Rufin, Jean-Christophe. Checkpoint. Translated by Alison Anderson. New York: Europa Editions, 2017. 304p. ISBN 978-1-60945-372-5, $18. Fiction.
Note: The following review was assigned by Library Journal but, to the best of my knowledge, never appeared in print.
In 1995, four men and 21-year-old Maud set off from Lyon, France, in two fifteen-ton trucks on a non-governmental humanitarian mission to war-torn Bosnia. They pass with relative ease through Croatian and Serbian checkpoints but all is not well. An air of hostility permeates their mission, not only from outside forces—unchecked paramilitary units, in particular—but within the group itself. Two of the men, ex-soldiers, have placed them all at risk by what they have hidden in one of the trucks. Others are jealous of Maud’s affections, and all are suspicious of a misfit loner they think is a cop. As they make their way through treacherous terrain, Maud slowly realizes she has much to learn—about idealism, commitment to a cause, betrayal, and, above all, the sort of love that is a call to arms. VERDICT This adventure tale of a convoy gone bad unfolds with no real tension, the action bits at best perfunctory. Narrated mostly from naive Maud’s point of view, the novel’s brevity makes the romantic developments seem rushed—even though, after each event, characters stop to ponder the pyschological significance of what has just occurred—and the thriller elements are muted and unconvincing. Rufin (The Red Collar), a former French ambassador to Senegal, winner of two Prix Goncourt, and one of the founders of Doctors Without Borders, describes much and dramatizes little, in language that is plain and often clichéd. Of interest to those who wish to ponder the political issue of humanitarian aid.