In the City of Pigs by André Forget

For some, the avant-garde is vital, exciting, and inspirational. For others, it might just be a pleasant curiosity. And then there are those who use it as just one more path to power.

André Forget’s In the City of Pigs is a detailed, sharply intellectual exploration of how people use and abuse art, while at the same time communicating the obsession and the intoxication that art offers for those who cannot live without it.

In the City of Pigs does not feature a simple plot structure, but I found it extremely readable. The novel is divided into four movements. Each one feels self-contained like a short story or novella, but they are also interconnected and feature the same narrator, Alexander Otkazov, a failed musician turned journalist. The thread tying the four movements together involves what could be loosely described as Otkazov’s investigation into shady real estate deals in Toronto and their connection to an avant-garde music collective.

Our narrator oscillates between being entranced by some artists and brutally dismissive of others. Upon reading one avant-garde manifesto, Otkazov writes, “I opened the window to let in some fresh air. What nonsense … The language was flatulent and ostentatious; whoever had written it seemed very pleased with themselves” (43). And yet, later on, he writes of a different performance that it “was a work of genius—of cruel genius, the very best kind” (225). As a reader, I find these kinds of negotiations and responses to be extremely engaging, not because I agree with his evaluations but because I am granted access into his inner workings of his aesthetic experiences. Otkazov’s reviews are idiosyncratic, occasionally naive, often cynical, and consistently engaging.

The various, theoretical discussions of music and art do not feel pedantic. Although I definitely learned new things from the text, I never got the sense that I was being preached at. Forget manages to balance the various ideas of his characters in such a way that we observe various people with intense beliefs battling each other over endless glasses of wine and beer. No one seems to be more right in the end, but the discussions are consistently insightful and compelling.

When we open the pages of this novel, we are firmly in the world of high art and big ideas. I’m a fan of In the City of Pigs, and while the challenging, intensely intellectual aspects of the novel might seem daunting to some, the elements of mystery carry the plot forward.

André Forget was born in Toronto and raised in Mount Forest, Ontario. He is the former editor-in-chief of the Puritan, and his work has appeared in a variety of magazines and newspapers in Canada and the United States. He currently lives in Sheffield in the United Kingdom.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Rare Machines (June 14 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 328 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1459749081
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1459749085