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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Pig Tales

Marie Darrieussecq

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To purchase Pig Tales

Title: Pig Tales
Author: Marie Darrieussecq
Genre: Novel
Written: 1996 (Eng. 1997)
Length: 151 pages
Original in: French
Availability: Pig Tales - US
Pig Tales - UK
Pig Tales - Canada
Truismes - Canada
Truismes - France
Schweinerei - Deutschland
  • A Novel of Lust and Transformation
  • French title: Truismes
  • Translated by Linda Coverdale

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Our Assessment:

B- : decently done but ugly tale

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Berliner Zeitung B 15/3/1997 Jörg A. Noll
The Economist . 10/5/1997 .
The NY Times Book Rev. F 6/7/1997 Tobin Harshaw
Rev. of Contemp. Fiction . Spring/1998 Susan Ireland
The Sunday Times . 6/9/1998 Trevor Lewis
The Times D 17/7/1997 Amanda Craig
The Times . 11/7/1998 James Eve
TLS . 4/7/1997 Sheena Joughin
World Lit. Today . Fall/1997 Kathleen A. Langan
Die Zeit . 7/3/1997 Hajo Steinert

  Review Consensus:

  No consensus, very varied opinions.

  From the Reviews:
  • "Schweinerei (...) ist nicht nur ein übermütiges, sondern mitunter auch ein vergnügliches Büchlein. (...) Bedrängt man das Buch nicht mit allzu hohen Erwartungen, amüsiert es durchaus." - Jörg A. Noll, Berliner Zeitung

  • "So cool in its perversities, it is no surprise that Marie Darrieussecq's Truismes shot to the top of the bestseller list in France and was quickly Englished, as Pig Tales. There never was a life so facile, so passive as the narrator's." - The Economist

  • "Darrieussecq, a first-time novelist at 27, approaches fiction with all the nuance of a Trotskyist pamphleteer, favoring a portentous matter-of-factness that insists on being taken seriously. Only the French can explain why they have chosen to do so." - Tobin Harshaw, The New York Times Book Review

  • "In Darrieussecq's tragicomic exploration of humanity's animal nature, the chatty, mock-naive style of the unsophisticated narrator pushes every pig pun to its limits, and her deadpan comments on her changing appearance parody those of an adolescent contemplating the onset of puberty. Pig Tales is a striking modern fable by a young writer who has made a dramatic entry onto the literary scene." - Susan Ireland, Review of Contemporary Fiction

  • "If the moral messages (beauty is skin deep, humanity is often more bestial than the beasts) are obvious, the dead-pan wit is unique." - Trevor Lewis, Sunday Times

  • "What is really objectionable about Pig Tales is the absence of beauty and pity which, as Nabokov observed, is the hallmark of The Metamorphosis. (...) Her combination of erotica, intellectual pretentiousness and melodrama is, dare we say it, peculiarly French. It is something the British reader will unerringly detect as pure hogwash." - Amanda Craig, The Times

  • "(O)ne of the most weirdly inventive novels of recent years." - James Eve, The Times

  • "Pig Tales would have had more of a chance, though, without Linda Coverdale, whose translation is disastrously flashy. The point of Darrieussecq's narrator, for what it's worth, is that she is dim. (...) As an idea it may be crude, even patronizing, but Coverdale misses it either way. Her narrator is an articulate show-off, using words her French counterpart wouldn't know how to spell, exaggerating any idiom into caricature." - Sheena Joughin, Times Literary Supplement

  • "Marie Darrieussecq's recent novel Truismes, written in the guise of a journal intime, vacillates between suspenseful hyperrealism and mysterious science fiction. (...) Satisfaction from Truismes comes to those who wait. The narrative path leads the reader from a narrow, single, biased reading toward a more vast and expansive comprehension of Darrieussecq's humorous trickery." - Kathleen A. Langan, World Literature Today

  • "Schweinerei ist ein stubenreines Produkt aus dem buntsortierten Selbstbedienungsladen für den gutgelaunten Leser. Das Verfallsdatum dieser Zeitgeistsottisen ist zwar abgelaufen. (...) Allein, der Roman ist weder lustig noch provokativ, weder Hölle noch Karneval. Zu lachen gibt es nichts." - Hajo Steinert, Die Zeit

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:

       Pig Tales is an odd, dystopian novel, narrated by a character who is going through some major life-changes. Set in some alternate France of the present day (where things eventually get a bit more out of hand that they have -- so far -- in the real one), the narrator begins her story when things were looking up for her. She applied for a job at Perfumes Plus, and though she had to somewhat compromise herself to get it ("The director of Perfumes Plus was holding my right breast in one hand, the job contract in the other") at least she did get it. She had a boyfriend, Honoré, who she met at Aqualand, an amusement park heavy on the debauched amusements.
       Her job entails getting a bit more up-close-and-personal with the customers than she might want, but it is the sacrifice one apparently has to make. She does modestly well at first, but then her complexion improves and she puts on some weight in all the proper places and gains an ever-larger clientele. She doesn't quite understand what is happening to her body -- though she finds she has a sudden aversion to ham sandwiches -- but everyone is thrilled by it and she seems fairly pleased as well. She is, in fact, metamorphosing into a pig.
       And at some point things do get out of control. A bit of pig helps the complexion, but once the bristles start growing on the back it is just a turn-off -- though not for all of the people the narrator associates with.
       Hers is also not a simple metamorphosis: she is in a state of flux, as she eventually shifts between her more swinish self and her human side. She has little control over it, but what happens around her plays a big role. Indeed, that is part of the message of Darrieussecq's sometimes heavy-handed satire: the world brings out the animal in her, society treats her like a pig, etc. etc.
       The dystopia extends to the political as a fascist named Edgar ("For a healthier world !" is his slogan, and the narrator a poster-girl for it) is elected and begins ridding the city of all the vermin (including the psychiatrists -- "the police had carted them all off one day"). The narrator is an amusement to him, but not for long. She's locked up, she follows the rats down the sewers, she witnesses some Aqualand debauchery. Eventually she hooks up happily with a werewolf, enjoying the convenience of home-delivered pizzas .....
       Civilization -- if one can call it that -- is a disappointment, and she is happy enough to retreat to her piggish state in the end, just barely holding onto anything human.

       Darrieussecq writes quite breezily, but this is a dark and sordid tale, sketched out by a naïve narrator. There are some decent scenes here, and some quite shocking ones. There is some humour, too, but overall it is a satire with a very bitter aftertaste. Subtitled in English as "a novel of lust and transformation", there is almost nothing appealing about any of the lusts described. But the transformations are done fairly well.

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Pig Tales: Reviews: Marie Darrieussecq: Other books by Marie Darrieussecq under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       French author Marie Darrieussecq was born in 1969. She is a graduate of the Ecole Normale Supérieure and has written several acclaimed novels.

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