Hygiene and the Assassinby Amelie Nothomb, Alison Anderson (Translator)
Prétextat Tach, Nobel Prize winner and one of the world's most renowned novelists, has two months to live. He has been in seclusion for years, refusing interviews and public appearances. But as news of his impending death becomes public, intrepid journalists from around the globe flock to his home in pursuit of an interview with the elusive author. One after
Prétextat Tach, Nobel Prize winner and one of the world's most renowned novelists, has two months to live. He has been in seclusion for years, refusing interviews and public appearances. But as news of his impending death becomes public, intrepid journalists from around the globe flock to his home in pursuit of an interview with the elusive author. One after the other they discover that, far from being the literary luminary they imagined, Tach has become an obese misogynist, a petulant bigot, an embittered, disgusting madman. The world's most famous author turns out to be the worst misanthrope imaginable.
But Nina, the final journalist and the only female to interview Tach, calls the celebrated author's bluff and beats him at his own game. Her questions and the author's biting responses fly in a triumph of brilliant repartee, and Tach is led to a definitive confrontation with his past, while Nina discoers that in love nothing is ever as straightforward as it seems.
Amélie Nothomb is one of Europe's most successful and controversial authors. She wrote Hygiene and the Assassin, her first published novel, when she was only twenty-five, and it became an instant bestseller across Europe. Winner of the Fournier and René-Fallet prizes, Hygiene and the Assassin is now published in English for the first time.
Resourceful journalist uncovers author's shocking secret in this Absurdist first novel that's almost all dialogue.
It was originally published in 1992, when Nothomb was 25; this is its first English translation. She has produced a slew of novels since then (Tokyo Fiancée, 2009, etc.) and won considerable acclaim in France. Her debut, set in 1991 as the Gulf War begins, features a Nobel prizewinner so obese he must use a wheelchair. His prototype is another grotesque glutton, the Ubu of Alfred Jarry's Ubu Roi, an early Absurdist drama. Prétextat Tach is a sacred monster. When word gets out that the reclusive 83-year-old Nobelist is dying from a rare cancer, he is flooded with interview requests. The novel is comprised of five separate interviews. Tach is not an easy subject. He breaks off his first four sessions. One of the journalists exits vomiting. He enjoys letting insults fly, and they're not funny ("Women are filthy slabs of meat"). This from a virgin with "a Ph.D. in masturbation." Still, we do learn a few things. From ages 23 to 59, he wrote nonstop; after that, zilch. All he's done for the last 24 years is eat and watch TV (just the commercials). He's famous because he's unread, except by "frog-readers" who absorb nothing. With the fifth journalist, everything changes. She's the first woman. She even has a name (Nina). Unlike those lazy males, she's done her homework, having read all 22 novels and researched his childhood. And she's fearless, forcing Tach to apologize for an especially egregious insult and eventually spill the beans about that fateful summer day in 1925 when his beloved cousin died. By the end, it's Nina who's calling the shots. The dramatic ending suggests the novel might have worked better as a play, with actors breathing life into the sometimes monotonous back-and-forth.
It's good to know that after this bold but flawed debut, Nothomb has gone on to a fine career.
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- 5.35(w) x 8.26(h) x 0.53(d)
- Age Range:
- 18 Years
Meet the Author
Amélie Nothomb is the author of over twenty novels, including Tokyo Fiancée, which the New York Times described as "delightfully absurd: and the Boston Globe as "definalty original," published by Europa Editions in 2009. Nothomb's books have been translated into over fifteen languages and have been awarded the French Academy's 1999 Grand Prix for the Novel, the René-Fallet prize, the Alain-Fournier prize, and the Grand Prix Giono in 2008. Nothomb lives in Paris.
Alison Anderson is the author of two novels, Hidden Latitudes and Darwin's Wink. For Europa Editions, her translations include two novels by Sélim Nassib, Tokyo Fiancée by Amélie Nothomb, and Muriel Barbery's novel The Elegance of the Hedgehog, which spent over a year on the New York Times Bestseller List. She lives near Lausanne, Switzerland.
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