Sunday, 21 June 2009

"Pygmy" by Chuck Palahniuk

I was sent this novel by the publishers and have to say that it is one of the most original that I have read in a long time. "Original" in that it uses language in a very different and imaginative way.

The central character is a secret agent sent from some totalitarian Asian country to the USA in the guise of an exchange student. While there, his mission seems to be partly to gather information and partly to plan some horrific terrorist outrage. The book takes the form of his reports to his superiors.

What makes this novel so striking is that it is written throughout in the agent's own language, or rather using the grammar and syntax of his own language. I am no linguistics expert, but it appears to be based on Chinese, in that both the tense and the subject of a verb are often left to be implied by the context of the sentence. This makes the book a challenging read, to say the least.

Palahniuk is to be congratulated on the technical skill required to pull this off. Anyone who fears that the novel as an art form may be stuck in a rut should be given a copy of Pygmy.

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