Friday, 11 February 2011

Hate: A Romance by Tristan Garcia

A strong sense of time and place saves Hate: A Romance by Tristan Garcia. Ten years from now this author, who was only born in 1981, may well rank among contemporary greats. Certainly clear intimations of better things to come are woven throughout this novel.

The novel is told through Liz, who describes herself as a tough, uncompromising journalist. Her lover, Leibo, is a married man who, like nearly all married men, has no intention of leaving his wife and children - though for years Liz seems oblivious to this, so maybe’s she’s not as hardnosed as she imagines.

She introduces Willie and Doumé who first become inseparable lovers then later bitter enemies. These three men flit in and out of her Parisian life at their convenience, with Leibo sometimes in her bed, and Willie and Doumé sleeping on her couch and raiding her kitchen then moving on when something better comes along. Why does Liz tolerate this? Simply, she loves each of them for the dramatic, vivacious characters that they are.

Hate is written as if Liz is telling the story in the first person, so the approach is similar to that of a memoir. This works well, to the extent that the author’s voice is blended entirely with that of Liz’s.

Cultural and political awareness give context to the main plot, though the author’s flagrant dismissal of the old “Show Don’t Tell” rule sometimes feels more like style overruling substance.

Poor punctuation hampers the prose, where commas and full-stops are all too frequently used in the wrong places. This is such a basic error! While the rules of language can be bent in favour of style, the end result still has to work otherwise the result reads as unpolished and unfortunately, in my opinion, this is the case with Hate.

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