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For reasons that will eventually become clear, Paul Hansen is in prison. He’s been in prison for a couple of years now, sharing his cell with a fearsome Hells Angel murderer, who often reminds Paul that he could kill him at any moment.

But life wasn’t always like this for Paul Hansen. Before prison, there were his parents: Danish pastor Johannes and free-spirited Anna, the proprietor of a controversial art house cinema. There were his friends in L’Excelsior, the block of luxury flats where Paul worked officially as a caretaker, and unofficially as a restorer of souls and comforter of the afflicted. And above all, there was his partner, Winona, the daring seaplane pilot, and their beloved dog Nouk.

Many of them are dead now: his parents, friends, Winona and Nouk. Paul can still talk to them though; they appear in his dreams, as ghosts in his cell, breaking up the monotony and fear of his life behind bars. But Paul knows he cannot be released until he shows remorse for the crime that led to his imprisonment. And, even with his freedom at stake, for some things, true remorse is too high a price to pay.

Translated from the French by David Homel


Dubois has humanity rooted in his heart, but is under no illusions about anything . . . This cocktail of humour, intelligence and sentiment, freshly served with a deceptively casual elegance, is once again so successful
A melancholy, luminous novel
An affecting and nostalgic novel of lost happiness
Agence France-Press
Basically perfect
A masterpiece . . . Full of humanity, melancholy, irony
Philippe Claudel