Rene Beletto. Coda.
THE HERO of Coda, Rene Belletto's recent novel, is an anonymous man. His wife has died, leaving him with a six-year-old daughter, Anna. Like many of Belletto's protagonists, he is devoted to fast cars, classical guitars and the music composed for them, and high-fidelity equipment. He is wealthy, having invented a perpetual-motion machine--or at least something closely approximating that impossible ideal. He is an amateur lexicologist of some distinction as well, busily at work upon an etymological dictionary and having advanced as far as the letter L. His life is quiet enough until the day he finds that someone has broken into his apartment and left a package of frozen seafood in his refrigerator. That strange yet apparently trivial event launches a series of far more troubling incidents, culminating in Anna's kidnapping. Shadowy, saturnine characters stride through Coda, one after another: Marc Kram, a former schoolmate of the narrator; Agathe Kram, his deceptively innocent sister; Amedee Marquis, a nefarious nephrologist; and Marthe, who entraps and then saves Anna, acceding in this fashion to a dubious immortality that she will share with other characters.
The plot is played out at a breakneck pace, one that its readers may find dizzying. Still, that is part of Belletto's intent, I feel; and it is very clearly part of the pleasure of this text. Belletto anticipates and, indeed, stages his reader's bewilderment throughout the text, as his narrator asks the same kinds of questions and makes the same kind of narrative inferences that occur to the reader. The narrator muses frequently about the nature of mystery and the fascination it may exercise upon us. In that sense, his description of that perpetual-motion machine that he offers resembles in each of its key facets Coda itself, whose unremitting twists and turns, fits and starts, truths and untruths remind us that narrative is a fundamentally dynamic form. Moreover, it is legitimate to see therein a singularly apposite metaphor for Belletto's distinguished career as a writer, during which, over thirty years and eighteen books, one never knows what lies beyond the next corner.
University of Colorado