Will N Van's Reviews > The Tenant

The Tenant by Roland Topor
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's review
Jan 12, 2010

really liked it
Read in January, 2010

I ran across Roland Topor's "The Tenant," while searching for fiction that resembled the style of Thomas Ligotti. He has done the introduction, and it is an interesting study as to how the literary world may be divided into "insiders and outsiders." It is his contention that while works such as Albert Camu's "The Stranger," or "One, No One, and One Hundred Thousand," by Nobel Prize-winning author Luigi Pirandello may be bleak, they offer a resolution to their basic themes that exhibit "an idealist tendency." Because of this, they are in the "insider," category. Roland Topor's works exhibit the anti-idealist (craven, defeated, twisted, etc.) and are therefore in the "outsider" category, keeping him from recognition by Nobel officials. Ligotti's own work resembles Topor's in many ways, and he portrays a compelling hypothesis. He contends that the preponderant number of "insiders" in humanity will not incorporate the views of the "outsider" into their philosophies, ideologies, national policies, or fraternal bylaws unless the work portrays an idealist flair.

Topor's basic premise: to believe you are someone is to be insane. This is effectively conveyed through brilliant prose and introspection by Trelkovsky as he seemingly descends further into paranoia and madness with each passing minute. But is he going insane, or is there really a plot against his life? "At what precise moment," Trelkovsky asks himself, " does an individual cease to be the person he - and everyone else - believes himself to be?" Instead of taking the idealist route exemplified by Pirandello in which the protagonist finds a oneness outside of himself, Trelkovsky descends further into nightmare and isolation. There is no shred of idealist philosophy there to save him. This may be too much for some readers (or Nobel Prize officials) however great the prose or the questions posed. Still, a brilliant work. However, I would recommend against seeing the Roman Polanski film beforehand, because it removes much of the ambiguity that I think is so central to the premise.

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