The Butt, Will Self

11th April 2008 at 01:00

It was only a matter of time before someone made a connection between the smoking ban and the total annihilation of civilisation, and we can rely on Will Self to join the dots for us. Tom, the main character in Self's new novel, The Butt, quits the habit while on holiday abroad as restrictions are making it a nuisance to continue. He thoughtlessly flicks his final cigarette end off the apartment balcony and sets in motion a chain of events befitting the butterfly that flapped its wings and caused all those earthquakes.

The titular butt sets fire to a fellow Englishman standing below. The hapless victim is married to a local and poor Tom must face the full force of the law, which, in the mythical composite of far-off countries in which The Butt is set (did I not mention that?), requires him to leave his family and make amends by travelling into the desert, which, inconveniently, is in the middle of a war. Worse, he is accompanied by another wrongdoer who may be a child abuser.

Self-lovers will be pleased that the man is getting more prolific as he gets older, at least for a novelist. The Butt follows swiftly on from 2006's The Book Of Dave, in which the thoughts and scribbling of a disturbed cab driver are unearthed 500 years on and form the basis of a religion. There is also a collection of short stories due out later this year.

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