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Filth Paperback – September 17, 1998

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (September 17, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393318680
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393318685
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (178 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #66,998 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Talk about truth in advertising! Irvine Welsh's novel about an evil Edinburgh cop is filthy enough to please the most crud-craving fans of his blockbuster debut, Trainspotting. Like Trainspotting, Filth matches its nastiness with a maniacal, deeply peeved sense of humor. Though one does feel the need to escape this train wreck of a narrative from time to time for a shower and some chamomile tea, just as often Welsh provokes a belly laugh with an extraordinarily perverse and cruelly funny set piece. Nicely violent turns of phrase litter the ghastly landscape of his tale.

Our hero, Detective Sergeant Bruce Robertson, is a cross between Harvey Keitel in Bad Lieutenant and John Belushi in Animal House. His task is to nab a killer who has brained the son of the Ghanaian ambassador, but bigoted Bruce is more urgently concerned with coercing sex from teenage Ecstasy dealers, planning vice tours of Amsterdam, and mulling over his lurid love life. He's also got a tapeworm, whose monologue is printed right down the middle of many pages. Here's one of this unusually articulate parasite's realizations: "My problem is that I seem to have quite a simple biological structure with no mechanism for the transference of all my grand and noble thoughts into fine deeds."

Welsh's real strength is comic tough talk and inventive slang. The murder mystery helps organize his tendency to sprawl, but the engine of his art is wry, harsh dialogue. At one point, his books hogged the entire top half of Scotland's Top Ten Bestsellers list--and half the buyers of Trainspotting had never bought a book before. The reason is not that Welsh is the best novelist who ever got short-listed for the Booker Prize. It is that he is that rarest of phenomena, an original voice. --Tim Appelo

From Publishers Weekly

Another scabrous, lurid, blackly comic novel from America's favorite Scottish enfant terrible, this one does for present-day Edinburgh what James Ellroy does for 1950s Los Angeles. Welsh begins with a detective's investigation into a murder?the death of a Ghanaian ambassador's son?and turns it into a vivid exploration of the detective's own twisted psyche and seedy milieu. Detective Bruce Robertson finds himself preoccupied not with the murder but with his own genital eczema, sadistic sexual antics involving any number of girlfriends and prostitutes, his increasingly chronic appetite for coke, alcohol and greasy fast food and, finally, the parasite that has taken up residence in his intestines. Welsh effectively plays off Robertson's bilious narration with the coolly insistent voice of another entity?the tapeworm, who seems to be the repository of Robertson's childhood memories and what is left of his superego?as the detective spins out of control, wasting himself in increasingly risky games of erotic asphyxiation with one of his mistresses (ex-wife of another detective), machinations to undermine his colleagues, and misanthropic rage: "Criminals, spastics, niggers, strikers, thugs, I don't fucking well care, it all adds up to one thing: something to smash." Even for readers who have mastered Welsh's Scots dialect, such an eloquently nasty narrator can be exhausting. As in the past, Welsh himself sometimes seems rather compromised as a satirist by the glee he takes in his characters' repulsiveness. Yet if this hypnotic chronicle of moral and psychological ruin (funnier and far more accessible than Welsh's last full-length novel, Marabou Stork Nightmares) fails to charm a wide readership, it will not disappoint devotees. Editor, Gerald Howard; author tour.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

More About the Author

Irvine Welsh is the author of Trainspotting, Ecstasy, Glue, Porno, Filth, Marabou Stork Nightmares, The Acid House, If You Liked School, You'll Love Work, The Bedroom Secrets of the Master Chefs and Reheated Cabbage. He divides his time between Florida, Ireland, and Scotland.

Customer Reviews

It's my favourite Irvine Welsh book, and I've read them all.
Munko McCentral
FILTH is the hilariously tragic tale of policeman Bruce Robertson, one of the most unrepentantly vile characters I've ever had the pleasure to "meet".
M. Gatewood
Filth demonstrates that Irvine Welsh is one of the modern giants of literature.
rob cruise (

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By EarlHepJames on November 29, 2004
Format: Paperback
While it's one of the more depressing books I've read in a while, it was also one of the most enjoyable books as well. Welch does a great job with dialogue, and the narrative is entertaining. There were rare moments that I found less than credible, but they tended to be funny moments that did not detract from the book's value. He also does an excellent job of developing the character of his protagonist, who is one of the most rounded, complex and believable characters to be found in contemporary fiction. Admittedly, many will disagree with that last assertion, but I think that that is due to a misreading of the character and the book.

The protagonist Bruce Robertson seems sociopathic at the outset. He is a mean and cruel man, unable to empathize with others, and who entertains himself with the misery of others. He does not seem to have a noble sentiment in him, and he leads a filthy life of cruelty and debauchery. But Robertson is not a reliable narrator, even when it comes to himself. He believes himself to be this sociopathic monster, when in reality, he's a better person than he believes himself to be. Sometimes his more noble aspects slip out. More often, he's gratuitously cruel. Over time, we realize that Robertson is not really a sociopath at all, but that he actually suffers from depression.

This depression is brought on, and made worse by Robertson's inability to release his emotions. He fills his spare time with alcohol, drugs, and sex to avoid thinking about the horrors he has confronted on his job as a police man, such as grisly murders and child abuse. He constructs a tough façade so that he does not have to confront his feelings about his wife and daughter who have left him, or about his rough childhood.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 2, 1999
Format: Paperback
Irvine Welsh didnt read much fiction, before becoming a novelist, and therefore he has no regard for lit norms. He has a fresh, sobering point of view that seeths through all of his work. "Filth" his newest novel, that takes place in the same literary universe as "Trainspotting" and "Marabou Stork Nightmares,"(Begbie, and Lexo are mentioned in all three novels, and many others are mentioned in two of the three) is another must read by this talented author.
"Trainspotting" is about the junkies, "Marabou Stork Nightmares" is about the thugs, and now we see the point of view of a policeman in "Filth."
Irvine Welsh does a little more chiseling away at our xenophobia, he creates characters that are so lifelike they jump off the pages at you. "Filth" is about a nasty cop, but you almost find yourself rooting for him, hoping he gets his promotion, and that he can keep his superiors happy. Irvine Welsh has been called the voice of the chemical generation, and drugs are commonly dispersed in the plots of his novels, but that is all beside the point. His social commentary, and perspective are invaluable. A naturally gifted "writer" who keeps you turning the pages, following characters that seem all too familiar.
As far as a brief synopsis of the novel, read the back cover, i wouldnt want to give anything away. It's a must read....along with his previous two novels, and "ecstacy," and "The Acid House"
Irvine Welsh is still young for a novelist, Dostaevski didnt write his best work until he was in his 60's, same goes with bukowski, burroughs, other authors that may interest you if you like irvine welsh.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By mark bokser on February 14, 2000
Format: Paperback
Welshs' Bruce Robertson has not one redeeming personal quality that is required for our co-existence as a society. After all, he is a liar, thief adulterer,racist;a drunk with a "wee" coke problem,a gay basher with no respect for his superiors and especially women in authority/general. The books Scottish dialect does take some getting used to especially its rhryming slang, but it is brutally honest as far as seeing life in the first person of a true "sociopath" whose progressive demise into the abyss is at the same time very gratifying, yet very depressing, for Bruce took "life" for granted. He was fortunate in that he had a family,friends and freedom but his insecurities and selfishness fuelled his need to destroy others, so that in effect if he couldnt enjoy life then no-one else would.He was jealous of anyone that dared to live a life that he could so have easily attained. This was a brilliant book,a laugh a minute -no even a second - but its message far exceeds this aspect and after all the schemes,backstabbing,prostitutes,drugs and ointment you could poke a stick at, this was all that this masterful storyteller was trying to say. This book could not have been called anything else and I'll never be able to look at a pig again without thinking of Bruce. "We hate ourself for being unable to be other than what we are" Irwin Welsh - "Filth"
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Daniel H. Bigelow VINE VOICE on June 15, 1999
Format: Paperback
I have never read a more disgusting book in my life and never run across a character bad on as many levels as protagonist DS Robertson. Welsh's wild and well written hyperbole carries us through some truly vile scenes to a finale which manages the nearly impossible: it humanizes Robertson by making him even more evil.
It is not usually idea of entertainment to watch horrible people do horrible things. Therefore I consider this book not an entertainment but a very clever literary stunt. As a stunt, it works.
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