The latest issue of PEN America includes an excerpt from an English translation of Belgian writer Amélie Nothomb's Hygiène de l'Assassin, released in English as Hygiene and the Assassin. I discovered a while back that Nothomb's books in the original are great if your tastes run a bit weird and if you're trying to improve on an intermediate to advanced knowledge of French. I finished Hygiène de l'Assassin in one day (not impressive considering it's pretty short, impressive considering my limitations in reading the French language) almost against my will. The best way I can think of to describe this book is to say it's a chemically reactive cross between a fairy tale and a murder mystery, meaning that it is neither one but some completely different animal constructed almost entirely of dialogue. Plot summary: An incredibly unpleasant and hugely obese writer who is dying of an incurable disease screws with journalists trying to pull off a much-desired interview. Suspense, humor and personal revelations ensue. Prerequisite for reading: Being not-quite-right in the head.
Sample chapter from Europa Editions