If you have read Journey to the End of the Night, you already know how that deeply unpleasant that novel is. If you haven’t already read this one, you don’t know yet how much more deeply unpleasant this novel is.
But also it’s good? Well, that’s not easy to say exactly. The two novels together helped to break open that other part of life that novels often avoided for obvious reasons. These novels dwell in (though not exclusively) the sexual life of people, as well as the bathroom life of people. This is not entirely new in 1930’s France, where DH Lawrence, James Joyce, and Henry Miller were already being published (and to a lesser extent someone like Colette). And it’s certainly not new to literature, I am reminded in reading The Canterbury Tales right now for class. But it’s still part of the prying open of the inner life of the narrator.
For this novel, like it’s predecessor, but more so, that inner life is the inner life of a cynical misanthrope who has sex with or tries to have sex with everyone in immediate vicinity. And I mean everyone. It’s like reading Proust, if you knew every time Marcel went to the bathroom. So in that way, it’s like reading Joyce, but with a lot less joie de vivre, but still plenty.
So what does it all come down to here?
Well in one section our narrator tells us it’s not all about right versus wrong, so much as getting people to leave you alone. Which, I have to say, is pretty apt.