Half of the book HYGIENE & THE ASSASSIN [1992; translated 2010], by Amélie Nothomb, consists of the dying blowhard, Nobel-Prize-winning novelist Prétextat Tach, browbeating a series of insipid journalists for the usual reasons. The second half is his stirring repartee with Nina, a female journalist who has actually read his books and exposes Tach’s bizarre metaphysics & Nina’s own agenda.
Playful & well-imagined, a self-reflective novel about a novelist examining his own oeuvre, entertaining in coy ego displays. But unless I missed it, the last 2 pages seem to negate the author’s very purpose … which implies a deeper purpose. Hmmm; maybe: this was her debut novel, but she has gone on to publish 20 others.
Translated by Alison Anderson, whose work on Barbery's two novels was equally delicious.