L’Homme aux mille visages by Sonia Kronlund
He goes by Ricardo, Alexandre, Daniel, Richard. His surname, profession, nationality — all change faster than a New York minute. Why? To seduce as many women as he can. He’s on the rampage in Brazil, France, Portugal and Poland and he multiplies profiles on social media literally everywhere. Ricardo is a man with a thousand faces, addicted to face in holes and all sorts of petty thefts.
Sonia Kronlund, producer of the radio show, Les Pieds sur Terre (a French equivalent of This American Life), has investigated over the course of 5 years, interviewing his victims, collecting his fictions, and visiting the places where he has lived. But is it possible to write about such a con artist without giving into fascination or romanticizing? How can one avoid judging the victims?
Following the lead of Emmanuel Carrère, the master of French narrative nonfiction, Kronlund stays grounded in reality, standing toe-to-toe with her subject without overshadowing it, armed with a seriousness devoid of any cynicism or contempt. Kronlund gives a lot of consideration to the pain inflicted by Ricardo on his conquests, and their shattered dreams. Since seriousness does not preclude humor, she delivers some hilarious pages, especially those where her lead-footed detectives are being spied upon by other detectives she hired to understand their total inefficiency.
In The Adversary, Emmanuel Carrère notes “a lie, normally, serves to cover up a truth, something shameful, perhaps even real. His lie covered nothing. Under the false Doctor Romand, there was never a real Jean-Claude Romand.” Sonia doesn’t see it that way, and she goes to great lengths to shed light on Ricardo’s criminal’s behavior. She is determined to unmask all of the lies of this serial fabulator and to find out the missing piece of Ricardo’s puzzled life, the secrets behind this clueless man who lies “as he breathes.”
In a whirlwind of anger, farce and astonishment, we read the profound joy of finding, among this cohort of deceived women, a kind of sorority, a dash of craziness, a weird energy, something that might resemble a promise of a better future!
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L’Homme aux mille visages, a literary investigation by Sonia Kronlund, Grasset