Cătălin Pînzaru – Jamais-vu
Ethan McQuincy-Popescu had just about everything a young man could want: brains, good-looks, confidence and the woman he loved. He was also determined to bury everything that stood in his way. In order to do so, he comes up with what seems to be a flawless plan. But everything takes a turn for the worse because of one small detail. Let yourself step into a chilling, yet fascinating story, one that will remain in a dark corner of your mind long after the final page is turned.
After teasing us for quite a few months with bits and pieces from his new work of literature, Cătălin Pînzaru is one step away from offering us the official version of Jamais vu. Most of you probably already know about The First Stage, his debut novel and first part of a trilogy, so you might wonder if this is the awaited second part. It’s not, it can very well stand on its own. But there is a link between its predecessor and this baby, and his name is Ethan McQuincy-Popescu. We’ll come back to him a bit later on.
Before moving any further, let’s clear one thing up: what is jamais vu? Of course, we’ve all heard about “déjà vu”, but its companion is a bit less known. You get a sense of “jamais vu” – never seen before – the moment you feel that you see something for the first time (or are in a certain situation for the first time), even if you know that is not true. That being said, the novella opens in a different way than we might expect: with an email from the protagonist to… himself. Meet Ethan: young, smart, sarcastic, and very much in love with Doris, a fellow colleague from the university. Problems appear on the horizon when he begins suspecting that his lover is abused by one of her professors. Despite the fact that Ethan tries to keep his cool, his patience is pushed to the limit soon enough. What’s the solution? Get the professor out of the way… permanently.
For the first five chapters, the story is told from his point of view. Come chapter six, the reader will be invited to continue down this path next to a different narrator, Ines. We cannot be sure that is her real name, but this is not the most important aspect here. She could be any one of us, drawn in a situation that seemed perfectly safe at first glance. She tells us what happened after Ethan’s email suddenly stops; well, at least what she knows: that she went through hell and back.
The shift in perspective is brilliant. The story itself is a combination of thriller, horror and mystery, but you aren’t thrown in the midst of it all from the very beginning. The descent into madness is presented step by step, never deviating from the subject, never dwelling on unimportant elements. Like in The First Stage, the author makes use of the same fast pace which refuses to allow you to escape from the plot once you’ve stepped inside. What’s more, even if the focus doesn’t fall on descriptions, you are prompted to visualize everything. And that would not be a problem if what unfolds in front of our eyes wasn’t terrifying. Ines – and Ethan, but he falls somewhere in the backdrop – end up in the heart of the mountains, in a villa used during communism by Ceaușescu. Because I don’t want to spoil your fun too much, let me say only this: Ines, Doris and the other characters – a handful, some named, others just nameless faces – find themselves trapped in hell.
One night is more than enough to reveal the deepest, darkest side of the human psyche. From the very beginning it was hinted towards it thanks to Ethan’s plan. Now, Ethan’s pretty much a cheeky bastard you can’t help but like. But there’s something else behind the nice façade, behind rationality. Instincts. Anger. Violence. They are all in our nature. What happens when we no longer have control over them? Read Jamais vu and you will see one possibility. Ethan’s the one who escapes more or less unharmed. He is the one for whom that night never took place. The man who forgot. As for Ines… she could be seen as the survivor. A strong woman from the beginning, she defeated her fears and climbed out towards light and a new life.
So, dear readers, find a nice spot, leave the worries at the door – trust me, you’ll find enough of those in the book – and let yourself fall in step with the characters, allow the events described by them wash over you. In time, they might be forgotten… or they will simply be hidden away from your sight, your memory waiting patiently to set them free when you least expect it.
This review was first published on http://elitere.ro/jamais-vu/ and is republished here with the author’s permission.