First-time novelist and naval architect Martin Dumont strikes a melancholy note in his novel “Schrödinger’s Dog.”
The book tells the story of Yanis Marès, a taxi driver in an unnamed French city, and his son, Pierre, a halfhearted student of biology whose true love is the theater and writing. Yanis’s wife, Lucille, took her life when Pierre was 4-years-old, leaving Yanis to raise his son alone. Father and son share a love of snorkeling and shallow water diving.
The narrative begins as Yanis and Pierre head out for a long weekend of diving, presumably in Brittany on the English Channel. During the weekend Pierre experiences symptoms that lead to hospitalization and the diagnosis of a pancreatic mass. Initially optimistic of the outcome, the surgeon shares the post-operative news that the tumor was larger than initially suspected, too large to be removed in its entirety without injury to surrounding organs. Worse, there was evidence that the tumor had already spread to other parts of Pierre’s body.
At the time of the illness’s onset Pierre had been attempting to complete the first draft of a novel. He strove to fight through the side effects of chemotherapy and finish the book. From his hospital bed he handed his father the finished manuscript, requesting Yanis to submit it to publishing houses for consideration.
Yanis complies with his son’s request, sending the manuscript to a score of editors. After more than a month the first responses trickle in, all of them “No” with little or no further comment.
All through this month Pierre is losing his battle against his disease and has been placed on hospice care in order that the last days or weeks of his life can be spent in comfort and dignity. Each day he asks his father whether there has been any response to the submissions. Each day Yanis lies to his son, advising patience.
To avoid stripping his son of hope that the novel will be published, Yanis resorts to deception, a decision he makes only after great internal debate. Dumont’s description of the struggle and its outcome occupies the second half of this brief novel. His depiction of the father and son’s last hours together are unadorned in style yet stunning in effect.
“Schrödinger’s Dog” is a short novel that will ask little more than an afternoon of the reader’s time. It will be an afternoon well spent. The depth of feeling conveyed by Dumont’s writing is remarkable. And John Cullen’s translation from French feels as natural as breathing.