"Premier roman australien a mon arrivée dans le pays. Conseillé par la libraire de Paperback.
Le choc. C’est ça l’Australie ? Un récit cru sur une société australienne puritaine.
“Lors d’un barbecue, un homme gifle un enfant qui s’est mal conduit (et qui n’est pas le sien). Ce geste est interprété différemment par chaque personne présente.”
Je dois avouer ne pas être aller très loin dans ce roman de plus de 500 pages. Il ne s’agit que de tromperie et de perversité. Un reflet de la réalité ?
Récompensé par le Commonwealth Writer Prize en 2009, il a le mérite de ne pas faire l’autruche et de parler de sujets de société délicats
“Christos Tsiolkas passe pour l’enfant terrible de la littérature australienne. Ses thèmes récurrents lui valent une réputation sulfureuses, homosexualité, racisme, antisémitisme, perversité, et pornographie.” Jean-Francois Vernay Panorama du roman australien
Publié en Français ? Oui, aux Editions Belfond,en Janvier 2011 (22,30 € )"
Merci à cet auteur pour la mention de mon livre. Bravo pour votre intérêt et bonne continuation.
Tout le blog est accessible ici: http://lekoalalit.wordpress.com
Pour ma part je viens de finir le visionnage de la série adaptée de THE SLAP, produite par ABC. Elle s'en sort mieux que le roman que j'avais déjà commenté dans LINQ. Voir aussi mon article dans: "Who is afraid of Christos Tsiolkas?”. Trouble (Melbourne), Novembre 2011, 54.
“The Secret Lives of Them. ", LINQ 36, (2009), 183-5.
Christos Tsiolkas. The Slap. Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 2008, 488 pp. Pbk. ISBN: 978 1 74175 359 2.
The Slap, Christos Tsiolkas’s fourth novel, is clearly at odds with the offbeat rebellious voice, the narrative stamina, the hyperactiveness of his previous flamboyant characters and the confronting subject matters standing for the hallmark of his fiction. However, as most obsessions die hard, The Slap is yet again an indictment of contemporary society delving into the secret lives of sex-obsessed characters looking for cop-outs in a drug-infested Australian culture. Plotwise, the content and structure of The Slap smacks of soap opera culture which informs the narrative from cover to cover. The expository first chapter sets the scene for a family and friends get-together in a suburban Melburnian backyard. Coincidentally, the crowd of merrymakers hosted by Hector and Aisha showcases a carefully well-balanced sampling of Australia’s multicultural society. The party turns sour because a seemingly domestic incident – a non-family related adult has slapped Hugo, a spoiled brat raised by an overprotective mother – triggers off a nonsensical psychodrama which is blown out of all proportion and climaxes in a far-fetched lawsuit.
In a nutshell, the kids were having a game of iconic Aussie cricket and Hugo did not accept defeat. His father Gary stepped in to reason the child but “The boy looked as if he was going to hit his father with the bat” (40). Harry, another grown up witnessing the scene, had a more energetic response as “He lifted the boy up in the air, and in shock the boy dropped the bat.” (40). It is noteworthy that, to this point, no violence has marred the situation. Then “Harry set him on the ground. The boy’s face had gone dark with fury. He raised his foot and kicked wildly in Harry’s shin.” (40). Exasperated Harry, who was not in a Christian mood to turn the other cheek (nor shin for that matter), slaps the obnoxious child. End of story. Well not quite for Tsiolkas who exploits this domestic episode to imagine a narrative which ties neatly together the various viewpoints of seven guests present at the barbeque: Hector, Anouk, Connie, Rosie, Manolis, Aisha and Richie.
The lack of clear judgement mingled with some kind of crass generalisation and amalgamation expose the characters’ arguments as an exercise in blowing hot air. Anouk reckons that “Maybe he shouldn’t have slapped Hugo but what he did was not a crime. We all wanted to slap him at that moment.” (77). Connie goes one step further by saying: “I don’t think an adult has any right to physically abuse a child, that’s what I think.” (173). Rosie who is unmistakably besotted with her child consoles Hugo: “That awful man who hit you has been punished. He got into such big trouble. He’s never going to do such a thing again. He’s going to jail.” (281). Manolis feels not without reason that “Harry had been a fool to hit a child, but the little brat had deserved it and it had not been anything, just a slap.” (331). In a crescendo of hysteric opinions, the eponymous incident is exaggeratedly turned into child abuse and even into assault (385) but everybody loses sight of the fact that the only lesson one can draw from this mundane incident is that violence begets violence. In point of fact, the slap was an emotional response to a physical attack and one might understand why Harry being physically assaulted by Hugo did not decide on ridiculing himself by suing Hugo for abuse or assault – a decision which would be deemed out of place and disproportionate by common assent. Conversely, Tsiolkas’s turning of tables, which presents Harry as the victimizer and Hugo the victim, is at once ludicrous and nauseous. And one fails to understand how can a writer, no matter how good he is, expects to entertain and stimulate his readers over 480 odd pages on such triviality.
And perhaps this is what the slap and tickle scenes are there for – to spice up an otherwise tedious plot. The Slap is Tsiolkas’s first attempt to give pre-eminence to warts-and-all depictions of straight sex when most of his previous novels were an exploration of gay sexuality. But it does not sound right. One jarring note among others is that Tsiolkas has projected the pervasive male cannibalistic fantasies in Dead Europe onto a female character in The Slap and imagines straight sex to be animalistic. When Anouk and Rhys engage in sexual intercourse, Tsiolkas writes: “She wanted to bite him, scratch him, devour him. Fuck me, she ordered him sharply now, and she wondered, is this how a man understands sex? This ravenous animal desire?” (60).
Christos Tsiolkas has so far lived up to his reputation of being the enfant terrible of Australian fiction – an enfant terrible who probably got a slap on the wrist when he realized his heretical subject matter prevented him from winning any major prize such as the Miles Franklin Award. To be able to write The Slap – a novel expunged from same-sex depictions, exposed anti-Semitic ideas, sexual deviances such as zoophilia or coprophilia, nihilism, and so many other confronting and repelling subjects –, Tsiolkas has bleached his dirty realism through a process I would call “ethical cleansing”. And, amazingly, it has paid off since this Melbourne-based author has won the first major prize in his literary career: i.e. the 2009 Commonwealth Writer’s Prize. However, this achievement might be seen as a Pyrrhic victory because this toned down novel has alas neither the freshness and sprightliness of Loaded nor the complexity and ambitiousness of Dead Europe. To all intents and purposes, The Slap ends up robbing readers to pay Christos, but if it takes this sacrifice to acknowledge – even belatedly – the novelist’s writing skills, readers can always slap the book on the table and eagerly wait for the next one.