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Hygiene and the Assassin

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  10,140 ratings  ·  820 reviews
Prétextat Tach, Nobel Prize winner and one of the world's most renowned novelists, has two months to live. He has been in seclusion for years, refusing interviews and public appearances. But as news of his impending death becomes public, intrepid journalists from around the globe flock to his home in pursuit of an interview with the elusive author. One after the other they ...more
Paperback, 167 pages
Published October 26th 2010 by Europa Editions (first published August 28th 1992)
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Reading is typical therapy for the unrecognised dread of chaos. Thinking can only make chaos more obvious, and therefore more dreadful. Sex provides merely a temporary distraction from chaos, an interlude between dreadful moments. Gluttony and drugs can be effective remedies for the feelings generated by chaos but they have unfortunate side effects. No, it is only reading that provides a lasting cure for the chaotic meaninglessness of life. Reading does not answer questions, it frames
I enjoy reading Vladimir Nabokov but I'm aware of his disdain for his readers. I've come across lines in his books which make that disdain too clear to ignore. It's true that those lines are often addressed to critics/reviewers for whom he seemed to harbour particular contempt, as in this line from The Gift, one hears the flippantly flat little voice of the reviewer (perhaps even of the female sex).
But the disdain feels directed at readers too. It's in the way he repeats episodes from one book
Glenn Russell

“I think like Bertrand Russell, I write like Vladimir Nabokov, and I speak like Christopher Hitchens.”

Playing fast and free with dates, the above modified Nabokov quote is in the spirit of what might have been expounded by Prétextat Tach, Nobel Prize winner for Literature and central character in Hygiene and the Assassin, Amélie Nothomb's first novel published in 1992 when the Belgium author was age twenty-six.

Hygiene and the Assassin is written in French, thus I'll refer to the first four unna
Steven Godin
Apr 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, belgium
The best book ever written featuring the worst kind of person? Well....if we're talking about a hideous old misogynist lump of lard with a Ph.D. in masturbation, then yes.

If I got to interview Prétextat Tach then the rest may as well pack up and go home, as I'd readily drown him in his own Brandy Alexander vomit.

Sep 26, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is the worst piece of crap I ever had the displeasure of reading. I buddy-read this with the wonderful Frede who made the smart choice of DNFing this trashy book halfway through, alas, I wasn't as smart, and powered through.

Hygiène de l'Assassin is Amélie Nothomb's first novel and the fourth that I have read from her. This made me realize that I am absolutely done with this woman. Out of the four books I read I only enjoyed one (Robert des Noms Propres) and loathed the other three (Les Com
Feb 22, 2011 rated it it was ok
The main character, Pretextat, being the impetus and pretext here, is the fattest strawberry of a strawman I’ve read in a while, thus stuffed competently like a bale of hay he rolls a hollow wind, counter to such rolls of fat written to his flesh, for he is air and err. Conveniently for this parable-parade, here come three journalists like wise men to a manger, filled with bad faith, and they too are strawmen, cowards, ignoramuses, careerists, what have you. Pick up your pitchforks, men, it’s st ...more
Aug 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
August 2012

A famous, reclusive, dying writer turns out to be an obese and disgusting old bigot (and "the fattest strawberry of a strawman," according to Jimmy's brilliant review), and none but Nina can cross swords with him. Huzzah.

Too brief? Well, it's a short book--short and entertaining, even if Prétextat Tach is a foul old man. Perhaps because. I certainly chuckled at inappropriate times. Didn't expect to like it--it was bought on a whim a few months ago, grabbed yesterday on the way to the
Nancy Oakes
Nov 20, 2010 rated it really liked it
Hygiene and the Assassin probably qualifies for my "strangest book read this year" award (up there with Little Hands Clapping) but at the same time, there's something unique between the covers of this small novel. The setup for the story is that a Nobel Prize-winning author by the name of Prétextat Tach is about to die. He is the author of twenty-two novels, is extremely reclusive, and has never granted an interview over his long career. Now that he is dying (from Elzenveirverplatz Syndrome -- a ...more
Jan 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, belgium
Best dialogue ever! The whole book is an interview of a Nobel for literature winner which ends to be an interrogation where terrible secrets are uncovered. Highest possible recommendation.
Aug 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I bought this book on a whim after class one sunny spring afternoon, started it on the bus on my way home… and read the entire thing before going to bed that night. I have re-read a few times since and I am always impressed by the fascinating story and the characters’ vitriolic repartee.

Amélie Nothomb’s writing has a beautiful flow and cadence, which makes her a wonderful author if you are looking for a quick read, but that is not the reason this book was impossible to put down. The biting dialo
May 19, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
My first Nothomb, and also her debut (1992). The first half of the book was a pleasant surprise: especially the character of the 83-year-old terminal writer is striking; Pretextat Tach (the name!) is a reincarnated Celine, perhaps even worse in his misanthropy, his misogyny and his ill will. The intensive dialogues have a fresh flavour, and Nothomb knows how to make the cynical-sarcastic bashing of Tach on literary conformism very credible. But then the story makes a turn, an omniscient female j ...more
Jul 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Diana by: Glenn Russell
Hygiene and the Assassin [1992] by Amélie Nothomb - ★★★★1/2

This is the best work of Nothomb I have read so far (after Sulphuric Acid [2005] and Fear and Trembling [1999]). In Hygiene and the Assassin, an aging famous novelist and Nobel Prize Laureate for Literature Prétextat Tach has agreed to give interviews after years of shielding and refusing to speak. A number of eager male journalists then line up to finally crack the mystery which is Prétextat Tach and his work. However, none of them expe
Mar 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
There’s not much in this world more delicious than good dialogue. Banter, a back and forth that takes on a life its own, never feeling forced, driving a story to places you’d never expect to be taken. It’s not often a novel comprised of almost exclusively dialogue-driven passages has such a life to it, a three-dimensional quality that excessive detail would only hamper. But that’s exactly the situation with Nothomb’s Hygiene and the Assassin. This is the first of Nothomb’s works, published in 19 ...more
Jul 11, 2014 rated it liked it
Sandrine Brisset has written a short an concise review of Hygiene and the Assasin which you can find over on stingingfly.
I could not summarizing Northomb's novel better and particularly insightful is Brissets account of the author herself:

Well aware of the public fascination for celebrities and the potential mystique of many writers, Amélie Nothomb fuelled the public’s curiosity by revealing details of her past and by drawing attention to similarities between her novels and her life. She told
Stephen Durrant
Aug 28, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The popular and prolific Belgian novelist Amélie Nothomb is devilishly clever at creating bizarre scenarios and, to say the least, off-beat characters. "Hygiène de l'assassin" was her debut novel (1992) and many still classify it as her best, although I would give that award, by a slight margin, to "Stupeur et Tremblements," a story about a young European woman trying and failing to assimilate into the Japanese working world (Nothomb grew up in Japan). It is fitting, I suppose, that a novelist's ...more
Feb 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
A wonderful send up of the "enfant terrible" tradition in French literature. In content it reminded me (and might have been an influence) of a Danilo Kis story (translated in English as Literature and Balls or something); while, in tone, Croatian writer, Verdana Rudran's underappreciated novel "Night." Not sure of the chronology and the fact that Celine is mentioned repeatedly in the novel, but I had the feeling Nothomb might be taking a swipe at current "enfant terrible," Michel Houellebecq, th ...more
Aug 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Simply phenomenal. It is part novel and part a philosophical reflection on the nature of literary, visual, and classical aesthetics.

The story’s core character Pretext Tach, is a man of the highest aesthetic idealism but mystifies his true disposition by maintaining an outwardly cold, calculating harshness, objectivist, and naturalism to the point of being inhuman.

This we find out is merely a fictional performance used by Pretext Tach to deduce which of the journalist that have came to interview

Oh my.. what a book, what a book!
I definitely never read anything like that before.
Before moving out from my previous neighbours I saw it by accident on the shelf. Both of my roomates praised it a lot, but since our tastes do not always overlap, I thought-whatever, let's give it a try. And I'm glad that I did.
This book is crazy. A mysogine Nobel prize laureat in literature finds out that he's got 2 months to leave, and allows for the first time to be interviewed. That's why, as one might guess
جليس  الكتاب
Am I missing something or was it a lousy translation? Or may be both. Wrong book for a long weekend. It leaves you with no satisfaction.
Dec 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This remarkable novel is written almost entirely in dialogue, though 'relentless volleys of acerbic banter' may well be a superior description. At the centre of this unorthodox theatre, is the dying (and decaying) novelist Pretextat Tach - an absurd, reclusive prick. Preparing for his imminent death from the rare Elzenveiverplatz disease, he grants five journalists a rare audience. His motivations are unclear - is it to massage his hyper-inflated ego, or merely to entertain a bored man facing hi ...more
Jan 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
Not sure how I came accross this one. Someone wrote on the back, "Nothomb finds everything fascinating, and she takes us along an electric current of perception." Keyword: Perception. Sums this up some. A dying writer claims fame based on nobody having read him. Journalists flock to his cancerous body near his death, only to be turned away by his grotesque and disgusting self. Nina is prepared. She did all her homework and can navigate through all his dirt. She is a super effective stander.

Feb 17, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Having enjoyed the film adaption of Nothomb's novel, Fear and Trembling, I picked up Nothomb's first novel, Hygiene de l'assassin. The central character is a Nobel-prize winning author dying of cancer who spars with various journalists interviewing him seriatim. He is also detestable: racist, sexist, egotistical, completely devoid of any social grace, and physically repulsive. Nothomb gives herself a nearly impossible task in trying to craft a novella with such a revolting person at its core. Co ...more
I admit the language use for the author's age when written, twenty-five, is impressive, but I still did not like the novel as a whole. I like a surreal, magical realism, even unbelievable read every so often, but this was a little much for me. There was a clear indication if creativity and ingenuity on the author's part but I did not find myself appreciating any of the characters. I look forward to seeing what else she has written.
Doriana Bisegna
Sep 11, 2015 rated it liked it
Amelie Nothomb is a very quirky and different type of writer! Personally, I find her amusing and very inventive with her characters and stories! This one is a little out there but then again I was expecting something innovative anyway. She didn't disappoint me at all! Quick but very smart read.
Jul 06, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was difficult to get into until the final chapter when it became much more interesting. The ending leaves me confused, though. Think I will need to read an analysis of this to fully understand.
Ons Majouli
Nov 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, tbr
omg !! i'm confuesed
Monica Carter
Jan 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: btba
"Are you familiar with a review regarding Hygiene of the Assassin, one that I read in a newspaper twenty-four years ago? 'A richly symbolic fairytale, a dreamlike metaphor of original sin and consequently, of the human condition.' When I told you that people read me without reading me! I can allow myself to stray dangerously close to the truth, all anyone will ever see is metaphors. There's nothing surprising about that: the pseudo-reader, clad in his diving suit, can swim perfectly impermeably
Feb 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book was most interesting. I can easily imagine it as a play, that draws you into the claustrophobia and intensity of the mind of the Tach. On one hand it is disgusting, and misogynistic. But then look around. Our culture IS more than a little like Monsieur Tach. And we, are like Nina. And I won't say more for fear of giving the plot away. Not that you won't figure out where it's going. But this book is about the unfolding, the journey, of realizing what is happening and marveling at the ma ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Natia Arsenishvili
Amelie Nothomb became my favorite writer after reading her first book Hygienne de l'assasin. For those who can read in french I strongly suggest to do so.
She simply designates human relationships connected and the meaning of the memory. One important scene where Monsieur Tach is explaining those relations is a true apogee of the book.
I have not seen any comprehensive resume however that truly captures the insight of this book which is quite deceptive.
The author stresses the point, that every
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صالون الجمعة: نظافة قاتل | 12-2012 211 274 Dec 17, 2012 11:27PM  

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Amélie Nothomb, born Fabienne Claire Nothomb, was born in Etterbeek, Belgium on 9 July 1966, to Belgian diplomats. Although Nothomb claims to have been born in Japan, she actually began living in Japan at the age of two until she was five years old. Subsequently, she lived in China, New York, Bangladesh, Burma, the United Kingdom (Coventry) and Laos.
She is from a distinguished Belgian political fa

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