Saturday, 24 May 2014

Book review: The Notebook - Agota Kristof (1986)

Nice as this edition is, at times you want to be wearing gloves when handling it

The Notebook is the disturbing story of young twin boys growing up quasi-feral and semi-uniquely sociopathic in a WWII-ravaged Hungarian town. Emotionally neglected by their harridan of a grandmother, the twins work tirelessly to perfect their self-reliance and then turn their town into a combined school-of-life and source of plunder, which they then distribute Robin Hood-style to the needy, along with a brand of coldly plotted and violent justice utterly indifferent to the rules of bible and man, based purely on the detached judgements of these all-seeing, all-understanding, self-civilised demi-Gods.

It's sparely written and shocking, but a little too much so, with squalid sex unnecessarily dominating the middle third like a nightmare merger of Tough Mudder and the dark Web. But not even my disgust could stop me tearing through it in about 4 real-time hours of not non-stop reading.

This edition from CB Editions - the first UK print for over 20 years - is a lovely item, with beautiful marbled yellow flyleaves and smooth high-quality paper. It also features a dumb, showboating afterword from Slavoj Zizek that first appeared in The Guardian.