Review: La Horde du Contrevent (The Horde of Counterwind)

horde_book_cover_frTo make it short: La Horde du Contrevent, aka The Horde of Counterwind is a french (sci-fi) novel, written by Alain Damasio (, and it is a pure masterpiece. You must read it if you can.

Let me explain: first, I put sci-fi between parenthesis, as it’s what could hold many people from reading this book, but it’s really not the subject of the book. The book is set in an imaginary world, full of a specifically crafted mysticism around the wind, but it’s really there to serve the topic of the book, which is really about humans, relationships, inner quests, courage, devotion to others and to their goals. It’s a book about humanity, sociologically fascinating.
Secondly, it is a pure masterpiece, as it’s the essence of what is my definition of a masterpiece: when the style serves the content, making the content an epic intimate story about people as individuals and as a group. When the content is an incredible support to the form, as the author uses the french language like few authors have done before him (and I’m including classic authors such as Balzac, Hugo, Dumas, Stendahl). It’s an amazing virtuous circle.

We could write a lot about the metaphorical world where the wind blows constantly from west to east, but with so much diversity, inconsistency, speed, movement, regularity that it is said to be the source of all existing thing. This wind and the quest of this horde to get to the never-reached origin point of the wind, the fantasized “origin of all things”, moving with their bare-feet across the land for 30 years, is more about the intimate struggle and the will they need to achieve their common and personal goals. The strength of all these people’s bond and the way it drives them forward. I just don’t have the time nor a good enough english language mastery to write the article this book deserves.

alain-damasioRegarding the form itself, we have a french writer who not only invented a very original and exciting world, but invented the  lexical field to go along. But it’s still not what make this book so good to read. The author decided to have multiple narrators (every member of the horde can be the narrator for a few paragraphs). And there we have all the genius of the author: every character has its own way of telling its story or feelings. We have the Golgoth, the leader of the horde, who talks with a very crude but still rich vocabulary, which of course emphasizes its own character. We have Caracole, the troubadour, who plays with the french language with a skill I’ve never seen before. And then we have the main narrator, the scribe, who speaks a quite common language (otherwise the book would be very hard to read). And we have Pietro, the wisest of the group, with its language very concise. And so on…

La-Horde-du-Contrevent-Les-Personnages-et-leur-symboleTo conclude, and since I wrote this article in english, I’d like to say that the translation of the book has been announced, but I can’t see how it can be as good as the original french version. It’s just seem impossible to translate it in a good way. The writing is so much tied to the french language and its specificities, its vocabulary, its sounding. If you ever happened to have a (very) good french level, just try to read the book in its original version, otherwise you must pray for the translator to be as good an english writter as Damasio is a fantastic french writter. I think the translator will actually have to rewrite many paragraphs not from the orignal source, but from the original idea, concept. If you start the book, just be warned that the first 100 pages are quite hard (even in french for french people), as the author throws you in it like you would throw a kid in the water to make him learn swimming (without the risk of drowning, thankfully :)).


 P.S.: this review is really about the book, but there happens to be a video game and an animated movie in production right now. I’m very curious to see what video game could emerge from this universe, as the creators have had the reasonable ambition to not adapt the book but build a game around it (actually before it). If you’re interested, here the link to the project page:

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