If fiction has taught me one thing it’s that after the apocalypse — whether it’s in the form of a virus, cataclysmic earthquake, nuclear fallout, whatever — a small section of mankind will survive, some of whom will be warped into violent psychopaths (possibly riding motorbikes), while the others will merely struggle to survive in a decimated world, ultimately establishing a semblance of a new society, or at least leaving readers with the hope that all is not lost.
But all is lost in Heinz Helle’s Euphoria. We are not privy to the specifics of this world’s apocalypse; all we know — told from the perspective of an unnamed narrator — is that he and his four childhood friends — all male — were on holiday together in a remote mountain chalet when the end times arrived. The world around them is now empty, void of almost all human life, its towns and villages reduced to ashes because of various conflagrations. This is not a zombie-infested world, or one inhabited by crazed humans. It’s just desolate and dehumanised. Society is gone. All that matters to our narrator and his friends is survival, and co-existing, if only because they are stronger united than apart.
Euphoria is bleak and brutal, exposing the worst of man even as they demonstrate the tenacity to survive in such horrific circumstances. The novel flits backwards and forwards between the post-apocalyptic present and the pre-apocalyptic past, the latter of which presents these men as imperfect specimens, but resoundingly and empathetically human, whereas the former removes any sort of sympathy. It takes a very short period of time for our narrator and his friends to descend into savagery and submit to their base desires.
This is a short but wholly memorable novel. It’s reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, but whereas that masterpiece beat to the drum of the love between a father and a son, Euphoria quickly strips the emotion away from these survivor’s plight. It’s a harsh tale, but beautifully rendered.
Format: Paperback (215mm x 138mm x 17mm)
Imprint: Serpent’s Tail
Publisher: Profile Books Ltd
Publish Date: 16-Feb-2017
Country of Publication: United Kingdom