PUBLISHERS OF LITERARY FICTION SINCE 1983
'This is a novella that is greater than the sum of its parts – it is, of course, about more than just tattooing. There is a psychological cohesion to it that is all the more important when you are telling a story of what is, essentially, a descent into madness. And a journey into illness, too: there is some tricksy wordplay on “leukaemia” that left me wondering how on earth Mike Mitchell, the translator, managed it.“Hochet” is French for “rattle”; this is a good rattling, as in unsettling, story.'
Ink in the Blood is an innovative novel by one of France’s leading novelists and is certainly interesting.
The novel is narrated by an anonymous narcissistic 45 year old artist with a fascination with tattoos, despite not having any himself. He decides to take the inky leap when he befriends Dimitri, a gifted and almost mystic tattooist, opting for a Latin phrase vulnerant omnes, ultima necat (all the hours kill, the last one kills). The tattoo changes him into a markedly different character, insecure and needy, and causes intense fear when the first line of the tattoo fades, leaving only ultima necat (the last one kills) and threatening his life.
'I discovered two things: first, this book is one of a series produced by Deladus Euro Shorts to offer European literature that “can be read cover to cover on a Eurostar journey”; and second, that it is as easy to put down as a leaking superglue tube.
So what converted me from a prejudice against both its size and its subject? Well, being small, it is remarkably condensed. There’s not an unnecessary adjective, an ill-considered diversion or a unmerited description. But this potent monologue has an involving and fascinating plot and fruitful allusions to markings and rituals and taboos: at the most basic, “we all want to leave some trace”. And this thoughtful and clear young writer has a fund of epigrammatic phrases: marriage is “happiness decreed by contact”; the anonymous narrator decries “the whorish aspect of fashion”; and “people are never short of imagination when it’s a matter of being vulgar’.
I still wonder about it being suitable for a Eurostar journey, though. Apart from the pain of discarding a book of any size, Ink In The Blood is so tightly written, you’ll probably want to re-read it on your way back. I generously offered to test this theory empirically, but when I mentioned possibly expensing a cross-Channel trip, the editor said I could have a similar experience if I took the Underground to Amersham and back.'