Fight Club

Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club W.W. Northon & Company, 2005

Read from June 8th to 22nd 2013

My rating: 3/5 stars

 

 Is "Fight Club" really about reasserting one's masculinity in a world supposedly intended to castrate the modern male? I should hope not, even if the author subtly suggests it in his afterword: "... there was no novel that presented a new social model for men to share their lives."

This would be somehow too narrow a path to follow. As it would be reducing it to some form of social criticism. Of course it is inevitable that works of art connect with immediate reality such as actual politic, social, economic problems. But, at the end of the day, what makes them different from a historical chronicle or a journalistic article is their capacity to transcend this immediacy. And in my opinion, Fight Club does this. Brilliantly.

As usual after finishing a book, I looked up a little (déformation professionnelle, I'd say) some critic opinions, eager to agree or not with J. From acerbic criticism (Henry Giroux finds that the author follows the new American trend which is the "culture of cynicism", Thomas Peels believes that the book "teaches misogyny", Mark Pettus thinks that it encourages neo-fascism) to open admiration (Slavoj Zizek and Geoffrey Sirc compares it with the work of the French philosopher Georges Bataille because of " the pious desire to [ .. . J have a revolution without a revolution", Peter Mathews goes further considering the novel an existential meditation on religion, economics and politics) both these attitudes seemed to me either too simplistic or too sophisticated a view. I like better Palachniuk's own interpretation of his novel: " Really, what I was writing was just The Great Gatsby, updated a little. It was "apostolic" fiction - where a surviving apostle tells the story of his hero. There are two men and a woman. And one man, the hero, is shot to death. It was a classic, ancient romance but updated with the espresso machine and ESPN."

For my part, I would have changed though "The Great Gatsby" with "Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde". Where Dr Jekyll indeed tells the story of Mr Hyde, but finally finding the courage to accept him as his hero, not his dark side:

"I love everything about Tyler Durden, his courage and his smarts. His nerve. Tyler is funny and charming and forceful and independent, and men look up to him and expect him to change their world. Tyler is capable and free, and I am not. "

Because in one's personal odyssey to preserve one's identity in a world dominated by consumerism, stereotypy and materialism, it seems there are only three solutions left to  fight the alienation: to witness whilst trying to identify with the suffering of those rejected by the society as waste (by joining the support groups); to suffer physical blows in manly fighting and thus to overcome inner frights (by joining the fight club); to make the others suffer and teach the world a lesson (by joining the Mayhem Project). When nothing of these works anymore, there is always, literally, the  fools' paradise, where a God doctor puts in order dreams and reality altogether:

" And the fight goes on and on because I want to be dead. Because only in death do we have names. Only in death are we no longer part of Project Mayhem."

Is "Fight Club" a social criticism? A quest for the inner self? A me-Tarzan-you-Jane romance? A story of a new brotherhood? All of the above and more. The story of a past, present and future society, forever at odds with individuality, forever aggressing man's freedom. It's the same old story, that happens to look like ours, now and again.

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