Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Spurious by Lars Iyer (2.5/5)

First published: 2011
Page count: 188


The back says: Two yammering intellectuals ponder life and fungus in a hilarious British comedy.
In a raucous debut, writer and philosopher Lars Iyer tells the story of a writer very lie himself, his “slightly more successful” friend, and their journey in search of answers to the big questions, such as “Is this the End of Times?” and “Where do they serve better gin?”

Another reason for their journeys: the narrator’s home is slowly being taken over by a fungus that no one seems to know how to stop. Before it completely swallows his house, he feels more compelled than ever to solve his philosophical puzzles... before it is too late. Or, he has to move.
I say: I wasn’t entirely sure what I thought about this until I read that it was supposed to be a comedy.

I didn’t laugh once.
Or even smile.

There was nothing amusing about this novel at all. In fact, I found it rather dreary and disturbing. The way that W. is constantly undermining and verbally abusing Lars is mind-numbing.


“’If you are working class, like us’, says W., ‘you show your affection by verbal abuse. That’s why I abuse you – verbally, I mean. It’s a sign of love’. – p 116

If it weren’t for the ceaseless cruelty I would have found this a lot more appealing, as the characters do what a friend and I tend to do; talk about nothing and everything. W. claims that literature has destroyed them, is obsessed with Franz Kafka and Max Brod, and he keeps referring back to the authors' brilliance and his friendship with Brod. In his mind, you are either Kafka or Brod.

And neither of them are Kafka.
W. shamelessly blames Lars for ruining and dragging him down and it becomes clearer as the story progresses that the latter is nothing but an excuse and a whipping boy for the former. Why Lars puts up with it, is anybody’s guess. Meanwhile, Lars is slowly losing his apartment to damp and fungus, and instead of moving out, he tries everything to try to get rid of it as his health declines.

This could have been such an existential masterpiece since the two characters raise a lot of interesting philosophical questions, but unfortunately the brilliance gets lost in the white noise of verbal abuse. Not to mention the relentless “W. says” all over the page. It was repetitive, redundant and ruined the flow of the prose. I know nothing of Iyer, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that he was influenced by Samuel Beckett.
Apparently this is part one of a trilogy that I won’t be finishing.

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