Irvine Welsh’s book is a real thing : you read and you hear this heavy Scottish accent resounding in your head, and it makes you wonder if you ever spoke English before. Reading the book is a real challenge for non-native speakers, but once you get used to it, and stop bumping your way on the tough words and chapters, then the real thing goes on and brings you into a bunch of friends who are always high on something and up to swindle anyone for a quid. Mark Renton could be a good person, if he were not hooked on heroin and surrounded by his dreadful but oh so funny pals: Begbie the psycho, Sick Boy the theorist and Spud, the perfectionist. They definitely are useless brats, and if only their life could be as fun as they try to make it... But no: their daily life is a permanent struggle, mainly against the system, for which they are not fit at all, and which cannot provide them with a suitable self-image. Therefore, they just don’t give a sh..., in their Edinburgh sh... hole, and they won’t choose life, nor a job, nor a career, nor a family, nor a f.... big television… They’ve chosen heroin. At some point, Renton chooses a glimpse of life: he chooses Diane, but again the system calls him back to reality; Diane is a sexy school girl and he’s become a criminal. The portrait of Scotland in the nineties that Irvine Welsh is drawing here is quite appalling and distasteful: yet, it conveys a very sharp and realistic view on the dole generation, those young people who have no other goals in life but party and trip away, for nothing and nobody has ever managed to elevate their wits.
Culture is football and spirituality is LSD. Sex is a hoax too: it is only meant for the clean type. Violence, drugs, rebellion, obsession, death: yet this awful context stages hilarious situations (Spud’s job interview for instance) and poetic visions (when Mark sees Diane at the club), always with heavy ironical undertones (Diane’s first speech). When at the end, Renton breaks free from his debilitating world, you must bet he’ll choose life at last, but who knows, really?
Undoubtedly, those who have read the book have also enjoyed Danny Boyle’s film: Trainspotting is a huge slap in the face of those who say that British cinema is crap. Read Trainspotting, and buy the collector DVD. And remember to choose life, choose a job, choose a career, choose a family, choose a f... big television…and watch it, again and again.