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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Guillaume Lecasble

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To purchase Lobster

Title: Lobster
Author: Guillaume Lecasble
Genre: Novel
Written: 2003 (Eng. 2005)
Length: 110 pages
Original in: French
Availability: Lobster - US
Lobster - UK
Lobster - Canada
Lobster - Canada (French)
Lobster - France
Lobster - España
directly from: Dedalus
  • French title: Lobster
  • Translated by Polly McLean

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Our Assessment:

B+ : unsettlingly, appealingly surreal

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Guardian . 8/7/2005 Nicholas Lezard

  From the Reviews:
  • "As you will not believe me if I summarise the book's plot myself, permit me to quote the first paragraph of the blurb. (...) Fiction like this simply doesn't turn up that often, and when it does, it can get dismissed as bizarrerie or, more condescendingly, pseudishness. (...) (T)his is not simply surrealism. (...) This deadpan tone does mean it's also funny, in a way, but this is a kind of appalled laughter, a salute to outrageousness, the daring of what is unfolding before you. (...) There was a Lobster-shaped hole in world literature which has now been neatly filled by this remarkable work." - Nicholas Lezard, The Guardian

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Lobster features a crustacean, called simply 'Lobster', fished out of the ocean along with mom and dad and delivered, eventually, to the Titanic, where he is plopped into one of the "unbelievably luxurious aquariums" on board. Not for show, of course, put rather to be picked out by the diners, and served up as a meal. Lobster's dad is quickly selected, by a young woman named Angelina, and Lobster has to watch dad get cracked and eaten. Two days later, mom is picked; the next day it is Lobster's turn.
       Readers know what happened four days into the journey of the Titanic, but it's a close call for Lobster. Just as he gets tossed in the boiling pot there's a massive jolt, tossing him free -- though he gets boiled enough to change the color of his shell to red, and for the bay leaf stock smell to stick to him.
       In the watery confusion that follows, Lobster encounters Angelina, involved in her own struggles -- and that after:

     Angelina had taken this ship because it was unsinkable. Her life seemed to founder more each day, and before dying she'd wanted to taste what it felt like to be certain for once of not going under.
       Among her great disappointments is never having had an orgasm. When Lobster comes to again, he finds himself near Angelina -- and powerfully drawn to her, while she struggles for her life. He frees her, several times over, in various ways, and she in turn brings him with her when, full of life again, she gets in one of the lifeboats.
       Alas, they don't quite escape happily ever after -- but their brief union made its mark on both of them, and while they are separated in the middle of the Atlantic, both will soon be driven by a determination and obsession to find the other again.
       Angelina's journey, eventually back to Paris, is then more conventional, but Lobster also winds up there, taken there by Jules, an illiterate stoker and tattoo artist, who senses something special in the shellfish.
       It's hard to imagine more star-crossed lovers than Angelina and Lobster, and, admirably, Lecasble does not make a happily-ever-after fairy tale of it. The story is both fantastical and surreal, the neutral tone of the narration contrasting nicely with the strong emotions of the characters. For all the happenstance, there's also a sense of events unfolding as they must, and for all the tragedy the absurdity of so much of this also gives it a welcome comic edge. Most of what is described are situations readers will never find themselves in, and yet there's also a very basic, human feel to all of this.
       As someone observes of one of the remarkable scenes in the novel, "This is unnatural" -- and it all seems even more so in contrast to the grounding of much of the story in the more or less everyday. Placing Angelina and Lobster on the Titanic, for example, isn't simply a gimmick but also lends a nicely distorting sheen of realism -- historical, at that -- to the surreality of how events unfold.
       Agreeably unsettling, and avoiding the obvious turns, twists, and resolutions, Lobster has something of the classical fairy tale to it -- the kind which did without the easy or heavy-handed moralizing. It is, however, an adult tale, in every sense, a mature kind of fiction and a clever piece of invention -- the kind of novel we see far too little of.

- M.A.Orthofer, 24 July 2023

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Lobster: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of French literature

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About the Author:

       French author Guillaume Lecasble was born in 1954.

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© 2023 the complete review

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