Wolff’s writing is pared down and laconic; Saskia Vogel’s translation is excellent and perfectly conveys the haut-cynicism of the original. One final irony is that Max, genius/pig depending on your perspective, is a character in a novel by Lina Wolff, and so is the insane reviewer Ruben, and so, in the end, is a fictional version of Houellebecq. They are all trapped in Wolff’s merciless novel, and are ritually tormented until she has had enough. The result of all this cleverness and torment is a highly enjoyable absurdist comedy about love and desperation, and male geniuses who are feted, and female geniuses who are ignored – and how despite this invidious state of affairs, we might at least agree that book reviewers are the worst people of all. That is, apart from novelists.
Wolff sends up artistic pretensions, male ego and literary reputation — Michel Houellebecq is a target for some fine malicious insults. But the novel is knowingly concerned with writing itself, and its author has some heartless fun with the written word: on page 54, the manuscript pages ‘look as though they’d been out in the rain and a cup of coffee had spilled across them’. On page 232 we discover why. No spoilers, but if this were your manuscript you would not be happy.