You will have to bear with me on this one – I read Filth a fairly long time ago now, so it’s not quite as fresh in my mind. I’d heard good things about the film when it came out in 2013 so when I saw it in an English bookshop in Dubrovnik decided to give it a perusal. This is my first Irvine Welsh novel, having never sampled Trainspotting before (I know, where have I been?!), but his work is considered to be iconic, as provides voices to those that are not normally heard, dealing with the nasty side of fiction as opposed to the light. You are not supposed to like his characters. Pity yes, but not like.
Filth was first published in 1998 and takes the form of the internal dialogue of Bruce Robertson, a corrupt polisman operating in the city of Edinburgh. The dialogue is also interspersed with contributions from his resident tape worm. I know, it’s that kind of book. The novel follows Bruce through his day-to-day, interacting with co-workers, an annual trip to Amsterdam and extra-marital affairs. As the dialogue progresses Bruce’s twisted narcissism and drug and relationship problems are exposed, with everything he does engineered to harm those around him. The corruption unravels the man, leaving a monster – the ending (which I won’t spoil) becomes inevitable as the humanity disappears.
I loved this book. Don’t get me wrong it’s very difficult to get into in the beginning – the writing is vernacular Scottish and every other word is a swearword, something that is actually quite jarring but as a reader you soon become desensitised to. It’s a disgusting vile book that quite probably traumatised me during the reading process. But that is the point. And Irvine Welsh has written Bruce exceptionally well. You hate him, but still pity. You are disturbed by the depravity, but still find the black humour of it. It even passed the emptiness test that I mentioned in the Norwegian Wood review. (Link: here) I had to have a lie-down after the climactic ending. But that is why I have to recommend, with writing like that it would criminal not to.