# 16 Breakfast with the Borgias by DBC Pierre

Posted by on Oct 8, 2015 in #100reviews | No Comments

Breakfast with the Borgias, DBC PierreA novel (or in this case novella) by DBC Pierre should be approached with caution. Unlike Vernon God Little nothing much coruscates in Breakfast with the Borgias: a mobile phone is briefly thrown on a fire like the funeral of modern communications and a sandal strap on an old woman’s foot crackles and snaps like a live wire but otherwise this is a story of fog, loss, failure and incapacity. It is also a story of stasis, which is hard to pull off and I’m not sure DBC Pierre manages it.

It’s a pretty good failure though. Despite some heavy foreshadowing (protagonist Ariel Panek is bowdlerised into Harry Panic by said old woman, who is definitely NOT a lady!) the battle in this novella is between connection and disconnection, structure and chaos, clarity and confusion.

The happenstance arrival of Ariel at a fog-bound seaside hotel after his flight is diverted to Stanstead throws him in company with a weird family, battling grown-ups, spiky daughter, computer-isolated young son and an adopted female waif who possesses (or is possessed by?) the only mobile in the place that has any kind of signal. Trying to navigate any kind of relationship with this ill-matched assortment of drunks, shysters, neglected young women and negligent boys leaves Ari constantly at a loss – a literal loss, for each encounter with any family member strips him of certainty. In the end, Ari is not sure he even truly exists, and nor by that time, are we.

Far away his would-be lover Zeva is also unable to navigate. Her relationship with Ari has been based online and now he has no contact with the outside world, she has no anchor for her romantic attachment which, unanchored, rapidly turns into a cause for doubt, fear and self-introspective loathing.

Both the potential lovers rapidly collapse when deprived of their online intimacy, and with the denouement so heavily foreshadowed that surely no reader can be expecting anything other than the ending that is delivered, it’s a bitter commentary on the reality, unreality or irreality of our romantic beliefs both about romance and about ourselves – the general estrangement of our perception of ourselves in the modern world from any human scale reality is summarised by Ari’s understanding that without his computers he is nothing. Or, as he would have it when considering his relationship with Zeva, “they were a couple … of the mind alone, untethered to cumbersome flesh”. It is the failure to have tethered their relationship to anything, let alone cumbersome flesh, that provides the twist at the end of the tale.

Leave a Reply