on January 24, 2000
In my opinion, there is nothing more powereful than a book that makes you want to reach inside and touch the characters. Throughout this book, I wanted to do just that. The stream-of-conciousness style pulled me into Chimo's mind and wouldn't let me out; I saw the ghettos as he saw them, and I saw Lila as he saw her. I understood what he understood because his language made me feel it, and it devistated me. It's very seldom that I read a book and have to take a few moments after finishing it to gather up the pieces and put myself back together. Jane Eyre, Tess of the D'Urbervilles, and Jude the Obscure are just a few of these works; and the fact that the slim little volume "Lila Says" can do just as much to me as those classics speaks volumes.
on October 20, 1999
If you had ten stars for your ratings, I would give this book twelve of them. The Algerian slums outside of Paris. A 19-year old boy who knows that he has no future. Yet he steals paper and pencil to write stories, dreaming to become a celebrated writer. A 16-year old girl who dreams of perfect love. She knows she will never achieve it. So she talks dirty to force it. An incredibly powerful story of two people condemned to live all their life in abject poverty, knowing this - and still hoping, trying to force destiny. A very sad book, and very disturbing.
on October 16, 2000
Even without the publishing mystery that stands in the background of this books's publication, it would still be an excellent book. It seems too facile to follow the Times lead and write it off as morally abject or high brow pornography. Sure, the book has sex right in the forefront, but it also holds poverty, despair and life in the projects right in your face. The fact that Chimo struggles after each incident to stay up by candlelight and try to capture in his diary what Lila says, shows that there is some salvation. The material can be a bit shocking. You'll never think of riding a bike the same way again! The first thing we hear Lila say to the narrator is, "Do you want to see my pussy." If you're troubled, read no further. But, if you want to see beneath the outer layer of life in the projects in France, you'll want to keep reading.
I don't want to give away the plot, but the scene in which Lila describes the devil to her pious aunt will have you alternating between laughing and crying, and the ending is well-suited to the novel.
I don't know if I believe the story behind the book's publication, but whoever Chimo is, he/she has a powerful literary voice and a unique style.
on March 13, 2003
'Lila Says' is a book i picked up for the first time today and quickly finished. The beauty and simplicity of the text owes everything to the wonderfully spontaneous, stream of conciousness format by which Chimo's story is conveyed to the reader and it loses nothing despite (by Chimo's own admission) his worries that he has difficulty expressing himself in a formally eloquent manner.
Lila (with whom Chimo the narrator is obsessed) is a breathtakingly sexual character who both excited and dismayed me as a reader; her burgeoning sexuality reminded me of my own puberty, the main difference being that she takes her sexual desires almost to the brink of nymphomania (indeed, describing a sexual encounter with the devil is one flight of fancy that i have yet to take.)
The narrative style is similar to that of JD Salinger's Holden, and 'Lila Says's' protagonist holds many similarities with Salingers' creation. They share the same adolescent doubts and emotional turmoils that will be familiar to those that can remember their teenage years and the free flowing, often barely structured narrative, keeps you reading with the same fervour and hunger that you would feel if you'd accidently got hold of a close friends diary, (indeed there is some controversy about the origins of the book but many believe that the manuscript was indeed a genuine diary, thus explaining this.)
Despite Chimo's lack of education and, frankly, bleak future, you really do care about what happens to him within a very few pages of the book. Similarly, Chimo paints Lila's character in such a way that you are quickly both in awe and slighly repelled by her beauty and morally reprehensible sexual conduct (be it imagined or otherwise.)
I would recommend this book to readers with voyueristic tendencies, but it is certainly not for the faint hearted- (even i blanched at the description of being anally buggered!)
But certainly do pick it up and have a go, and if it appeals, try Salinger's 'The Catcher in the Rye' for a book of similar format and themes yet minus the sex, rape and violence.
on May 20, 1999
I was compelled to read on and on. Through the images of despair; the destructive frustration of the trap of poverty. Through the eyes of a prisoner in the dirty concrete other world, minutes away from Paris. The nameless ghetto estate is our exclusive setting. A story told through the eyes of a young Arabic lad, less hardened than his friends to the harshness of life, who finds a moment of liberation in his relationship with Lila.
Lila finds freedom in other ways. She reaches out for something tangible that penetrates the shell around her emotions. She finds it only in images. To feel sex is not enough that she needs to see it as well, herself in a mirror, or on a TV screen. She is able to describe her fantasies most lucidly to Chimo, her confidant, who duly transcribes them for our reading pleasure. It is the exciting, voyeuristic joy gained from reading these accounts; of loveless sexual hedonism from the mouth of a child, that disturbs me about this account most of all. It seems even at 16 years of age Lila is rendered incapable of love. Could she love Chimo?
Chimo describes Lila's beauty with such eloquence and emotion that it is clear that he loves her. But does such eloquence betray the book as ghost written by the publishers; the story of the anonymous manuscripts simply a publicity stunt? The naivety, simplicity and disorder of the work adds an air of authenticity. In a sense it does not matter who wrote it, the book will leave you breathless anyway.
on December 6, 1998
review by Ash This is a book I finished reading within 3 hours. The subjects of the book are poverty, gangs, sex and love. Easy read to pass a few hours while waiting for someone or something. The front portion of the book concentrates on sexiness, middle bulk on longing for love and being poor, and it ends with a relatively surprising tragic climax. Do not read this book to feel good. Unlike Angela's Ash, this story does not end happily after all the suffering. The protagonist in the book is supposed to be the writer, and it's supposed to be true. Do judge for yourself. He is an Arab youth growing up in the slums outside Paris. A girl named Lila came and swept him off his feet. he longs for her but their impoverished lives kept them apart. The theme is love is impossible for the poor. This book makes you feel how lucky you are, if you are not living the lives of the characters in the book. And if it is make into a movie, I suspect it would look something like "Once were warriors".
on January 26, 1999
This was such a powerful book. The main character is a wonderful person. Reading this book i could feel myself falling a little in love with him, identifying with his struggles, although I never suffered them, and feeling a well of sadness at the helplessness and hopelessness he feels. You just want to pull him out of there, give him a hug, some money, a reason to live. The mystery behind the origin of the book is also interesting. This is a great book, delivered with a powerful narrative style. Definetely worth it. It grabs you and doesn't let go until you finish. Filled with powerful images. I highly recommend it, but it's not for the faint-hearted and the weak of stomach. It's ugly and beautiful, just like life. It's a high dose of reality, bleak and long suffering. Make sure there's a fluffy movie on t.v. for when you finish. You'll need it!
on November 2, 2001
How often can you say a story with nearly harcodre sex depictions is on a high literary level? You can quite say this about this gem: the sex is not the core of the story, but a part of a very tragic relationship between two teenagers in Paris, in the ugly part of town. The sex becomes an accessory to a very clean and mature way of story-telling. No boring nonsense, no boring descriptions and, what is best, no "elegant" language at all. It is simple, with no ridiculous metaphors, and beautiful, just like the best poetry. Buy it and enjoy what a good writer can do.
on July 22, 2001
On first glance, the novel suggested a kind of "l'Amant" appeal, with its slim frame, grey and red tones, and messy comments scrawled (printed, actually) over. And it's not one to be passed over lightly.
This book caused quite a stir when it was first published in France, and after reading it, I understood why. For one, it was raw, gritty, scathing, erotic to the point of pornography (at least the English translation is), and pretty tragic.
It begins with Chimo, a nineteen-year-old Arab boy, unemployed, bored, with little better to do with his frieds than steal, trash the day, the government, and...um...jerk off (Chimo's words, not mine!).
So in all this bleakness and despair comes Lila, a sixteen year-old with angelic good looks, a killer smile, a hyperreligious background...and a load of demonically steamy tales of her "exploits".
She talks only to Chimo, fanning his friends' resentment, telling him of what she does, who she's been with, and performs a feat on him (by bike) that a master gymnast couldn't manage.
Her sex-stemmed stories and fantasies offer a sort of brief...escape, inspiring him, and he writes, unsteadily at first, the more secure, building it up, hurriedly, breathlessly, until it's clear it can't go on any longer...
This book has been written off by critics as a sort of voyeuristic pleasure, porno, and a naive attempt at social satire. I think it's mostly the translation's fault, because (from previous readings), that anything sweet and innocent in French will almost inevitably sound cynical and sarcastic in English. I'll have to say this was the case, but it differed little from the original, and it's one you'll see sticking out of many backpacks.
Pornography? Perhaps, but it's more than that.
on November 4, 2010
Lila Says is about a young Middle Eastern man's experiences in the slums outside Paris. He narrates his story with a young European woman named Lila. Lila's new in the neighborhood, and Chimo sees her as unique because she only talks to him rather than any other guys in the area.
The story is written in a stream-of-consciousness style (think Mrs. Dalloway), so if you're into that, you should definitely read this one. Chimo takes us into the slums and lives of people you would probably otherwise not know about, and concludes with a tragic (though rash) ending. There's a lot of sexual content throughout the novel, so be prepared for that. It might excite some and displease others, but keep an open mind because this is just how slum dwellers must live.
I wish there was more information about the anonymous author, and whether this was based on a true story or something. But I guess that mystery adds to the book's appeal. Go and read it!