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The Little Girl and The Cigarette by Benoit…
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The Little Girl and The Cigarette

by Benoit Duteurtre

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This dark comedy takes sarcastic swipes at a number of society's institutions - government administration and policy, the legal profession, media, the welfare of children, the war on terrorism and of course, reality TV and the great world wide web. While the book is written as a satire, it captures some events that could potentially occur in today's society. The execution of a convicted killer comes to a screeching halt with the discovery of a legal conflict between a policy banning smoking anywhere in the prison and the prisoner's legislated right to a last cigarette. The book present this legal conundrum to help set the stage for the absurdities to follow.

When a city administrator forgets to secure the lock on the bathroom door before smoking a cigarette in a smoke-free building and finds himself accused of 'crimes against children', one glimpses society truly turned on it's side, with the accused being brought before a tribunal of children, a 'Children's Court', so that the children can try him as a form of therapy to help them get over the heinous crime that never happened. It is when terrorists take six hostages and demand a ransom of 500 million dollars to finance the development of 'quality terrorism', and create their own reality TV show in the process that you know you have arrived in looneyland, where political correctness takes on a life of its own.

I loved this little book. Duteurtre delivers the absurdities of governments and society with intellectual wit and keen observational skills. The only part of the book that was a let down for me was the ending. Overall, a great little book! ( )
1 vote lkernagh | Jul 11, 2010 |
I once went into a bookshop in France and asked about a book by Duteurtre - the one about the SNCF. `Vous connaissez Duteutre?', said the bookseller. Never met him in my life, I thought.
  jon1lambert | May 21, 2009 |
Caution: There are spoilers to a certain degree in this post.

sigh.. i really enjoyed this book. no review to be found here.. just rambling about the plot line and how awesome it was.

This book was originally written by French author Benot Duteurtre. Translated to English some time in the last couple years by Charlotte Mandell.

In the not to distant future, the world is not too different than it is now. People still work their jobs, there is no massive shift in the polar ice caps causing destruction. The human race is not nearing extinction, nor is it being harassed by aliens. Now you may be saying to yourself “Wait a second.. Jason.. what are you reading? you always have something a little bit bizarre in hand. and this is sounding a little tame.” Well, this is no exception.

In Powells books one day, Jenn picked up a bright pink book with a thick laminate cover. it was soft and a little unnerving in hand, somehow, too smooth to the touch, slightly velvet in that overproduced plastic sheeting kind of way. The binding on the book read “The Little Girl and the Cigarette”. The front and back covers are basic in structure showing the typical bar code, but also the above image. Jenn bought it and read me the synopsis. It rapidly became a “must read” and was catapulted to the top of my reading list.

The book opens in a world that is far too PC, too careful, too “nice”. People accused of a crime are put into a common court system which is televised and broadcast to the public. Generally, the public has formulated their own opinions a long time before the hearings begin, due to mass media saturation. Not too much difference from today right?

Slight spoilers follow, but i attempt to be caeful with presentation..

Plot line one: The author is a bit heavy handed at times, as in the case of the first main character introduced, Desire (Desir’ee) Johnson. Desire is aptly named, though seemingly mispronounced in it’s use as a name instead of a feeling/want. Desire is in prison for a murder he claims he did not commit. He is in prison, not because there was evidence that he killed a police officer, but instead, because he stated in court that if he was to kill a man, he would want it to be a bastard such as the one he was accused of killing. This was enough for the court. Desire is now rotting in prison and awaiting his own execution.

Desire (not the name) is exactly what saves him from death. On the day of execution, his final request is to have one final cigarette. The difficulty is that there is a general ban on smoking in all public buildings, including the prison. Will his last wish be fulfilled as the antiquated law books advise it should? Should the law upholding the rights of all the other citizens in the building be upheld instead, and his last cigarette be denied in defense of the lungs that might be affected?

This is an obvious conundrum for anyone trying to climb the career ladder. They don’t want the wrong decision hanging over their head. It would haunt one into unemployment.

~~

Queue plot line two: A man is indifferent to children. They stay out of his way, and he is generally happy with that. Our culture has come full swing to the position where children are a blessing. They are pure and clean and can do nothing wrong. Our secondary protagonist works for the city, and in the main city hall offices, he spends every day tortured.

The mayor of the city has performed cutbacks that laid a great deal of people off. in order to offset the stigma associated with layoffs and cutbacks, he has converted all of the newly opened space in the governmental buildings. The newly freed space becomes a full time daycare facility for anyone who needs it. Children run rampant across the building, and people are advised not to disturb them from their processes. anyone who continually causes issues or bitches gets flagged as a “hater of children” and people treat them differently.

our protagonist is a smoker. the general smoking ban has extended itself into the private sector, causing individuals to be unable to smoke in their own homes. he starts feeling a rebellious urge.

taking 6 months, he slowly creates a smoking area in a disused bathroom in his office building, someplace he can creep away to and not be caught by any of the building wide sensors, checking for elements that might harm others, especially the children.

One day he gets caught by a young girl while smoking. His butt goes out the window, he yells at the girl. In retaliation, she tells the world that he was lewd toward her in the bathroom. As a smoker, a known “hater of Children”, and an adult male, he it put in jail nearly instantly.

They ask, why would a child lie about something like that and the answer is, they would not. Everyone convicted of Crimes Against Children always state they are innocent.. these two factors combined make him a losing case, fucked by the system and officially ruined for life.

oh yeah, and a woman was hit by his cigarette butt and is suing.

not much here is not described in the first two chapters or the back of the book, so dont feel like reading this should deter you from picking up the book anytime soon. it doesnt spoil more than a few points.
( )
  JasonBrownPDX | Aug 18, 2008 |
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"A novel about the chaos that results when there's a rule for everything. In the over-legislated world of this black comedy, a death-row inmate becomes a darling of the media - and the tobacco conglomerates - after he demands his right to a final cigarette in a smoke-free prison." "Meanwhile, a little girl accuses a petty municipal bureaucrat of sexual perversion when she catches him sneaking a cigarette. Incredulously, he realizes that in this world where children are not just kings, but tyrants, a cigarette could lead him to the electric chair."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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