Lobster – Guillaume Lecasble (trans. by Polly McLean)

Lobster(Dedalus 2005)

Friendship. Revenge. True love. Lust. Destiny. Religious irrationality. Vulnerability. Strength. Suicide. Life. All the classic, traditional dramatic themes—all delivered in a new and wild fashion. The French surely know something we don’t about passion and life, and Lobster is an intriguing example.

The night the Titanic sinks, one tragedy in particular stands out. Just before the iceberg is hit, Lobster watches his father boiled alive and eaten by Angelina, and is soon taken out of the aquarium to meet the same fate. However, when the ship crashes, Lobster escapes his death and emerges from the kitchen bright red and sexually attracted to Angelina, his father’s murderer. Lobster gives Angelina her first orgasm before they are separated, when he falls into the sea and she is kept safe in the lifeboats. 

The rest of the story continues with their struggled separation and how intertwined their lives are. Angelina, suicidal and moody, sulks through the book with the angst of a spoiled child, making it hard to sympathize with her. Lobster, on the other hand, is selfless and searches for Angelina and does all he can to find his way back to her. Unfortunately, Angelina does all she can to find her way to her next orgasm, and believes Lobster is the key to that.

Lecasble’s characters, human and not, all struggle with human vices: greed, jealousy, hunger, revenge, lust (after family members, after animals). These moral defects all stem from the same ugly root, and that is the very human, very flawed incapability of self-restraint. We grow up with urges and cravings, and must learn through life how to control ourselves, how to be civil, how to limit ourselves. We tell the Id to be quiet in order to hear what the Superego has to say, we try to move past our small vices in order to move towards something bigger and more enlightened. Lobster will never be a cautionary tale used for scaring young women away from sexual experiences and exploration. However, it can be read in a more substantial way, with appreciation for the characters’ ordeals, the creativity of the story’s shape, and the foreign peculiarities which raise odd questions privately in our minds.

As for the only vice of the novel, the writing at times leaves us left wanting—the sentences are mostly short and stated, with no real sensuality building around the two, ironically. Sexually-charged situations happen in the story, but the choppy manner they’re mentioned in offers less than pleasing language for the reader to enjoy. However, the ending brings all the classic themes and surprising characters together in a most satisfying way.