METRONOME PRESS, £6. ORDER (FREE P&P) ON 0870 079 8897
Remainder, by Tom McCarthy
An Everyman's life history doomed to repeat itself as farce
Monday 12 December 2005
A turning point comes in the bathroom at a party, when he notices a crack in the wall. This retrieves a memory of being in an old tenement block and looking at a similar crack; he could hear someone practising piano in an adjoining apartment and the odour of frying liver was wafting from below.
When and where this took place is a mystery, but the memory is so significant that he is driven to recreate the scene at vast expense, buying a block of flats in Brixton and hiring managers, designers and actors. Then he relives the memory repeatedly. Paradoxically, these repetitions come close to recapturing the unforced spontaneity of his life before the accident.
Soon he decides upon another re-enactment. This time he is in a garage getting a wheel mended when he is struck by the same uncanny sense. He recreates the garage using a hired warehouse. An inexorable mechanism is at work, and as he stages further re-enactments, their subject matter becomes violent.
Re-enactment has been a feature in recent art, most famously in Jeremy Deller's reprise of the Orgreave battle between striking miners and police. It is a art practice that readily invokes issues of trauma, nihilism and death. In fiction, it has been most prominent in the work of J G Ballard. As well as Ballard, McCarthy also draws upon influences including Huysmans, Bataille and Freud. Above all, his novel deals with the difficulty of relocating authenticity in everyday life.
Do not be deterred by Remainder's elevated associations, because it wears its high-art attire discreetly. McCarthy's prose is precise and unpretentious. His anti-hero is a sympathetic Everyman, and it is difficult to resist the dominion of his obsession. It has to be said that the title is not a positive portent for future sales, and Remainder might amount to no more than a cult. This would be unfortunate, because its minatory brilliance calls for classic status.
GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival
TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride
FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treattv
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Cyclist who knocked down three-year-old girl says his life has been 'destroyed'
- 2 A politically correct lefty goes to see Top Gear live – you'll probably believe what happened next
- 3 Young Preston fan has play-off hero Jermaine Beckford's shirt stolen from him at Wembley - which then appears for sale on Gumtree
- 4 Isis burns woman alive for refusing to engage in 'extreme' sex act, UN says
- 5 Puerto Rico, island of lost dreams: People are leaving the debt-hit territory in droves as near neighbour Cuba's star rises
Stolen Instagram photo sells for $90,000
Art Garfunkel calls Paul Simon a 'monster' with a Napoleon complex
Eurovision 2015 winner: Sweden beats Russia and Italy to take the title from Conchita Wurst
Dheepan, film review: Palme d'Or prize goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Game of Thrones, The Gift, Season 5, Episode 7: Why two of the show’s most iconic characters just met
As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
Scotland may have to leave the EU even if it votes to stay in, David Cameron confirms
The day that Britain resigned as a global power
Almost a third of school pupils believe 'Muslims are taking over our country', study claims
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
Gay marriage 'Bert and Ernie' cake bakery found guilty of discrimination in Northern Ireland