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Narcopolis: a struggle to get to the end

Even though I am three books from the end of the adventure, I can almost guarantee that for me, this was the most difficult novel to get through.  Were it not for my project, I would have given up after the first sentence… which is nine pages long.

This novel is the opposite of any novel I would normally choose to read. Set in opium dens, full of  “the lowest of the low, prostitutes and criminals and drug addicts, people with no faith in God or man, no faith in anything except the truth of their own senses” – I knew this wouldn’t be a book I would normally choose.  But I have thought this about other books in the project, only to be pleasantly surprised about how much I enjoy reading them, once I have begun.  Reading good novels I wouldn’t normally read was the point of this project, after all.

Unfortunately, Narcopolis didn’t really have any redeeming features. Revisiting my rules for liking a book, Narcopolis was:

All doom and gloom – although some characters are likeable, sometimes, nobody is redeemed.  The novel is negative about everything: men, women, rich, poor, adults, children:

“childhood was a kind of affliction, certainly physical and possibly mental.  Children were at a hopeless disadvantage; they were unsuited for the world.  They were short and ungainly and stupid, half-people, dwarf bundles of ectoplasm and shit, stunted organisms incapable of finding food or keeping their asses clean.”

Had very little plot line – although things happen, nothing seems to lead to the next thing; events seem to occur in an arbitrary order as if the author had thrown all his ideas in the air and caught them as they fell.

Wasn’t as quotable as it should have been – it strayed into God, the true meaning of freedom (are addicts the most free?) and doubt but most of the novel was so convoluted and confusing that interesting snippets of thought got lost.

Wasn’t memorable – having just got to the end, I can’t really remember what happened in the novel.  I am not even sure in a few cases what happened to whom, or which character was which.  You are warned by the author at the beginning that this novel is supposed to be confusing, and if that is the point, I got it.

“The I you’re imagining at the moment, a thinking someone who is writing these words, who’s arranging time in a logical chronological sequence, someone with an overall plan, an engineer-god in the machine, well, that isn’t the I who’s telling this story.”

Otherwise, I am definitely not sure what I was supposed to take away from it, if anything.


About bloggingthelonglist

An avid reader, but I tend to stick to what I know I am comfortable with. Trying to break out of the comfort zone...

One response »

  1. It’s well ‘written’ from a literary POV though. This short list seems to be trying to get back to that as opposed to so-called ‘populist’ (or readable) short list of last year. THat aside, I agree with much of what you say. Maybe it’s a book that gives more on a second reading. I just found it a bit frustrating.


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