Because Death doesn't have to be dull and Life doesn't have to linger...
The Suicide Shop is not exactly hot off the presses (it was released back in 2008), however, after sampling Teule’s Monsieur Montespan, we couldn’t resist the opportunity to take a fresh look at this modern classic.
It is the literary version of a film noir; with the pliable trade of assisting ‘desperates’ staging their final farewell to the world with some level of assurance that they won’t be coming around in a hospital bed; they won’t be coming around anywhere ever again.
The Suicide Shop belongs to the Tuvache family. Has done for generations and the premise is rather simple, if extraordinarily bleak. Set at some point in the future when the human race has all but destroyed itself, the sand dunes have displaced living vegetation and acid rain is the only form of moisture; it is little wonder that a shop aimed at aiding the miserable, the desolate, the grieving, the suicidal a means of ending it all exists. Why bother living life after all? And everyone seems quite content in this macabre dance. Then, there is the youngest Tuvache – Alan. Annoyingly optimistic, his upbeat outlook on life grates on his sombre family; his disposition a source of embarrassment and confusion. But ever so slowly, Alan’s effervescent presence and his beguiling positivity begins to wear down their disaffected veneers and his family metamorphose as does their shop, their dreams and their lives.
Teule’s peculiar tale is for the pessimists, the grumblers, the nit-pickers and the terminally depressed. His point: life is what you make of it. Which is either even more depressing or a tonic for the soul. However, there are layers of themes and a shocking subplot that should be acknowledged. Environmentalism is not usually the fodder of dark comedies, goodness knows why not. Teule’s rout of the government on live television; when unknowingly exposed to laughing gas, they all proclaim their foibles, indolence and responsibility for allowing the planet to become inhospitable to life is hilarious and refreshing. In fact, the core pivots on the environmental disaster that the Earth has become. Then we have body dysmorphia – a common complaint amongst teenage girls – and the Marilyn’s glorious recognition that curves make you beautiful and womanly. Consider how just a few simple words of encouragement or support can change the course of someone’s life and the story becomes more than just a black comedy about death – it transforms into a life lesson about how we live life.
Original, irredeemably mocking and unexpectedly poignant; The Suicide Shop is a timeless classic. Teule’s subtle and understated humour is exquisitely French and his ability to mix up the serious, the taboo, the comical and the tender displays a brilliance rarely seen. What begins as a lightly diverting tale of death, family and how to make the most of what you’ve got; ends as inescapably heartbreaking. Teule will never grow old for us; he is a Grand Master and there will always be a place for him on our bookshelf.
We interview C J Daugherty about Night School
- 10 January 2012