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Filth [Hardcover]

Irvine Welsh
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (119 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Aug. 11 1998
With the festive season almost upon him, Detective Sergeant Bruce Robertson is winding down at work and gearing up socially -- kicking off Christmas with a week of sex and drugs in Amsterdam. There are irritating flies in the ointment, though, including a missing wife, a nagging cocaine habit, a dramatic deterioration in his genital health, a string of increasingly demanding extra-marital affairs. The last thing he needs is a messy murder to solve. Still it will mean plenty of overtime, a chance to stitch up some colleagues and finally clinch the promotion he craves.

But as Bruce spirals through the lower reaches of degradation and evil, he encounters opposition -- in the form of truth and ethical conscience -- from the most unexpected quarter of all: his anus. In Bruce Robertson, Welsh has created one of the most corrupt, misanthropic characters in contemporary fiction and has written a dark, disturbing and very funny novel about sleaze, power, and the abuse of everything. At last, a novel that lives up to its name.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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From Amazon

Talk about truth in advertising! Irvine Welsh's novel about an evil Edinburgh cop is filthy enough to please the most crud-craving fans of his blockbuster debut, Trainspotting. Like Trainspotting, Filth matches its nastiness with a maniacal, deeply peeved sense of humor. Though one does feel the need to escape this train wreck of a narrative from time to time for a shower and some chamomile tea, just as often Welsh provokes a belly laugh with an extraordinarily perverse and cruelly funny set piece. Nicely violent turns of phrase litter the ghastly landscape of his tale.

Our hero, Detective Sergeant Bruce Robertson, is a cross between Harvey Keitel in Bad Lieutenant and John Belushi in Animal House. His task is to nab a killer who has brained the son of the Ghanaian ambassador, but bigoted Bruce is more urgently concerned with coercing sex from teenage Ecstasy dealers, planning vice tours of Amsterdam, and mulling over his lurid love life. He's also got a tapeworm, whose monologue is printed right down the middle of many pages. Here's one of this unusually articulate parasite's realizations: "My problem is that I seem to have quite a simple biological structure with no mechanism for the transference of all my grand and noble thoughts into fine deeds."

Welsh's real strength is comic tough talk and inventive slang. The murder mystery helps organize his tendency to sprawl, but the engine of his art is wry, harsh dialogue. At one point, his books hogged the entire top half of Scotland's Top Ten Bestsellers list--and half the buyers of Trainspotting had never bought a book before. The reason is not that Welsh is the best novelist who ever got short-listed for the Booker Prize. It is that he is that rarest of phenomena, an original voice. --Tim Appelo --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Another scabrous, lurid, blackly comic novel from America's favorite Scottish enfant terrible, this one does for present-day Edinburgh what James Ellroy does for 1950s Los Angeles. Welsh begins with a detective's investigation into a murder?the death of a Ghanaian ambassador's son?and turns it into a vivid exploration of the detective's own twisted psyche and seedy milieu. Detective Bruce Robertson finds himself preoccupied not with the murder but with his own genital eczema, sadistic sexual antics involving any number of girlfriends and prostitutes, his increasingly chronic appetite for coke, alcohol and greasy fast food and, finally, the parasite that has taken up residence in his intestines. Welsh effectively plays off Robertson's bilious narration with the coolly insistent voice of another entity?the tapeworm, who seems to be the repository of Robertson's childhood memories and what is left of his superego?as the detective spins out of control, wasting himself in increasingly risky games of erotic asphyxiation with one of his mistresses (ex-wife of another detective), machinations to undermine his colleagues, and misanthropic rage: "Criminals, spastics, niggers, strikers, thugs, I don't fucking well care, it all adds up to one thing: something to smash." Even for readers who have mastered Welsh's Scots dialect, such an eloquently nasty narrator can be exhausting. As in the past, Welsh himself sometimes seems rather compromised as a satirist by the glee he takes in his characters' repulsiveness. Yet if this hypnotic chronicle of moral and psychological ruin (funnier and far more accessible than Welsh's last full-length novel, Marabou Stork Nightmares) fails to charm a wide readership, it will not disappoint devotees. Editor, Gerald Howard; author tour.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars One of Welsh's Best! Aug. 26 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I would definitely recommend this to a fan of Irvine Welsh, it is magnificently gritty and hilarious. While it is an equally interesting read for newcomers of Welsh, prepare yourself for some heavy slang that you may not understand depending on where you are from. I had to research some of the frequently used slangs and expressions.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Love Irvine Welsh.... Hated Filth Jan. 20 2009
Trainspotting is possibly my favorite novel of all time. Porno, although not as good was still an excellent read... but Filth was horrible. The characters are unbelievable, the dialog repetative and boring, and the story takes you nowhere and accomplishes nothing. Deeply disapointing from such a great author.
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5.0 out of 5 stars BEST BOOK EVER Sept. 11 2006
By Mel
No contest. Pure filth. I felt like I had been kicked in the kidneys by the end of it. Never had such an intense physical reaction to a book before. This has been my number one favourite book since it first came out and makes everything else I've read before or since look tame...and believe me I'm not into tame reading. Fabulous. I only wish all of Welsh's books had this intensity and gut-wrenching honesty. He writes about the things we often think but don't even like to admit to ourselves we think. A tip...find some Edinburgh scots & hang out with them for a few weeks before attempting to comprehend the phonetic Scottish style. You'd miss so much if you didn't understand alot of it. Totally worth it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant April 20 2006
Welsh's very best, in my opinion.
This novel takes us through the miserable life of a very dislikable lead character. Yet in spite of his repulsiveness, we are drawn to him through those things we can horrifyingly relate to in the darkest corners of our own character. He makes you feel - filthy.
However, the most accomplished and novel aspect of this book is the tapeworm. For those unfamiliar with such diseases, it is worth appreciating that it was well researched and the associated pathos was brilliantly orated as part of the narrative. While certainly an exploration of flawed humanity, on a much more sophisticated level it also contimplates the relationship between disease and self identity. Ultimately, this book is about relationships and the serendipitous, entangled ways in which they can both propagate and destroy an individual.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Filthy June 20 2003
By A Customer
The entire first chapter is about a fart, I think. I had to try to read it over and over so many times because of the incomprehensible scottish slang. They replace words with rhymes, if that makes any sense. If you can get past the language, go for chapter 2.
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4.0 out of 5 stars a new direction for an under rated writer May 16 2002
By A Customer
While this book at times is basically shock value.the over all ambition of the novel is to profile a particular type of person who has lost all morality as a result of the life they have led.The novel achieves this to a very disterbing extent.Filth takes you inside the mind of the respectable psychopath while the comedy type worm serves as Welsh's device to explian how he sees a twisted individual like Robertson was created through social conditioning rather than nature.Forget the hype of trainspotting this is real Irvine Welsh.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Lives up to its name March 28 2002
I recently read Burroughs' Cities of the Red Night, so this is no longer the most disgusting thing I've read. But it still is the most satisfyingly filthy book I can think of. Welsh asks us to inhabit the mind of a charming, funny, if somewhat amoral police officer through his daily routine. We fall in league with the guy and may feel some of our sicker impulses surge as his deeds get more and more horrible. This book asks us how far we are willing to let this guy go before we start cheering against him. All but devoid of redeeming character, Filth is almost a struggle, but it makes it, time and again, on charm. Pig charm.
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Welsh, in the grand tradition of authors such as William S. Burroughs and J.G. Ballard, uses his art like a scalpel to lay open for our examination some of the more unpleasant and socially unacceptable aspects of modern life. His portrait of DS Bruce Robertson is umcompromising in showing the brutality, venality and corruption of which one man is capable (especially when that man is nominally on the side of right and law and order)...and we also have some psychological/genetic insight into why he is what and who he is. At the end of the book I couldn't decide whether I hated Robertson, or felt sorry for him. Highly recommended (provided you're neither squeamish nor easily offended.)
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