Why did The Safe House’s narrator feel unsafe? 

Christophe Boltanski is the narrator of the France 2015 Prix de Prix winner for his novel, The Safe House, which features him as the narrator who fears everything and nothing at the same time.

One of the most popular books of the 2010s from France, which has had a global impact, is the 2015 novel by Christophe Boltanski, The Safe House. It garnered national success, going on to win France’s most prestigious literary award, the Prix de Prix. In that same year, it was subsequently translated into English by Laura Marris, and is now available on Amazon as a hard copy.

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The book is semi-autobiographical, as the characters in the story are based on Boltanski’s family history. He assumes the character of the narrator, or Bolt, as he tells this dark and comical story of his family through the mansion in which they inhabited. A mansion which was owned by his grandfather, Étienne Boltanski, a Jewish doctor who divorced his wife when the Nazi came and was believed to have fled in fear.

However, it is then revealed that he had snuck back into the mansion, hiding in the crawling space in the mansion for the duration of the war. Other characters include his grandmother, who is described as a woman with “savage appetites”, and his artistic uncle whose paintings are believed will make him famous in the future. Boltanski’s own character in the book is described as one like the rest of his family, that are living in permanent stasis as fearing “of everything, of nothing, of others, of ourselves.”

In the story, the narrator is believed to continually feel unsafe due to the constant visits from the people that visit their mansion. In the book, he refers to the visitors as aunts and uncles. Him feeling unsafe could relate to the outside influence that is introduced with their visits, as the characters who inhabit the house are looking to preserve the stasis of time by not acknowledging it moving forward.