Birth of a Bridge



The Pequod Review:

Maylis de Kerangel's second novel begins with a (fictional) news blurb about a major California construction project: 

On August 15, 2007, the New York Times announced in its business section the construction of a bridge in Coca, a three-line newsflash in twelve-point lower case that slid by without attracting anything more than a few raised eyebrows — people thought: finally there will be some jobs; or: here we go, they’re off again with a policy of major construction projects, nothing more. But the engineering firms that had taken a blow during the economic crisis began to ramp up: their teams set to work researching, securing contacts within the companies that had sealed the deal, planting moles within them, all so they might place themselves in the ranking, in a good position — to provide workers, machines, raw materials, services of all kinds. But it was already too late–the die had been cast and the agreements sealed. These agreements were the result of a complicated and delicate selection process that, although expedited, still took two years to materialize in the form of official signatures at the bottom of contracts at least a hundred and fifty pages long. A series of phases that resembled a hurdles race: September 2005, Coca’s city council launches an international call for applications; February 2006, five companies make the shortlist and the call for bids is sent out; December 20, 2006, the bids are submitted; April 15, 2007, two companies are chosen as finalists; June 1, 2007, the name of the winner is announced by the president of the CNCB (Commission for the New Coca Bridge): Pontoverde — a consortium of companies from France (Héraclès Group), the United States (Blackoak Inc.), and India (Green Shiva Co.) — is the lucky winner.

From this starting point, de Kerangel creates a story about all of the people involved in the bridge's creation — the engineers, construction workers, crane operators, project managers, protestors, and many others. It's a wide-ranging and panoramic story that explores not just the political desires of each person but also their personal motivations (which are frequently not related to money). And, in the process, de Kerangel captures the rowdy and entrepreneurial nature of American culture.