If we are headed towards a future where landscapes increasingly resemble one another, a similar destiny might be on its way for language, too. Of course, the question of language is a crucial matter when writing fiction – even more so in the work of a novelist like Thirlwell, who’s always been interested in language theory and translation. Any language is by its own nature destined to evolve or die. However, in the Internet era, English has been singled out as a universal language of exchange.
Rarely handed down in its pure form, it is constantly altered by its interactions with other languages, such as Chinese or Spanish. Often, it is hyper-simplified, peppered with grammatical mistakes or translated into its very basic components, as in the result of a Google Translation. The very title of Thirlwell’s new novel Lurid & Cute is a nod to popular Internet memes.
Ultimately, what is most striking in the work of the British author is his surprising willingness to avoid convention. Broad cultural change often causes the intellectual elite to revert to tradition, with a tendency to seek refuge in the nostalgia of the past. Reading Thirlwell, we experience the opposite pull: his work simmers with a genuine excitement for the future, and the unpredictable, human and artistic challenges it has in store.