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Choke (novel)

Choke (2001) by U.S. author Chuck Palahniuk (pronounced "Paula-Nick") is a highly philosophical novel posing the big question: What is the meaning of life? Ask born losers such as Victor and Denny, the two protagonists of Palahniuk´s book, and they will come up with an assortment of mutually exclusive answers because they are just too young to have made up their minds about this existential issue. They have not yet decided if it is sheer hedonism in the form of wild and crazy sex or, at the other end of the spectrum, caring for others to the point of martyrdom.

The symbolism in Choke is fascinating. At one point, Victor says that he is "full of shit" -- which is true both metaphorically, as this is how he sees himself, and literally, as his bowels are blocked. Throughout the novel, he seems to be choking to death: on food, but also on his weird and pointless life and his demanding mother in particular.

Due to its philosophical content, Choke could be essential reading for the young generation -- if it were not for the frequent pornographical passages which, for some, might be hard to stomach. As Choke is episodic in character, individual chapters, for example the one where life in a care centre for the elderly is depicted, could do the trick.

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