Review of History of Violence by Edouard Louis, translated by Lorin Stein
The follow on to the autobiographical novel of The End of Eddy and Eddy is now living in Paris and heading to his apartment after a Christmas Eve meet with friends for Dinner. He is stopped in the street by a stranger and while Eddy tries to get away, eventually they both go back to hi with the night ending in Reda raping, assaulting and trying to murder Eddy.
The novel deals with the event and aftermath, told through both Eddy's point of view and from listening to his sister tell her husband about what happened.
This I found to be a very engrossing, heartfelt, afflicting read about the trauma of a traumatic event, trying to tell it to the French police the incident but responses of racism as the perpetrator was of North African descent, trying to deal with friends and family about the incident. The narration of the event takes on a kind of slow motion in it.
Definitely not a book for everyone but I did feel that despite the difficult subject of the novel, that it was an excellent, affecting and absorbing read.
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I almost didn't finish this, but gave it a second chance and did, eventually, huff and puff my way through.
I hadn't read anything else by MH and bought this last summer in France because it had a "Prix des lecteurs" ("Readers' choice") sticker. I know that isn't the most scientific of reasons, but I'm sure we all judge a book (at least sometimes!) by its cover.
The central question with which the book begins is: "Who among us is worthy of eternal life?" The book explores this and there are some interesting philosophical debates between various characters. However, the book should have been half as long (200 ish pages instead of 400 ish). I got the point and it annoyed me that the author laboured it so much.
There are two narratives in the book: those of Daniel and his cloned successors. Daniel is a comedian whose twin obsessions are sex and ageing. Actually, one obsession - sex; he only appears interested in ageing to the extent that it will affect his ability to fall in love and have sex. His narrative is partly about his life, loves etc and partly about him meeting a sect called the Elohim (a google search reveals that the sect appears at least partly based on a real-life organisation) which strives to find a way to create eternal life for its adherents. In order to join the Elohim and (eventually) achieve eternal life, all members really have to do is bequeath their earthly possessions to the sect when they die. So, apparently, the answer to who is worthy of eternal life, appears to be anyone cynical enough to join the sect - there is no real moral or philosophical basis for the sect.
The narrative of the cloned successors is more interesting. They are 24th and 25th generation successors to the original Daniel. They live cut off from anyone else in a world which has undergone several catastrophic global events, apparently killing the majority of humans, leaving only a few "savages". Their only contact is via the internet. Their physical needs have been pared down to light, heat, water and salt. Slowly, the Daniel clone realises that this life is unfulfilling - no society, no individual decisions, no fulfilment. So much for eternal life. Daniel25 breaks out and the end of the book is about what he finds.
I am glad I soldiered on to the end, but I won't be reading any other MH. I think the same subject matter with a different author would have been more enjoyable. MH seems to want to shock the reader (lots of swearing, anti-Islamic comments and explicit sex), but I wasn't shocked, I was just annoyed and wanted him to get on with his exploration of his themes!
"The Map & The Territory" is the latest novel from French author Michel Houellebecq. The main character, Jed Martin, is an artistic photographer and like most Houellebecq lead characters, leads a life in seclusion from the majority of humanity. (He sees his father once a year for Christmas dinner. Actually this would demonstrate better human relations than other Houellebecq main characters).
In part 1 of the book , it deals with Jed Martin's early life including his exhibition of photos of Michelin maps and the relationship he had with Olga.
Part 2 of the book deals with Martin's new exhibition. Martin has moved from photography to painting and in the next exhibition, set 10 years after the first exhibition, he paints occupations in which he is trying to convince the great novelist Michel Houellebecq (i believe a fictionalised version of Houellebecq based on the views of critics of his. The author Houellebecq takes many a shot at the character of Houellebecq which i believe a critic of Houellebecq would really enjoy apart from it being written by Houellebecq) to write the guide to the paintings for the exhibition.
In part 3, Martin is asked to assist in an utterly gruesome murder (this is on the back of the book. therefore if it's a spoiler, then it's the publisher's spoiler) I found this is be darkly brilliant writing. I do not like the gruesome nature of murders in general or most things. However the victim being who it was made it a whole lot easier to read.
It does lack the standard Houellebecq controversial subject matter, however he does get his shots in in wonderful although somewhat controversial writing (which i personally may not agree with). This includes an observation about the type of people he gets onto a shuttle bus to the airport with being those unproductive members of society (maybe including himself as an artist in that category?)
And of course there is the standard Houellebecq anti-sexual/anti-procreation rant in there that was strewn in both "Atomised" and "possibility of an island"
There had been the notion of controversy in terms of plagiarism. After reading this book. I think this was just blown out of proportion.
The book is a commentary on the world we live in, how maybe Western Europe has lost it in terms of creating/building stuff and have now rely on other less important things. While the father was an architect, his architecture work was mostly to do with tourist resort rather than something practical. The loss of the practical nature of Europe is at the heart of the book
The book also deals with love, personal relationships (in 1)lack of and 2)end of) and a fraught father/son relationship, money, the role of the artist in society and the decline of the individual and possibility humanity in general. This is a nihilistic view of the world.
Overall i did really enjoy this book and it was just superbly written.