La Petite Fille de Monsieur Linh (Monsieur Linh's Granddaughter) was published by the award winning novelist and film-maker Philippe Claudel (born 1962) in 2005. In deceptively simple language Claudel tells the story of two older men from whom life has taken more than they can bear to lose.
Monsieur Linh is a refugee from the lengthy episode of mutual and random murder called the American War by the Vietnamese; he is one of the peasants whom all four primary parties in the war killed without much thought. His village destroyed and his son and daughter-in-law killed by bombs, Monsieur Linh has little to live for, except that he found his six week old granddaughter safe not far from her parents' torn corpses. Resolved to continue for her sake, he manages to be one of the relatively lucky persons given sanctuary by the French. Arriving in the winter cold of what must be Marseilles, Monsieur Linh, who his entire life had barely ever ventured out of his little village, is understandably confused and anxious in the large, foreign city. In a providential accident life sometimes arranges for us, he sits on the bench a nearly equally elderly Frenchman likes to frequent, for just across the street is the park in which is located the merry-go-round his wife ran before her recent death.
Both men, haunted by their losses and living more in the past than in the present, slowly find a connection, though neither knows the other's language, as two lost and lonely persons can. Not unexpectedly, the Frenchman, Monsieur Bark, had been obliged as a young man to take part in the mutual and random murder called the French War by the Vietnamese.
And then Monsieur Linh and his granddaughter are transferred to an old person's home (a baby in an old person's home where no one speaks Vietnamese?), where the inmates are obliged to wear identical pajamas and bathrobes 24 hours a day. Linh escapes and crosses Marseilles in his pajamas and slippers, carrying the baby... At the end of his strength, he finds Monsieur Bark. Ten meters apart, Linh is run down by an automobile.
I found the boundary line to bathos getting uncomfortably close a few times in this text, but this peregrination across an unknown city culminating in last second tragedy, a baby who never cries, never even makes a sound throughout the book, Linh smiling away while he lies crushed by the car because he found his friend... The puppet strings, which should have been artfully hidden, are out in plain sight, and they are attached to the reader!