Sunday, 22 April 2012

Fiasco - a fairly apt title

Fiasco by Imre Kertész (Translation, Melville House: 2011). A man who has survived the Nazi concentration camps returns home to a Soviet controlled home, and struggles to navigate his way through a changed world.
Part of the point of this is to make sure I read a bunch of different stuff. Knowing that, at the end of a book, I need to come on here and tell you guys about it – it means I don’t want to read the same sort of thing week in week out. You’d get bored with that. You’re renowned for your short attention span. People talk about it behind your back sometimes.
So I heard about this book by a Hungarian author. One that won the Nobel Prize for Literature. And I thought why not. I’ve never read a Hungarian author before. Or a Nobel Prize winning book. So this will be something new to write about.
And it is. Something new to write about, that is. I’ll tell you what this book is not. It is not readable. It is not smooth. It is not flowing. It is not fun or enlightening or riveting.
All sounds a bit negative Nancy, doesn’t it. Sorry to bring the tone down, I’m sure you were having a super day until now. A really sunshine one. But I didn’t enjoy this book. And I won’t lie to you. I can’t, I shan’t.
There are, however, some redeeming factors. I can see what the purpose of the book was. It is clever in a lot of ways, and the style of the first part (the hundred or so pages before chapter 1 starts) is quirky and new and intelligent. I liked the idea of it, the rhythm of the repetition and the slight comedy it brought to an otherwise purposefully stale scene. And the second part of the book, the actual story, had its plus points too. It had some pretty interesting characters, and...
No, that’s me done trying to be positive. The bottom line is this just was not fun to read. And I know not all books need to be fun. They can be heartbreaking, or enriching, or interesting, or exciting, or scary, or pretty much any other strong emotion. But this was none. It elicited nothing extreme from me. Not even anything  endearingly small. Just a bit of boredom.
I get what was being attempted. I appreciated the cleverness. I recognised the sadness, and the political backdrop. But I got over that pretty quick, and then just got sleepy as the book rambled on and stumbled through a string of unremarkable events.
This book never connected with me. It was a literary exercise more than it was a good read. And the GBR scale is nothing if not a measure of good-read-ness.
Can’t bring myself to give something Nobel Prize winning a 1 GBR, or God forbid even a 0 GBR. But honestly, don’t bother with this. Go do something else instead. Pick some flowers, watch some birds, even do some exercise. Anything.
Next week, something a great deal more. Just more. Something to make me want to read again.

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