Hygiene and the Assassin
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Published in English for the first time, Nothomb's award-winning novel tells the story of a reclusive and dying Nobel laureate author who grants access to five journalists. But what they find is far from the literary luminary they imagined.
despise women because no woman has ever wanted anything to do with me, whereas in fact I wanted nothing to do with any of them, for the very simple reason that I despise them. A double reversal: well done, you are talented.” “You would have me believe that you despise women out of hand, for no good reason? That’s impossible.” “Give me the name of a food that you despise.” “I hate skate, but—” “Why such a desire for revenge on that poor skate?” “I have no desire for revenge on skate; I’ve
has gone on for an unprecedented length of time: you do not deserve such generosity on my part.” “What have I done not to deserve it?” “You are ungrateful, and you are in bad faith.” “I’m in bad faith, me? And what about you?” “You’re insolent! I’ve always known that my good faith would never get me anywhere. Not only does no one notice it, but it is reversed—it’s true that you are an expert in reversing things—and is qualified as bad faith. My sacrifice will have been in vain. At times I
might have, and can hardly serve as proof, particularly where style is concerned: slaves of your sort invariably come out with utter nonsense when the issue of a writer’s style is in question.” “I have one final argument, which is all the more devastating in that it is not an argument.” “What on earth are you on about now?” “It’s not an argument, it’s a photograph.” “A photograph? What of?” “Do you know why no one has ever suspected that this novel was autobiographical? Because the main
parents. And frankly, I don’t see what’s so funny about Prétextat. It’s a Christian name.” “Is it really? That makes it even funnier.” “Do not mock religion, you sacrilegious cow. I was born on February 24, which is Saint Prétextat’s day; my father and mother, who were lacking in inspiration, complied with the calendar’s decision.” “Heavens! Whereas if you had been born on Fat Tuesday, they would have called you Fat Tuesday, or maybe just Fat all on its own?” “Stop blaspheming, vile
need than conjugation? I would have you know, little avatar, that if conjugation did not exist, we would not even be aware of being distinct individuals, and this sublime conversation would be impossible.” “If only.” “Come now, do not disdain your own pleasure.” “My pleasure? There is not a jot of pleasure in me, and I feel nothing, other than a terrible desire to strangle you.” “Well, well, you’ve taken your time, my dear avatar. I have spent at least ten minutes, with exemplary