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Noir by Olivier Pauvert

Don't let the dedication of Olivier Pauvert's Noir (2005, English translation 2007 by Adriana Hunter) to Japanese coffee mills fool you--this is a dark, horrifyingly violent read. One that I couldn't put down until reading the final sentence, which left me wanting more, despite the violence.

The story is set in France at some unknown point in a very sad, terrifying future. Society is under rigid governmental control, and frightening things are happening in order to maintain that tight control. The average person seems to be numb and accepting, even willingly clueless to the terror.

Our first-person main character is no longer average, a citizen, or numb. He's a central player in a nightmare outside of his control. And, when he does exert some limited control--the little left to him--over his destiny, the violence is chilling.

I don't want to say anything that gives too much away. I'll just note that the writing is fantastic and mesmerizing, and the violence is unrelenting.

Here's the first paragraph, illustrating what I mean, p. 1:

I am just taking a long drag on the joint when I hear the sound. Surprised, we turn towards the bank where the noise is coming from. After a few seconds of silence there is a gurgling, a moist sigh. The other man looks at me and I know what he is thinking: behind this mound a couple of jokers are making the most of the cool grass and the deep dark night to fuck. I put down my empty glass, snigger and pass him the stub to free up my hands. We climb the little rise on our hands and knees. There is indeed a Venus there, below us. Naked. She is hanging from the tree by a wire, and her feet are swinging ten centimetres above the black earth. Black with blood. The body has been ripped open and her entrails hang down over her legs. She gives off the most unbearable smell, the stench of human insides, the stink of flesh.

If that paragraph is too much for you, don't even consider reading the book. Everything gets much, much darker.

My overall personal rating of Noir is a B+.


StephanieD said…
Wow - I think I may have to read this, but when I'm in the mood for really out there, dark stuff.
It's really out there and really dark--and makes you think about the possibilities for State control.

I'm still horrified with what ultimately happens when the main character asserts himself, but I can't get into specifics on a blog post without ruining the book for anyone planning to read it.

This book is one that will stay with me. I hope you let me know what you think if you do read it one day.

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