US Release date: Aug 7, 2018
Fume et tue
was first released in French in 2008
also available as ebook
Genre: literary fiction
MY THOUGHTS ABOUT THIS BOOK
Do you like quirky and dark? Then French writers are the right thing for you, especially contemporary ones. The Suicide Shop, by Jean Teulé, that I reviewed here a couple of years ago, fits the bill. And the book I’m presenting today does very well too. Smoking Kills is the latest book by Antoine Laurain available in English. The President’s Hat was certainly quirky enough. But now, Laurain has decided to add dark humor to his narrating skills. And it works, even for me, who usually don’t really like reading funny books.
Some passages are totally hilarious actually, though replaced in the context of the whole book, they sound bleak. If the English title is not too uplifting, the original French is worse: it literally says, Smoke and kill, in the imperative mode, just as new commandments.
The book is set in the context of the evolution of French law on smoking, when the smoking ban in offices eventually turned Fabrice’s life upside down.
The smoking ban and his wife’s disapproval of his addiction leads him to a hypnotist. Fabrice does not believe hypnosis can cure him, but he goes to a session, by mere curiosity.
Trouble starts when the hypnotist half manages to do it: Fabrice still feels the urge to smoke, but he no longer feels any pleasure when doing it. Until something dramatic happens: by accident, he pushes a guy under the métro, and as the man dies, Fabrice gets back his enjoyment, just for a few minutes. Is this event offering Fabrice a solution on what to do to find again the pleasure of smoking? Or should he ask his hypnotist to finish his job or even reverse the process?
The book will end in a manner and place you probably never expected. The editor calls it “subversive and politically incorrect.”
The book contains also hilarious views on contemporary art and on the world of high executives – Fabrice works as a headhunter in a Consultant Company. I also learned a few things about amphibians!
Reptiles, amphibians and my careful observation of them had been my gateway to the observation of top-finance directors and other high-flying executives. My office at HBC was little more than a giant virtual terrarium. The rare, exotic species I hunted were no longer coiled lazily behind the glass of their tanks, but scrupulously filed behind my computer screen, each in his box, or folder. My knowledge of the animal kingdom had been the ideal training ground for life as manhunter.
VERDICT: Quirky story, as the French know how to do, with a good dose of dark comedy, by a skilled and entertaining writer.
WHAT IS IT ABOUT
How far would you go to enjoy a cigarette? In this witty black comedy, Laurain’s anti-hero can only make smoking pleasurable by committing the ultimate crime…
When head-hunter Fabrice Valentine faces a smoking ban at work, he decides to undertake a course of hypnotherapy to rid himself of the habit. At first the treatment works, but his stress levels begin to rise when he is passed over for an important promotion and he finds himself lighting up again – but with none of his previous enjoyment.
Until he discovers something terrible: he accidentally causes a man’s death, and needing a cigarette to calm his nerves, he enjoys it more than any other previous smoke. What if…?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
was born in Paris and is a journalist,
and the author of five novels.
The President’s Hat,
a charming fable set in the Mitterrand years,
was awarded the Prix Landerneau Découvertes
and the Prix Relay in 2012 and is published in English by Gallic.
It was a Waterstones Book Club book
and ABA Indies Introduce pick in 2013.
Antoine was chosen to represent France at European Literature Night 2014. He is also the author of The Red Notebook (2015) and The President’s Hat (2013).
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