Throwback Thursday [5]: Nothing by Janne Teller

Nothing by Janne Teller
Original Publication Date: 2000
Version: 2008 Edition, 227 pages
The other day, some motorist drove over and killed a skunk around my neighbourhood. Now, depending on which way the wind blows, you could smell the funk of the splatted skunk permeating the air. You won’t be able to drive by without getting a whiff until you’re sick to your stomach. So then I got to thinking: why were skunks created anyway? No really, what is their purpose? Seems to me that other than being a nuisance – what with their super funky defence mechanism – there really wasn’t anything advantageous to having them. If they don’t exist, would there be a cataclysmic change in the food chain? I’m sure there’s a scientific explanation for their existence but right now… I got nothing. 
This book questions the point of everything, of existing, of living, of being. It also tells a dark story of a herd mentality feeding a fear until all that’s left is savagery.

The Gist: One day, seventh-grader Pierre Anthon lost the will to go on living. No. He doesn’t kill himself. He stopped his world from revolving. He climbed the plum tree and stayed there, watching life passed him by. All the while screaming the futility of doing anything at all. His schoolmates then decided that they needed to get him off the tree because they soon realized the truth of his wisdom. First, they threw rocks at him, injuring him until he had no choice but to get down, actually, he fell down. But the next day, he was back in the tree. 

By some stroke of youthful brilliance, the kids figured that Pierre Anthon needed to be reminded of all the things that are important. One by one, the kids at school brought out things the things they hold dear until a heap accumulated. But they couldn’t get him off the tree nor would he reward them with silence. So then the kids did the unthinkable. 

The Review: Pierre Anthon is the epitome of my life on days when I feel like waking up serves no purpose to the world. He voiced out every single defeatist thoughts that ever came across my head. And by golly, this boy was much more insightful than the rest of us, albeit, a little disturbed.

About Everything:
It’s all a waste of time. Everything begins only to end. The moment you were born you begin to die. That’s how it is with everything.”
About Life:
“The Earth is four billion, six hundred million years old, and you’re going to reach one hundred at the most! It’s not even worth the bother.”
“In a few years you’ll all be dead and forgotten and diddly-squat, nothing, so you might just as well start getting used to it!”
About Falling in Love:
“First you fall in love, then you start dating, then you fall out of love, and then you split up again…”
“…And that’s the way it goes, time and time again, right until you grow so tired of all the repetition you just decided to make like the one who happens to be closest by is the one and only. What a waste of effort!”
Ladies and Gentlemen, he’s thirteen years old…and the most profound pessimist I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting – sort of.
And yet if you really think about it or allow him to get into your head, you can’t help but heed the truth of his words. After all, we’ve been there. We’ve asked every single existentialist questions about life, about our purpose and the purpose of living, period. 

This is essentially what happened in the book; what prompted the kids to try and get him off the plum tree. Wanting to prove him wrong, they started to collect the things that mattered to them. But it didn’t take long till they decided they weren’t good enough. They then decided that another person gets to pick which things they hold dear, which then prompted the weird (a dead snake in a jar swimming in formaldehyde) and the morbid (exhumed dead body). 

This book is a combination of all the things that are wrong when you put a group of scared kids together. It’s like Michael Grant’s the kids of Fayz and Lord of the Flies. It was cruel and dark and inconceivable. 

  • Sounds interesting to say the least. I'm not sure that I would rush out to buy it but your review has me intrigued to say the least! I think if I seen it sitting somewhere I would pick it up now.

  • Um. Wow. Those quotes are so crazy but yet so familiar too… I think we've all probably had similar at some point (or maybe I'm actually just a huge defeatist, haha). But wow, the kid is 13? Such a bleak perspective on something that's only beginning 😛 Thanks for sharing, Joy! I've never heard of anything quite like this book before and I'm not sure if I'd enjoy it but at least now it's on my radar! 🙂

    Sonia