I will never forget how it felt to read this book.
The language here seems to do things I thought were only possible on film or on mind altering drugs: it creates a world so vivid that as a reader I was trapped by it, in a universe of sharp edges, hopelessly real. I hadn't felt so wrapped up in a novel since I read Huckleberry Finn - which is in my top 5 favourite American Novels of all times. (The similarities stop there though).
There are no likeable characters in Last Exit (I felt both pity and resentment towards them and the combination made me uneasy), so you will need to find a way to appreciate the text outside of the identification process. The narrator will not guide you nor prepare you for the horror of what is to come. Everything is crude, desperate, wretched and violent - as if to hint that reality is being served up unaltered.
I cannot but admire the author's success in crafting this text, with no central character to cling to, no overall plot to follow but just a cold shower of 'reality' - un-apologizing, un-moralising and completely devoid of hope. People seem to interact on a very superficial level - they are unable to understand themselves and unwilling to see others. Each is stuck in the prison of his mind, pointlessly banging his head against its bars with inexhaustible rage.
Zola meets Welsh? Haunting? gut wrenching? These are all terms I don't like using because they have lost their impact, but this book makes me wish they hadn't. This is like the rape scene in Irreversible, the flogging in The Heart is deceitful above all things, like the men killed off by cold and exhaustion in If this is a man. It is like being shoved into Bolgia 5 and knowing that there is NO EXIT.
This novel reminded me of what literature can do.