"Misery of a Halfling" by Serge Sanin
I have to be honest, when I first saw the blurb for this book, my heart sank at the thought of yet another otherworld, magical fantasy. But, while this book is kind of that, and certainly seems to plummet in that direction in the second half, for the first half of the book I was actually very surprised to see that it was nothing of the sort. What it is, in fact, is a cynical, sardonic and at times very funny satire on day to day life in the office workplace, and an excuse for Sanin to pick apart every single aspect of 9-5 corporate drudgery and the injustice of employment; the fantasy element of this book is actually nothing more than an escapist metaphor - the relevance of which the author makes perfectly clear in the book’s tagline and preface - with absurd comedy as its medium; think Terry Gilliam, and perhaps specifically the long opening sketch to Python’s The Meaning of Life, infused with the wry defeatism of Douglas Adams.
Although from a clearly cynical place, Misery of a Halfling is far cleverer book than it might appear – at least, for the first half. Sanin is a good writer, with some superb qualities; his comedy is laugh-out-loud funny at times, as he crafts a tale in which each bitter analogy is totally identifiable by most of us in the working population. You can see that the author has taken great efforts to select the very best word or metaphor to get his point across, in as humorous and sour a manner as possible, to portray his parallel world of tall buildings, office misery, baffling management and unhelpful departments – all have relevance in this other world.
There isn’t really any story to speak of, the whole point of this book being the joke of the metaphor, and whilst very funny at times, like all comedy, it has a lifespan. By midway, to tell the truth, it started to wear thin, particularly when the book really started to stray off course. Now, it all became a little nonsensical, and if I’m being brutally honest, it started to lose me. It felt increasingly like being in the author’s head, waiting for him to finish whatever he’s doing; the two halves of this book are in total contrast. To tell the truth, I think it could have quite easily shed most of the creature fantasy of its second half, and been a much better, more entertaining and more legible book for it. I also really enjoyed the comical poetry at the end.
Sanin’s comedy is good fun to read, and I would be interested to see what mundane, infuriating or outright depressing scenario he chooses for his next literary unloading (not a “witty” pop at Trump, though, for Gods’ sake).
In : Book Reviews
Tags: serge-sanin comedy fantasy satire humour otherworld