Have you ever thought about what goes on in the minds of the elderly who don’t have much to look forward to and all that truly makes a difference to their lives is the care and affection from those they hold dear? And what happens when they perceive to have not received this love, which is “rightfully” theirs, or even worse, they feel it is being given to someone else?
‘The Nothing’ by Hanif Kureishi has the power to affect you not only because of its theme i.e. an apparently helpless, suspicious old man grappling with illness and insecurity but also because of Kureishi’s characteristic writing style which is packed with dark humour, sarcasm and even erudite crudeness.
At the centre of the story is our protagonist Waldo, an elderly gentleman ridden with health issues –physical at first but then as the story progresses one wonders whether the mind is truly bereft of illness. Waldo, a filmmaker in his younger days, lives in the heart of London with his wife Zee, who is much younger than him. Waldo is deeply suspicious of Zee’s friendship with his old acquaintance Eddie and the plot of the novella deals with Waldo scheming and planning to ensure that Eddie stays away from his beloved wife.
In Waldo, you first see a dear old man coming to terms with his aging life and its many banalities. Then suddenly you see a sharp mind, which maybe led astray by an overactive imagination. You can empathise with Waldo’s loneliness and need for attention and at the same time be aggrieved by the extent to which he goes to prove his hypotheses right.
Character development in a novella can be quite tricky but Kureishi has mastered this technique. Waldo, Zee, Eddie are of course created with great detail but other characters like Anita also manage to leave a mark.
At certain moments in the story, I was taken aback by the deviousness of Waldo’s mind and had to re read parts of the story to truly understand his motives rather than blatantly judging him. Something similar could also be said about his wife, Zee. It is not always as it appears to be.The book is certainly thought provoking and if you enjoy dark humour, this one’s a must read. The book has released on 2nd May 2017 and my sincere thanks to the author and publisher for the opportunity to review this novella.