The latest addition to my website is Don DeLillo‘s Zero K. DeLillo is a Marmite author. Marmite is a disgusting vegetable paste, used in food flavouring or as a sandwich spread. People either love it or hate it. As a result, the word Marmite has come to be used to describe someone or something that people either love or hate. A recent example is our likely next Prime Minister Boris Johnson. My feelings about both Marmite and Boris Johnson are similar. However, I love Don DeLillo, while being aware that many do not.
This book is narrated by Jeffrey Lockhart, something of a drifter, both in terms of his romantic relationships and his career. When he was a young teenager, his father, Ross, walked out on his mother. Ross has become very successful both in the financial world but also at looking at what the future might hold. He married an archaeologist, Artis, who is now dying. At the beginning of the novel, Jeffrey is taken by a series of private planes to a mysterious place called The Convergence, somewhere in Kazakhstan, near the Kyrgyzstan border, where people who are dying are put to sleep and cryogenically preserved with a view to being resuscitated at some unspecified time in the future, probably as someone new. Artis is about to be put to sleep and Jeffrey has come to say his farewells. The place is somewhat mysterious, with strange people, strange sculptures, doors which seem permanently locked and screens popping up with films of disasters and wars. Jeffrey is bemused by all of this and finds it uncomfortable, particularly when his father, who is healthy, announces that he is to join Artis in being put to sleep. Back in the real world, Jeffrey still feels detached, with a girlfriend whose adopted son is Ukrainian by birth, is learning Pashto and clearly is also detached from the world. This is another first-class novel by DeLillo about the human condition as it is and might be and about characters who are, to use the words of one character, fallen out of history.