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Hate: A Romance By Tristan Garcia (Faber and Faber)

Last update - Sunday, May 1, 2011, 13:38 By Metro Éireann

In 2008, 30-year-old writer Tristan Garcia managed to charm the journalists judging for the French Prix de Flore with Hate: A Romance, his first novel, ensuring his award of that sought-after prize – famously won 12 years previously by Michel Houellebecq.

However, although Houellebecq is a fitting comparison for the present-day French issues that Garcia deals with, such as multicultural life, minority rights, PC-ness, liberalism versus fundamentalism and so on, for me there’s a whole slew of other writers and artists that come to mind – Genet and Guyotat in France, Ginsberg and Burroughs in the States, Bacon and Warhol in the art world – not only for their dealings with gay men’s interests and issues, but also for their very specific ideas of transgressions, whether moral or otherwise.
Hate, as the title suggests, is an angry novel that manages few glimpses of what we think of as humanity, but then again it’s not really interested in that. The main interest for Garcia seems to be the very ancient and ever-present battle between love and death, the philosophies that people spin around them, and how these can be reconciled in life.
Garcia’s love is philosophy and that comes through very clearly. However, one can’t help but feel that throughout the soul-searching of making our lives logical in all their ugliness, there is a part of the writer which cries out from behind the metallic structures of reason for a fleeting glimpse of a connection, of hope, of belonging, of justification, of flesh that can feel more permanent, although that part never really gets a chance.
Don’t get me wrong, I liked this book, but another thing that stuck in my craw was the fact that its chosen narrator is female – and utterly unconvincing as such. I would have been much happier with the macho-ness of the book had it been narrated by someone who could have actually existed in the sad and empty lives of the three main male characters.
I guess only a completely subservient doormat of a person would have stuck around these self-obsessed clever yet vacuous clogs, no matter the sex.

Jeanette Rehnstrom is a writer and freelance journalist. More information about her work and the Irish Writers’ Exchange can be found at

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