Faber & Faber, £12.99, 288pp. £11.69 from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030

Hate: A Romance, By Tristan Garcia, trans. Marion Duvert & Lorin Stein

Winner of the 2008 Prix de Flore, Hate announced the novelistic arrival in France of young philosopher Tristan Garcia, then aged 27. Except that it didn't, strictly speaking, do any such thing. The original title of Garcia's novel was La meillure part des hommes, or the best part of men. Figuring out the gulf in suggestiveness between these two is only the beginning, however. While there are things to admire in Hate, this reader found much more to question.

Garcia earns plaudits for disobeying the advice to young novelists to keep to what they know. In focusing on 15 years in which Aids laid waste a generation of Paris's cultural elite, Garcia took on a period he can hardly have remembered. Inadvertently, too he took up an extremely hard sell. For if there are many reasons for the disappearance of Aids from contemporary fiction, among them is one unavoidable truth. With the odd exception (Alan Hollinghurst's The Line of Beauty), readers weren't buying.

Hate ingeniously deploys a female narrator, Elizabeth, to recount the decimation of gay Paris from the outsider's perspective. Within pages we are introduced to "Hervé" (novelist Hervé Guibert) and Michel Foucault – just as Guibert himself fictionalised his mentor in To the Friend Who Did Not Save My Life. So far, so familiar. As the Guibert/Foucault nexus continues to receive attention in France - take Mathieu Lindon's recent memoir, Ce qu'aimer veut dire - we might wonder how Garcia aims to say anything new, compared to those who witnessed the French epidemic's darkest years.

The answer, surprisingly, comes in the form of leading protagonist William, a gay activist who comes to disavow health campaigning, instead embracing drug-fuelled, unprotected sex, which he promotes through journalism and scandalous novels. In France, this character's closeness to real-life author Guillaume Dustan, who died in 2005, was immediately understood, though Garcia expressly rejects any linkage. Nevertheless, "William's" auto-fictional novel dovetails closely with Dustan's Dans ma chambre (1996; translated as In My Room). There's "this confused guy who keeps getting carried away, who says one thing and then the opposite, and who holds forth on genius, dildos, community, condoms... there are no chapters, just 'fragments'."

Bret Easton Ellis is name-checked in Hate. Certainly his Generation X nihilism might have informed the texture of Dustan's books, and the world-view of Garcia's own characters, including William. Oddly, then, Hate inclines conversely towards a Balzac-like comprehensiveness, layering plots and subplots judiciously, whilst shaping itself carefully towards the foreseen conclusion: the HIV-sponsored demise of the hospitalised, unrepentant William. Elizabeth then abruptly resigns from her tale.

Despite memorable touches – the Aids prevention posters framed in bars "like souvenirs in a museum" – Hate lacks both the bite and conviction implied by its English title. Its acclaim elsewhere, moreover, I suspect stems from a widespread need to historicise this epidemic, rather than from any conviction that Hate revitalises its subject.



Richard Canning's anthology of American Aids fiction is entitled 'Vital Signs' (2007)

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
books
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
books
Arts and Entertainment
The man with the golden run: Daniel Craig as James Bond in 'Skyfall'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Waving Seal' by Luke Wilkinson was Highly Commended in the Portraits category

photography
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Art
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard, nicknamed by the press as 'Dirty Diana'

Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
The X Factor 2014 judges: Simon Cowell, Cheryl Cole, Mel B and Louis Walsh

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace was caught by a camera van driving 32mph over the speed limit

TV
Arts and Entertainment
books
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Iain reacts to his GBBO disaster

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Outlaw Pete is based on an eight-minute ballad from Springsteen’s 2009 Working on a Dream album

books
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012

film
Arts and Entertainment
Simon Cowell is less than impressed with the Strictly/X Factor scheduling clash

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
Exhibition
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard has left the Great British Bake Off 2014

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live

TV
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
Arts and Entertainment
Suha Arraf’s film ‘Villa Touma’ (left) is set in Ramallah and all the actresses are Palestinian

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

    US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
    Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
    Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering