaps what I was listening to now, pinging and bouncing off the wheel arches,  were bits of chassis. 

And then, at last, we stopped. I knew we'd stop for good this time, because the size twelve shoes that had been resting itself on the back of my neck was now sufficiently invigorated to slide off and get out of the car. I lifted my head and peered through the open door. 

p. 165 

I was shown, into a room. A red room. A red wallpaper, red curtains, red carpet. They said it was a sitting-room, but I don't know why they'd decided to confine its purpose just to sitting. Obviously, sitting was one of the things you could do in a room this size; but you could also stage operas, hold cycling races, and have an absolutely cracking game of Frisbee, all at the same time, without having to move any of the furniture. 

It could rain in a room this big.

p. 181 

'Do you have anybody, Thomas?' said Ronnie. 'At the moment?'

'You're talking about women, I would think.'

'That's the ticket. Are you sleeping with any?'

'By sleeping with, you mean... ?'

'Answer the question immediately, or I'll call a policeman.'

She was smiling. Because of me. I'd made her smile, and it was a nice feeling.

'No, Ronnie, I'm not sleeping .with any women at the moment.'


'Or any men. Or any animals. Or any types of coniferous tree.'

'Why not, if you don't mind me asking? And even if you do.'

I sighed. I didn't really know the answer to this myself, but saying that wasn't going to get me off the hook. I started talking without any clear idea of what was going to come out.

'Because sex, causes more unhappiness than it gives pleasure,' I said. 'Because men and women want different things, and one of them always ends up being disappointed. Because I don't get asked much, and I hate asking. Because I'm not very good at it. Because I'm used to being on my own. Because I can't think of any more reasons.' I paused for breath.

'All right, ' said Ronnie. She turned and starts walking backwards so she could get a good view of my face, 'Which of those is the real one?'

'B,' I said, after a bit of thought. 'We want different things. Men want to have sex with a woman. Then they want to have sex with another woman. And then another. Then they want to eat cornflakes and sleep for a while, and then they want to have sex with another woman, and another, until they die. Women,' and I thought I'd better pick my words a little more carefully when describing gender I didn't belong to, 'want a relationship. They may not get it, but ultimately that's what they want. That's the goal. Men, don't have goals. Natural ones. So they invent them, and put them at either end of a football pitch. And then they invent football. Or they pick fights, or try and get rich, or start wars, or come up with any number daft bloody things to make up for the fact that they have no real goals.'

'Bollocks,' said Ronnie.

'That, of course, is the other main difference.' 


Ma préférée de tout le livre je crois (jusqu'à ce que je change d'avis). 

Goldman told me that henceforth I should answer to the name of Durell. I asked him if I could pick my own name, and he Said no, Durrel1 was already entered on the case file of Qperation Dead Wood. I asked him if he'd heard of Tippex, and he said that was a Silly name, and I'd better just get used to Durrell. 

p. 212 

Solomon was waiting for me at the rendezvous with one of the Sunglasses. One of the pairs of Sunglasses, I mean. Although of course he wasn't wearing sunglasses now, it being dark, so I quickly had to concoct a new name for him. After a few moments thought, I came up with No Sunglaces. I think there may be a touch of Cree Indian in me. 

I apologised for being late, and Solomon smiled and said I wasn't, which was irritating, and then all three of us climb into a dirty, grey diesel Mercedes, with No Sunglasses at the wheel, and set off on the main road out of the east of the city. 

After half-an-hour we'd cleared the outskirts of Prague, and the road had narrowed to two fastish lanes, which we took at an easy pace. Just about the worst way to fuck up a covert operation on foreign soil is to get a speeding ticket, and No Sunglasses seemed to have learnt this lesson well enough. Solomon and I passed the occasional remark about countryside, how green it was, how parts of it looked a bit like Wales - although I'm not sure if either of us  had ever there - but otherwise we didn't talk much. Instead, we drew pictures on the steamed-up rear windows while Europe unfolded outside, Solomon doing flowers and me doing happy faces. 

p. 223 

Apart from that, and God knows we all have our bad days, the seven of us get on pretty well with each other. We really do. We whistle while we work. 

Les 7 nains ! Siffler en travaillant... 

p. 242 

A very short man stood in the corridor. Short enough to really hate someone of my height. 

p. 243 

It was snowing outside (which, I grant you, is where it usually snows, but remember that I was only just starting sober up) and huge discs of white were fluttering to the ground, like the debris from some celestial pillow~fight, covering everything, softening everything, making everything matter less. 

p. 254 

Le passage cité par Emma Thomson dans l'interview pour Interview. 

Dawn was definitely pulling into the station by now, and the snow had begun to throb with an electric, new-fallen whiteness. It climbed the inside of my trousers, and clung, squeakily, to the soles of. My boots, and the bit just in front seemed to say 'don't walk on me, please don't walk... oh.' 

p. 256 

Moment d'anthologie du livre : la comparaison grâce à une Volvo et une Fiat Panda des différences entre les hommes et les femmes par rapport au sexe ! 

When it comes to sex, it seems to me, men really are caught between a rock and a soft, limp, apologetic place. 

The sexual mechanisms of the two genders are just not compatible, that's the horrible truth of it, One is a runabout, suitable for shopping, quick journeys about town, and extremely easy parking; the other is an estate, designed for long distances, with heavy loads - altogether larger, more complex, and more difficult to maintain. You wouldn't buy a Fiat Panda to move antiques from Bristol to Norwich, and you wouldn't buy a Volvo for any other reason. It's not that one is better than the other. They're just different, that's all. 

This is a truth we dare not acknowledge these days - because sameness is our religion and heretics are no more welcome now than they ever were - but I'm going acknowledge it, because I've always felt that humility before the facts is the only thing that keeps a rational man together. Be humble in the face of facts, and proud in the face of opinions, as George Bernard Shaw once said. 

He didn't, actua1ly. I just wanted to put some authority behind this observation of mine, because I know you're not going to like it. 

If a man gives himself up to the sexual moment, then, well, that's all it is. A moment. A spasm. An event without duration. If, on the other hand, he holds back, by trying to remember as many names as he can from the Dulux colour chart, or whatever happens to be his chosen method of deferment, then he's accused of being coldly technical. Either way, if you're a heterosexual man, emerging from a modern sexual encounter with any kind of credit is a fiendishly, difficult thing to do. 

Yes, of course, credit is not the point of the exercise. But then again, it's easy to say that when you've got some. Credit, I mean. And men just don't get any these days. In the sexual arena, men are judged by female standards. You may hiss and tut and draw in your breath as sharply as you like, but it's true. (Yes, obviously, men judge women in other spheres - patronise them, tyrannise, exclude them, oppress them, make them utterly miserable - but in matters of a writhing nature, the mark on the bench was put down women. It is for the Fiat Panda to try and be like the Volvo, not the other round.) You just don't hear men criticising women for taking fifteen minute to reach a climax; and if you do, it's not with any implied accusation of weakness, or arrogance, or self-centredness. Men, generally, just hang their heads and say yes, that's the way her body is, that's what she needed from me, and I couldn't deliver it. I'm crap and I'll leave at once, As soon as I can find my other sock. 

Which, to be honest, is unfair, bordering on the ridiculous. In the same way that it would be ridiculous to call a  Fiat Panda crap car, just because you can't fit a wardrobe in the back. It might be crap for all sorts of other reasons - it breaks down, or it uses a lot of oil, or it's lime-green with the word 'turbo' written pathetically across the back window - but it's not crap because of the one characteristic that it was specifically designed to have : smallness. Neither is a Volvo a crap car, simply because it won't squeeze past the barrier in the Safeways car-park and allow you to get out without paying. 

Burn me on a mound of fagots if you like, but the two machines are just plain different, and that's that. Designed to do different things, at different speeds, on different types of roads. They're different. Not the same. Unalike. 

There, I've said it. And I don't feel any better. 

Latifa and I made love twice before breakfast, and once afterwards, and by mid-morning I'd managed to remember Burnt Umber, which made thirty-one, something of a personal record. 

J'ai vérifié au Brico, « ambre brûlée » se trouve en plein milieu de la gamme Dulux. Pas mal...       

p. 275 

I then headed east to Islington to see my solicitor, who pumped my hand and spent fifteen minutes telling me that we must play golf again. I told him that was a splendid idea, but, strictly speaking, we would need to play golf before we'd be able to play it again, at which he blushed and say he must have been thinking of a Robert Lang. I said yes, he must have been, and proceeded to dictate and sign a will, in which I bequeathed all my estate and chattels to The Save the Children Fund

L'association familiale deux fois ! 

p. 279

We walked in silence mostly, just listening to the sounds of our feet on the grass, the mud, the stones. Swallows flitted here and there, darting in and out of the tress and bushes like furtive homosexuals, while the furtive homosexuals flitted here and there, pretty much like swallows. There was a lot of activity on the Heat that night. Or perhaps it's every night. Men seemed to be everywhere in ones, and twos, threes and mores, appraising, signalling, negotiating, getting it done: plugging into each other to give, or receive, that microsecond of electric charge that would allow them to go back home concentrate on the plot of an Inspector Morse without getting restless. 

This is what men are like, I thought. This is unfettered male sexuality. Not without love, but separate from love. Short, neat, efficient. The Fiat Panda, in fact. 

p. 288 

Le Routard version Hugh... Pauvre Casablanca ! 

Don't go to Casablanca expecting it to be like the film. 

In ftact, if you're not too busy, and your schedule allows it, don't go to Casablanca at all.

People often refer to Nigeria and its neighbouring coastal states as the armpit of Africa; which is unfair, because, the people, culture, landscape, and beer of that part of the world are, in my experience, first rate. However, it is true that when you look at a map, through half-closed eyes, in a darkened room, in the middle of a game of What Does That Bit of Coasdine Remind You Of, you might find yourself saying yes, all right, Nigeria does have a vaguely armpitty kind of shape to it. 

Bad luck Nigeria. 

But if Nigeria is the armpit, Morocco is the shoulder. And if Morocco is the shoulder, Casablanca is a large, red, unsightly spot, on that shoulder, of the kind that appears on the actual morning of the day that you and your intended have decided to head for the beach. The sort of spot that chafes painfully against your bra strap or braces, depending on your gender preference, and makes you promise that from now on you're definitely going to eat more fresh vegetables. 

Casablanca is fat, sprawling, and industrial; a city of concrete-dust and diesel fumes, where sunlight seems to bleach out colour, instead of pouring it in. It hasn't a sight worth seeing, unless half-a-million poor people struggling to stay alive in a shanty-town warren of cardboard and corrugated iron is what makes you want to pack a bag and jump on a plane. As far as I know, it hasn't even got a museum. 

You may be getting the idea that I don't like Casablanca. You may be feeling that I'm trying to talk you out of it, or make your mind up for you; but it really isn't my place to do that. It's just that, if you're anything like me - and your entire life has been spent watching the door of whatever bar, café, pub, hotel, or dentist's surgery you happen to be sitting in, in the hope that Ingrid Bergman will come wafting through in a cream frock, and look straight at you, and blush; and heave her bosom about the place in a way that says thank God, life does have some meaning after all - if any of that strikes a chord with you, then Casablanca is being to be a big fucking disappointment. 

p. 320 

Not surprisingly, they frisked me like they were taking a frisking exam. To get into the Royal College of Frisking. Five head to toe, mouth, ears, crotch, soles of shoes. They tore most of my clothes from my body, and left me looking like an opened Christmas present. 

It took them sixteen minutes. [...] 

They left me for another five, leaning against the side of a police van, arms and legs spread, while they shouted and pushed past each other. I stared at the ground. Sarah is waiting for me.   

The friskers had fallen back a little, but only a little, out of an apparent respect for Barnes. Plenty of them kept on watching me, thinking maybe they'd missed a bit. 

Ca y est, je sais ce que je veux faire quand je serais grande : fouilleuse corporelle ! 

Au départ, ce livre devait être le premier d'une série, mais ça fait 12 ans qu'on attend le deuxième (The Paper Soldier). Je me demande même si Hugh le finira un jour... C'est comme le scénario qu'il avait commencé pour la United Artists (qui a acheté les droits dès 97) : il ne l'a toujours fini ! 

Message perso : Chtoum, logiquement, tu dois avoir quelque part dans un tiroir de ton studio-à-toi-que-tu-diriges un papier qui prouve que Hugh te doit un scénar'. Je t'autorise à le frapper s'il ne veut pas le finir. 

Ayè, fini ! J'espère que ça vous aura donné envie de le lire... 

Première publication le 19.11.08

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