Wednesday 19 December 2007

Choice Cuts

Fellow blogger and Golden Age detective fan Xavier recommended Choice Cuts by the French writers Boileau and Narcejac and so it zoomed to the top of my to-read pile. Like all their books, it’s short and snappy, but otherwise it differs markedly from their other work – or at least, those of their novels that I’ve had the chance to read so far (how I wish that more of them were translated, since my 'O' Level French is now rather rusty.)

The book was written in 1965, and concerns transplant surgery and the related ethical dilemmas. In many ways, the central themes are even more topical today – in an age where face transplanting has become a reality – than they were forty years ago. But the bleak style of books like The Prisoner here gives way to a zany humour, and the authors duly won a Black Comedy award in their native country.

The premise is this. Professor Marek, a gifted but obsessive experimental surgeon, grafts the body of a guillotined criminal, divided into seven parts, on to seven people who have suffered accidents. At first, the surgery appears to have been astonishingly successful. But then things start to go wrong. Very, very wrong.

Boileau and Narcejac were extremely clever writers and this book is, itself, a fascinating experiment. For my taste, it is too eccentric to rank with their best work, but it’s still a curiosity I’m glad I tracked down.

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