The Butt: Observer and Guardian reviews

“Tom Brodzinski, on holiday in a strange, unnamed country, decides to cave in to the strict anti-smoking laws and give up his nicotine habit. First, he wants a final cigarette. When he flicks the butt from the balcony of his rented apartment, it drops on to the head of a man sunbathing below. Forced to make reparations to the victim’s family for this “assault”, Brodzinski begins a nightmare journey of redemption through a crazy landscape ravaged by warfare and characterised by the tribal customs of its inhabitants. Self’s homage to Conrad’s Heart of Darkness is written with razor-sharp descriptions and dark comedy which grip the reader until the concluding pages. Lucy Scholes

“Alan Ayckbourn once wrote a play with 48 variant endings depending on whether a character chose to smoke a cigarette in the first scene. None of them is quite as preposterous as the fate that befalls Will Self’s hero, Tom Brodzinski, when he unthinkingly flips a stub over the balcony of his holiday home, causing mild burns to the man in the apartment below. A simple accident soon develops into a punitive sequence of compensation claims handled by extortionate lawyers and incompetent witch-doctors. The location is anyone’s guess – reference to dunnies and interior desert indicates Australia, though the insurgency going on suggests Afghanistan or Iraq. The invented anthropology is adeptly realised, though it also leads to passages of Self indulgence, such as lingering over arcane rituals whose significance is known only to the author. The satire comes with a Swiftian sense of indignation, though the continued harping about prohibition in public places suggests that the one thing that really irks him is anti-smoking legislation. Alfred Hickling.”