It took me a little while to realise that this was a comic novel. It is dazzlingly original, Monty Pythonesque, with a large cast of bizarre characters and a plot that never stops being inventive.
Told (mostly) from the alternating perspectives of a furniture salesman who has a secret life as leader of a very small Satanic cult and a best-selling writer, but with occasional forays into other PoVs, the plot involves the Satanic leader's attempt to impress rival cults by a spectacular media-worthy sacrifice. He decides to murder a pop musician at a bacchanalian party involving all of Italy's celebrities at a huge private park in Rome. Meanwhile the writer, who is just trying to keep famous and, wherever possible, have sex with beautiful women, has been invited to the party.
There are some incredible one-liners:
- "Somaini would have liked to pout, but the Botox wouldn't let her." (C 26)
- "She was as sexy as a lettuce leaf without any dressing." (C 34)
There are some very original and modern similes and metaphors:
- "Zombie's face had the same complexion as a boiled cauliflower." (C 25)
- "He felt vulnerable and confused, like a non-European Union citizen at the residents' permit office of the police department." (C 44)
- "'Tell me a VIP. Anyone at all. Come on. The first name that springs to mind.' ... 'The Pope'. 'Oh, come on. A VIP, I said. Singers, actors, football players ...'" (C 11)
My problem was that I found the ever-more-weird convolutions of the plot that were deemed necessary to keep the frivolity going exhausted me.
Other great moments:
- "Any balanced relationship, where he was not the star, caused unpleasant side effects: dry mouth, headspins, nausea, diarrhoea." (C 4)
- "Ciba was overwhelmed with waves of pleasure, by endorphins trickling from his head downwards, swishing through his veins like petrol in a pipeline. ... the pleasure channelled its way into the urethra, in the epidydymides, into the femoral arteries and exploded inside his reproductive organ, which filled with blood, causing him a ferocious erection." (C 12)
- "It often happened that he would stop talking, as if someone had unplugged him." (C 14)
- "He had had so many ideas when he was young. Travel by train across Europe. Go to Transylvania to visit Count Vlad's castle. See the dolmen and the sculptures on Easter Island. Study Latin and Aramaic. He hadn't done eny of these things. He has gotten married too young to a woman who loved holiday villages and sifting through factory outlets." (C 15)
- "If ethical and aesthetic principles no longer exist, looking like an idiot disappears as a consequence." (C 38)
- "Do me the favour of leaving me alone, and if you see me on the street, change streets." (C 38)
- "the dark years of accountancy." (C 45)
- "He would have liked to scream, spit out all his wrath, but he just threw open his mouth, and squeezed his head between his hands." (C 59)
- "Appetite was the expression of a replete and satisfied world, on the verge of surrender. A people that tastes instead of eating, that nibbles instead of feeding themselves, that's already dead but doesn't know it. Hunger is a synonym for life." (C 64)
September 2020; 328 pages