May 2006

Arts & Letters

‘Ludmila’s Broken English’ by DBC Pierre

By Celina Ribeiro

It’s a new world. Science has separated 33-year-old conjoined twins Blair and Bunny. Privatisation has plucked them from their institutional cocoon and dropped them in the middle of London. Violence has given young Ludmila the opportunity to escape her Ublilsk village, where civil war looms, cannibalism hovers in living memory and tractors are fuelled by goats’ piss.

DBC Pierre’s latest novel charts the twins’ and Ludmila’s first encounters with freedom, the unalienable right to go after something better than they had before. “The optimistic presumed there would be a great devouring of life,” he writes. But Pierre is no optimist: he lets Ludmila warn us, “what you devour, devours you”.

Pierre is merciless. He thrusts his protagonists on a trajectory of tragedy, never pausing in misfortune, always moving on to the next inevitable blow. His hard-talking characters have a painful naivety: Blair dreams of starting suburban families with lap dancers, Bunny believes mutant royalty wanders his old home and Ludmila waits for the heroic fiancé who will never come. All are deluded and made vulnerable by imaginings of freedom.

The three are eventually drawn together by a series of setbacks that find Ludmila’s photograph on a website for Russian brides and Blair at his computer with a wild-cherry-flavoured, drug-induced erection.

This is a strong follow-up, but no equal, to Vernon God Little, Pierre’s Booker-winning debut. The characters in Ludmila’s Broken English lack the ability to repel and draw in the reader with the same force. Certain strengths remain. Pierre’s language has a frank poetry: harsh, bare and possessed of a noble honesty. And while the novel is not as funny as its predecessor, black humour soaks the rationalisation and relentlessness of exploitation within every relationship it describes. It won’t warm readers with the power of the human spirit, but it will induce a shrug – and perhaps a smirk – at its survival.

Celina Ribeiro

Celina Ribeiro is a journalist based in London, where she co-edits a small magazine. She has written for the New Statesman, the Sydney Morning Herald, the Age and New Matilda

Cover: May 2006

May 2006

From the front page

Fired up

The climate and wildfire debate is happening on the ground… try putting it out

Image of police station in Alice Springs with red handprints on wall

What really happened at Yuendumu?

The promised inquiries must answer the biggest questions raised by the police shooting of an Aboriginal man

You could drive a person crazy: Noah Baumbach’s ‘Marriage Story’

Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson are at their career best in this bittersweet tale of divorce

Image of ‘Wild River, Florida’

‘Civilization: The Way We Live Now’

The beautiful photographs of often grim subjects in NGV Australia’s exhibition raise questions over the medium’s power to critique


In This Issue

Illustration by Jeff Fisher.

Comment

Turn around you weren’t invited

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ ‘Show Your Bones’
Illustration by Jeff Fisher.

When the wind blows

‘2006 Contemporary Commonwealth’ at Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia; Australian Centre for the Moving Image


More in Arts & Letters

Image of Jia Tolentino

Radical ambiguity: Jia Tolentino, Rachel Cusk and Leslie Jamison

The essay collections ‘Trick Mirror’, ‘Coventry’ and ‘Make It Scream, Make It Burn’ offer doubt and paradoxical thinking in the face of algorithmic perfectionism

Image of Archie Roach

A way home: Archie Roach

The writer of ‘Took the Children Away’ delivers a memoir of his Stolen Generations childhood and an album of formative songs

Image from ‘The Irishman’

Late style: Martin Scorsese’s ‘The Irishman’

Reuniting with De Niro, Pacino and Pesci, the acclaimed director has delivered less of a Mob film than a morality play

Still from Todd Phillips’ ‘Joker’

No one’s laughing now: Todd Phillips’ ‘Joker’

A gripping psychological study of psychosis offers a surprising change of pace in the superhero genre


More in Noted

Image of ‘Wild River, Florida’

‘Civilization: The Way We Live Now’

The beautiful photographs of often grim subjects in NGV Australia’s exhibition raise questions over the medium’s power to critique

Cover of ‘The Testaments’

‘The Testaments’ by Margaret Atwood

The Booker Prize–winning sequel to ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ is an exhilarating thriller from the “wiliest writer alive”

Cover of ‘The Man Who Saw Everything’

‘The Man Who Saw Everything’ by Deborah Levy

The British author experiments with a narrative structure that collapses past and present

‘The weekend’ cover

‘The Weekend’ by Charlotte Wood

The Stella Prize–winner returns with a stylish character study of women surprised by age


Read on

Image of police station in Alice Springs with red handprints on wall

What really happened at Yuendumu?

The promised inquiries must answer the biggest questions raised by the police shooting of an Aboriginal man

You could drive a person crazy: Noah Baumbach’s ‘Marriage Story’

Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson are at their career best in this bittersweet tale of divorce

Blockade tactics

Inside the 2019 IMARC protests

Image of ‘How To Do Nothing’

‘How To Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy’

Jenny Odell makes a convincing case for moving beyond the ruthless logic of use


×
×