A work colleague with whom I have been exchanging books suggested this odd novel that she had borrowed from a friend (books do get around, and the paper copies do have that definite advantage over e-books). There are two main plot lines. The first one describes the existence of some ants from a specific ant colony. They have different functions in the colony and therefore different physical characteristics and they are described a specific individuals with the power to act and make decisions as individuals. The second plot line concerns a human family who inherited a building from an eccentric uncle. There is some mystery attached to the basement of the building and a mysterious instruction to stay away from the basement. While the uncle was an expert in entomology and was particularly interested in ants, it takes a very long time to find out the connection between the two plot lines. I will not give it away here.
Werber’s work as been described as “scientific fiction” and indeed parts of the book read more like an encyclopedia entry than a novel, but it is absolutely fascinating. It is the first volume of a trilogy; the second volume is called Le jour des fourmis and the third, La révolution des fourmis.
Werber, Bernard. Les Fourmis. Albin Michel, 1991.