The Butt: Will Self

Will Self has never been known for taking the easy way out. Faced here with post-9/11 politics, he has taken the trajectory of a discarded cigarette butt and transformed it into an allegory about fate, responsibility and the gap between diplomacy and understanding. The end result is both clever and engaging.

Tom Brodzinski has just smoked his final cigarette and flipped the butt over the balcony edge. Within seconds it lands, still smouldering on the head of Reggie Lincoln. Pensioner Reggie is happy to accept that it’s an accident; the trouble is, he’s married in to the Tayswengo tribe, who don’t believe in ‘accidents’. What follows is a Kafkaesque nightmare. Reggie’s health takes a turn for the worse and Tom’s charge of assault is upgraded to attempted murder. His only help comes from amateur lawyers, ramshackle consulates and a particularly painful visit to a local medicine man. And this is all before the trial begins.

The Butt takes place in a country of Self’s creation, but any astute reader will be able to identify his targets. As satire, the book hits its mark well, providing its fair share of laughs along the way. Highly recommended.