Sunday, May 20, 2012

Marabou Stork Nightmares - Irvine Welsh

"A very big thanks to my family for not being the one in this book."
-Irvine Welsh, in the foreword

In its review about Marabou Stork Nightmares, The Guardian says that Irvine Welsh displays an "incendiary talent" but "doesn't yet know what to do with his terrifying fatalism." I disagree. Marabou Stork Nightmares is a book where Welshian violence actually serves a purpose. This is a book about the sexual violence cycle: the main character, Roy Strang, was abused by his uncle while he was a child, turns into a hooligan, and participates in a gang rape. At the end of the book, the reader discover herself with  mixed emotions for Strang: pity, disgust, and sometimes empathy. This book also promoted the work of Zero Tolerance, a Scottish NGO aimed to fight violence against women. Marabou Stork Nightmares is not, as The Guardian implies, senseless gore and violence: it is a howl against sexual abuse.

The fact that this book talks about sexual violence so crudely and the way British justice used to deal with it 20 years ago was also a landmark. Back in 1995, when this book was published, mainstream books didn't talk about raping. Welsh broke that taboo. And Just to give you an idea of how the so-called modern and liberal Britain thought about sexual violence against women one generation ago, I quote the following excerpt of an interrogation manual published by the British Police in 1975, also quoted in Marabou Stork Nightmares:
It should be borne in mind except in cases of a very small child, the offence of rape is extremely unlikely to have been committed against a woman who does not show signs of extreme violence. If a woman walks into a police station and complains of rape with no signs of violence she must be closely interrogated. Allow her to make a statement to a policewoman and then drive a horse and a cart through it. It is always advisable if there is any doubt of the truthfulness of her allegations to call her an outright liar... watch out for the girl who is pregnant or late getting home at night; such persons are notorious for alleging rape or indecent assault. Do not give here sympathy. If she is not lying, after the interrogator has upset her by accusing her of it, then at least the truth is verified... the good interrogator is very rarely loved by his subject." (the quotation can also be found in this e-book about rape and women credibility)
In his official website, Welsh mentions that Marabou Stork Nightmares is the book he is the most pleased with, even if it will never make it to Hollywood -a movie about this book would have to be rated XXX. From a technical perspective, this book is a monologue in three states of consciousness. Making this formula work and seem credible to the reader is very complicated. The result achieved by Welsh is superb, and it has extra points for being written in a more intelligible English than Trainspotting.

One last comment: after reading this book and Trainspotting, it is clear that Edinburgh is a shithole. Scots hope it will improve when and if the referendum on Scottish independence has more yeas than nays, but I doubt it. 

No comments:

Post a Comment