This slim book was on my shelf for a while before I first tried to read it. For some reason – I forget now – I read a few pages and then stopped, probably distracted by some other book at the time. Last evening when none of the books on my TBR shelf seemed appealing, I found this one and read it in a couple of hours! Easy to do since it’s only 77 pages short! I had picked it up because I loved the author’s previous work Perfume – dark, beguiling and utterly original. I expected this book to be good and it didn’t disappoint.
SÜskind tells the story of Jonathan Noel, a 50 plus, staid, reclusive bachelor, with a boring life and job, who abhors attention and change of any sort. His one aim in life is to be non-descript and to blend into the scenery as it were, whether at work or in his home. Any sort of attention, even well-mean and sympathetic is abhorrent to him. He is a man of cultivated routine and strict habit and anything that disrupts either, he finds unbearable, even if it is as trivial as the appearance of a pigeon on his doorstep!
Using the pigeon as a symbol, SÜskind weaves a marvelous tale of how quickly even the most organized mind can slip into anarchy when confronted with the unexpected. What makes the downward spiral interesting here is the dark humor and irony he uses to describe Jonathan’s descent and transformation. It does seem like Jonathan’s reactions and thoughts are somewhat extreme and irrational, but when viewed in totality, they do not seem unbelievable or fantastic. That is the brilliance of SÜskind’s writing that I remember from Perfume – spare, crisp and astute. In the initial pages of the book, he draws us a succinct sketch of the major events in Jonathan’s life – events that explain how and why he became the man he is. They put everything that follows in its proper perspective.
Does Jonathan survive ‘The Pigeon Affair’? Does he overcome or succumb to his demons? Well, you’ll just have to read the book to find out! There’s no excuse really – it’s just 77 pages! The events are set over a single day, where SÜskind takes through Noel’s daily routine, its disruption, and the resultant consequences, a wonderful format for such a story I thought. Spare a couple of hours in yours and you won’t be disappointed. A little book with a big punch – short, original and brilliantly written! And it has a pretty cover! Read it!
Here is an excerpt to whet your curiosity 😉
“And finally – he was neither able nor willing to prevent it – the self-loathing dammed up inside him spilled over and gushed out, gushed out of glaring eyes that grew grimmer, angrier, beneath the brim of his cap, flooding the outside world as perfect, vulgar hate. Whatever came within his field of vision Johnathan coated with the vile patina of his hate. Indeed one could say that a real image of the world no longer passed the retina to enter the brain, but rather in a reversal of the flow of light, that his eyes hurled warped internal images into the outside world…”