Can You Stomach It?

2356414991.01._SX450_SY635_SCLZZZZZZZ_Hygiène de l’assassin (Hygiene and the Assassin) by Amélie Nothomb
Audiolib (2012), Narrated by Guila Clara Kessous

Oh good grief! The original French language audiobook is only 6h20 long, the paperback 221 pages. I only had one hour of listening left (or 30 pages) and just. couldn’t. stand it. any more. So I quit. Because the idea of having to stay with the characters and the story for that much longer didn’t break down to just 60 more minutes, but to 3,600,000 milliseconds of infinity. And after spending a half hour trying to figure out how I could occupy myself so I could get to the end without having to really listen, I realized I really needed to part with this book. The premise is interesting enough; an elderly author and Nobel prize laureate becomes the target of journalistic curiosity when it is announced his advanced rare form of cancer leaves him with less than two months to live. The author, Prétextat Tach is one of the most repulsive characters I’ve ever come across; morbidly obese, misanthropic, misogynistic to the nth degree, for starters. He has always previously refused to give interviews until now; four interviewers try their luck and within a few minutes are so mistreated by the author, who takes a sadistic pleasure in mentally torturing them, with, among other things, detailed descriptions of his nauseating culinary delights (various forms of pure fat feature prominently) that they all literally run away from their unfinished interviews. Then a fifth interviewer presents herself, determined to make Tach literally crawl at her feet and forces him to confess to an odious crime. The story is mostly told in the form of a dialogue. After listening to a few chapters, I already wasn’t sure I’d get to the end, because the one thing that could have made me stomach this noxious brew would have been some element of humour or satire, but I failed to detect a trace of it beyond what seemed promising in the book description. I knew going into the book this was Nothomb’s first novel, which was published when she was a mere twenty-five, but I’m sure that hadn’t I known that fact, I would still have found the novel sophomoric. That Tach is disagreeable is clear, but the female journalist’s hostility is what I found even more difficult to stomach, and I couldn’t help but think that many sequences seemed to come from Nothomb’s inner dialogue about why she felt she needed to complete this book. Of course, if I say DO NOT READ THIS BOOK, IT’S A COMPLETE WASTE OF TIME, you’re likely to rush to it so you can find that out for yourself. If you do, could you please tell me how it ends in case I’ve missed the point entirely?


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