The Enclave

Original title: L’enclave

Publication Date:

January 2024



Original language and publisher

French | Les Arènes

Territories Handled

Netherlands, North America, Scandinavia


Crime & Thrillers, Literary Fiction

Number of copies sold:

8,000 print run


  • Prix Joseph Kessel 2024 (longlist)

The Enclave

Original title: L’enclave


L’enclave is a novel rooted in the picaresque novel tradition, harsh at times and extremely moving.

The plot
August 1991, while the USSR is falling apart and riots are breaking out in Moscow, Le Gris, a teenager from Kaliningrad, is released from prison. He plans to return to his mother and find the love of his life. Along the way, he will encounter young people who are discovering freedom and the call of the West; idle soldiers who no longer know to whom they should pledge their loyalty; police officers in disarray, fearing the threat of anarchy; and even a child who takes advantage of the general disorder to escape his orphanage…

Soviet decay and the end of the USSR
L’Enclave is a short, poignant story that describes a moment of crisis, the end of the USSR, in a very specific territory, Kaliningrad, a formerly German territory that came under Russian administration at the end of the Second World War. With the end of the Soviet regime and the independence of the Baltic countries, this Russian territory becomes an enclave, as if cut off from the rest of the world.

A perceptive reflection on freedom and individual choice
Through the pilgrimage of Le Gris, the entire moribund Soviet world is portrayed to us with finesse and restraint. A world is collapsing and no one knows what will happen. The book is a picaresque story but also an initiation novel about a young boy who will, at the end of his hazardous path, become a man. It is a poetic and moving reflection on the question of freedom and individual choice.

With L’Enclave, Benoît Vitkine signs his most intimate, ambitious and literary book. A triumph…


Le Gris says his goodbyes in silence. He slips between the bunks, and extends his hand to each of the detainees, without effusion. A few words and the sound of applause are heard. The greetings are virile, the emotion absent. Le Gris doesn’t smile – dangerous, amoral. For the hyenas, the little ones who make up the bulk of the troops, to smile is to already be just a little fucked. If you open your mouth to show your teeth, that’s taken as a sign that someone has the right to stick their cock in there… Le Gris has adapted. He’s always known how to do it, he’s smart. Not enough to avoid prison – enough to guess what face we expect from him at any moment.

He respects the hierarchy and customs, starting his turn with the troops, the young people with shaved heads, the restless ones, and the crooked faces. Some whisper “good luck” to him, the others barely look up at him, and keep their butts firmly planted on their mattresses. In the hierarchy of the cell, Le Gris is no better than them. Without the protection of the Old Man, he might have landed even lower. A doormat. A bitch.

Marketing Information

  • Vitkine was awarded the Prix Albert-Londres, and 10.000 copies of Les Loups (Les Arènes, 2022) were sold, a novel that already revolved around the Ukrainian/Russian relationships.

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