Saturday, April 25, 2009

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S Thompson

Is a theme developing?

‘Fear and Loathing’ was something of a cash-cow for Hunter Stockton Thompson. After the success of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas - his rollercoaster ride across the West accompanied by his legal adviser and a carload of uppers, downers, screamers, laughers, 'a pint of raw ether', mescaline and nihilism - he went on to produce several other works bearing the ‘Fear and Loathing’ franchise. They included Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail, Fear and Loathing at the Watergate, Fear and Loathing in Limbo, Fear and Loathing in America: The Brutal Odyssey of an Outlaw Journalist 1968-1976, and Fear and Loathing at the Superbowl: No Rest for the Wretched.

Oddly enough the franchise seems – it’s just a theory – to have originated with Bertolt Brecht. Brecht’s play Furcht und Elend des Dritten Reiches (1938) translates as ‘Fear and Wretchedness of the Third Reich’. Note that one of the books above - Fear and Loathing at the Superbowl: No Rest for the Wretched – also includes the word ‘wretched’, the adjectival version of the German noun Elend, or wretchedness.

Could Thompson have encountered this play and been consciously or subconsciously influenced by it? Whatever the truth, he often used Nazism as a benchmark for the hilarious insanity of totalitarian power, and styled the USA ‘the Sixth Reich’. And when asked by his biographer to collaborate in a book called Rise of the Body Nazis, his response was typical: ‘Any book with Nazis in the title is my kind of book.’

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