23 November 2014

Lolita Pille: Hell (2002)

'We have a credit card in place of a brain, a vacuum cleaner in place of a nose, and nothing in place of a heart, we go to night clubs more often than lessons, we've more houses than real friends, two hundred numbers we never call in our address book. We're the golden youth.' (My translation.)

'La Jeunesse dorée' (or 'golden youth') is the title used for the poor rich kids, the nappies from the Neuilly, Auteuil, Pereire and Passy areas to the west of central Paris, particularly in the 16th arrondissement.

It's not surprising that the sixteen-year-old Lolita Pille, who felt inspired to write after reading Frédéric Beigbeder's 99 francs, sent a copy of the original manuscript to him. Nor is it surprising that Beigbeder (a fan of Bret Easton Ellis) should have enthusiastically contacted his publisher about the manuscript.

The book illustrates the life of the still-teenaged Ella – renamed Elle by her friends, but re-renamed Hell by herself because Elle sounds too much like a magazine. Sounds count in Hell, the sound of money in particular, but also the way things are expressed, such as contemporary verlan or backslang – cheum for moche (ugly), meuf for femme (girlfriend), pécho for chopé (seduced, had, etc), and so on.

This is a world of (often very) young adults in which brand names are of vital importance, where spending vast sums of money is an everyday occurrence, where hooving up coke in the early hours is normal, as is having frequent and dangerous sex with multiple partners.

The price of living in this world – in fact this kind of Hell – is not only that of losing your youth early, but also of falling into despair: when you've done everything, there's nothing left to do but go through the cycle again, and life (along with all the champagne) increasingly loses not only its sparkle but also its entire meaning, if it ever had one.

It's only when Hell hears of the existence of Andrea that she perks up. Andrea, she learns, is a guy who chained a girl naked to his radiator before sex, went out to buy cigarettes and in the process met a friend and went off with him for the weekend. Forgetting about the girl, who had nothing to eat all weekend. And sure enough, Andrea turns out to be the man of Hell's dreams.

For six months they hide themselves away, enjoying each other. But then things turn sour and they part, although neither will admit to the other that they are still in love. Love? Nonsense, it doesn't exist. Just get coked up, pissed up.

Andrea has his own chapter as narrator, when we learn his true feelings for Hell, that he loves her and is going to tell her so. The reader already knows that Hell is going to tell him the same. But this is not the kind of book that has a happy ending and when Andrea takes his car out for a final time that night/morning he runs through a red light at great speed at the Place de la Concorde and is crushed to death. Too much of a coward for direct suicide, a heartbroken Hell – yes, she really has one  continues her descent into a living Hell.

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