10 June 2012

Hygiene and the Assassin, by Amelie Nothomb

I liked this book less than her others, but I enjoy Nothomb's prose style enough that even a more outlandish book, like this one, is entertaining. The most patently fictional of her books that I've encountered, this is the story of an aged, Nobel prize-winning author who is interviewed by a series of journalists, torturing them with fiendish spite, until he meets his match in a typical Nothomb heroine; a cool, witty woman.

The viciousness of the author, Pretextat Tach, allows Nothomb to revel in a bit of sadistic glee. You can tell that she loves Tach in some ways; an unabashedly arrogant and dogmatic gourmande, monstrously fat and repulsive but with beautiful hands. It's the kind of sadism you find in Houllebecq or Michael Haneke, but in Nothomb's works it feels less heartless somehow, more like a celebration of the grotesque a la Bataille than an enjoyment of human suffering. But maybe I'm deceiving myself.

The story, while amusing enough to read, is not entirely successful. It is a bit too neatly constructed to be believable, which makes it seem somewhat gratuitously lurid and somewhat juvenile. The reflections on reading are interesting but come across as a bit trite by virtue of their context. Overall, an entertaining enough book, but not a must-read.

1 comment:

Camilleon said...

Hmm, interesting. I actually haven't read this--I've only read her autobiographical novels.