This unusual and affecting work builds the story of an undocumented migrant from the perspectives of those whose paths he crosses. Ruillier worked with a friend from the charity Réseau Éducation Sans Frontières to collect accounts from migrants, police officers and the wider public, and sets the resulting tales in a world peopled by animals. That gives his tale a surreal, universal twist, though he tethers it to France by interspersing the action with bleak quotes from Nicolas Sarkozy and Marine Le Pen.
It begins when a broad-shouldered, downcast dog moves from a city of dark alleys and high rises to a country where he and his fellow migrants are called “stranges”. He meets fixers, policemen, taxi drivers and random passersby, and is greeted with sideways glances, indifference, generosity and merciless bureaucracy.
Ruillier gives us little chance to get to know his protagonist; instead, he’s interested in how political cant trickles down to the streets and acts of kindness light up dismal days. The simple colours and economically drawn animals might suggest innocence, but threats lurk on every page in a compelling account of life on society’s edge.