I stumbled across ‘Pigeon’ by German author Patrick Suskind by accident, and due to my unreasonable fear and hatred of those rats of the skies I was attracted to it.
I assumed that reading about a fellow mans struggles with the disease ridden airborne vermin would prove comforting and enlightening. Little did I realise the existential crisis that would face the protagonist Jonathan Noel after his encounter with this pigeon.
Joseph is an unassuming security guard of 50 who leads a sedate life based on a daily routine which is planned down to the most miniscule detail so as to avoid any excitement or attention.
This routine is disrupted one morning by a pigeon appearing on Joseph’s doorstep.
Joseph’s failure to deal with this unexpected intrusion sends him careening off into a day of minor mishaps which in his distressed state are magnified into epic crises that have the mild mannered man contemplating the mass murder of foppish waiters, suicide and the end of the world.
This book is a modest companion to similar existential novels such as ‘Notes from Underground’ by Dostoevsky and ‘Hunger’ by Knut Hamsun, but the detailed description of the frenzied inner workings of Josephs mind can be both hilarious and slightly distressing.
It may seem ridiculous that something as unobtrusive as a pigeon could cause such a tumultuous upheaval but give it some thought, I know I have had similar episodes of existential angst brought on by the most inane event.
One of the worst of recent times was when I had the glorious prize of a sausage sandwich in my lunchbox to look forward to during an otherwise moribund day at work.
Bearing in mind this was the sole shining light in the pitch darkness of the office dungeon, you can imagine the despair when I opened my bag to discover the lunchbox was missing.
This cataclysmic event caused me to seriously question my reason for living as I contemplated my remaining years on earth laid out before me in the form of a barren sausageless land of desperation and suffering.
Jettisoned into the streets of North Sydney to find sustenance I careened from one side of the street to the other consumed with self loathing; what kind of hopeless oaf labours over a sandwich only to forget it, am I destined to live a life of hopeless mediocrity, relegated to the status of an unsightly smear on a particularly nondescript page of history?
Everything was falling apart, and the smallest task required a Herculean effort.
I was struck dumb with horror at the dizzying array of choices and social interactions required to order a Subway sandwich, filled with hate for every single greasy blob of humanity queuing up to buy one of the life sapping consumables Hungry Jacks had to offer.
I had to resign myself to weeping bitterly into a poorly constructed Chicken Teriyaki Sushi roll which at least caused the urge to retreat into the foetal position to subside.
So you see the most pedestrian day can contain the most epic rollercoaster ride of exultation and despair.
The person sat next to you on the train right now could be suffering an existential crisis at this moment because they’ve left their copy of ‘The girl with the dragon tattoo’ at home, why suffer alone, lets beat this together, if someone had come up to me and said:
‘Don’t worry mate, at least you’ve got a sausage sandwich waiting for you at home’
My faith in existence would have been restored...at least temporarily.
So if you’re the kind of person who is sent into paroxysms of horror by audibly farting in public the Pigeon is for you. It gave me some piece of mind to know that someone else out there, even if they were a fictional character, suffers in the same ridiculous way as they struggle through their daily routine.