Hanif Kureishi’s novella, The Nothing, is the story of Waldo, an aged and once-lauded film-maker, who is now confined to his wheelchair in his London apartment under the care of his much younger wife, Zee. He suspects his wife is cheating on him with a middle-aged film critic, Eddie, who visits every day, and sets out to expose their illicit affair and enact his revenge.
Waldo’s frustration and rage borders on comical to truly terrifying, and the rawness of his fluctuating emotions is worryingly authentic. My relationship with the man alternated throughout the course of the novel; at first I sympathised with his situation, then as he marinated in his lust for revenge, I became repulsed by his scheming, and willingness to trample anyone to satisfy his quest for vengeance. The Nothing is told exclusively from his perspective, and every character is tainted as a result, and their true motivations remain masked, left for our biased narrator to interpret.
The Nothing blends elements of classic 40s and 50s American noir cinema with tragedy on a Shakespearean level. This is a story about a man fading from the world because of age and illness, struggling for relevance as a result, and striving to land one final blow and do one more thing of consequence. Waldo isn’t likeable, but his story is compelling, and expertly told with Kureishi’s signature dosage of black comedy. A quick read, but an impactful one.