No Touching by Ketty Rouf | Book Review

“Today , I don’t exist. Tomorrow, I probably won’t, either. (…)Today is the first day of school.”

“Exhausted. (…) Do your job. Hang on. (…) It is a truly wretched existence, one that drove me to seek stimulation by reading the great philosophers. Where the hell did I get the ludicrous idea of finding happiness in thinking? I wrapped myself up in concepts to forget my own misery, and the misery of existence.”

“(…) when you earn your entire monthly teacher’s salary in just a few nights of dancing, you suddenly forget all those books you’ve read and reread (…). Who said money can’t buy happiness?”

No Touching by Ketty Rouf  published by Europa Editions UK in translation of Tina Kover tells a story of 35-year old Josephine, a high school philosophy teacher in one of the rundown suburbs of Paris. She gets through her day only thanks to antidepressants. Her pupils are uninterested and indifferent to her teaching. Her life appears to be miserable with no hope for any better future. In the evenings she goes for long walks across the city during one of which she visits the strip club where “women [are] exposed without being stripped bare, unassailable in their womanhood.” Josephine decides to sign up for a striptease dance class – “an hour and half when [she] feels alive.” At nights she starts working in a strip club in Paris where she creates strong friendships with other women and her emotional well being is deeply affected by her additional night job :

“(…) no more suffering now. Here I am, stripped naked, finally. I’ve stopped taking antidepressants. No more therapy sessions. The night is my brightest day, a perpetual present of brilliance and well-being.”

No Touching is a profoundly moving, thought provoking and philosophical read. The skillful exploration of many social issues faced by people living in a modern urban society is thought provoking. Some of the topics covered in the book include the connection between the myth of having so called ‘a respectable job‘ and fulfillment and happiness; our understanding of success based on having ‘a respectable job’ but poorly paid such as teaching versus job perceived as ‘less’ by social and cultural norms imposed by the decades of tradition but providing one with financial stability. No Touching is also an wonderful and moving contemplation on our perception of the human body; its nakedness is treated as a manner of feeling like a complete being. The issue of depression caused by the misery of the mundanity of our everyday existence and holding those dead-end jobs is brilliantly portrayed in the book.

Reading No Touching by Ketty Rouf is a stunning achievement and a wonderful, deeply moving literary experience…

Thank you to Ketty Rouf for writing this profoundly thought provoking book and to  Europa Editions UK for publishing this magnificent book in English.

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