The New Abject edited by Sarah Eyre, Ra Page

This new anthology of psychological and social horror tackles 'disgust-inducing' everyday objects

Book Review by Rabeea Saleem | 30 Oct 2020
  • The New Abject
Book title: The New Abject
Author: Sarah Eyre and Ra Page [editors]

Taking its title from philosopher Julia Kristeva’s psychoanalytic theory, abject things are described as ‘border objects’ which trouble the distinction between self and other. These 'disgust-inducing' objects include commonplace things like shed skin, nail clippings, menstrual blood, or severed limbs. This anthology is an extension of the theory, dwelling on things that abjectly disgust us in both the psychological and social realms. 

Most of the stories elicit a mix of physical disgust and deep-rooted empathy. It is astounding to realise that the majority of these were written pre-COVID, given their relevance to the strange purgatory the world finds itself. There is an interesting anecdote from Ra Page about having a nightmare after finding a facemask in his box of discarded items, several years from now. Many of us can relate to him recoiling from pure disgust at the sight of one of the requisite objects that define our existence right now. 

Here, protagonists have shed their past selves, or temporarily climbed back into their own skin by becoming obsessed with innocuous, undesirable objects like stains, broken teeth, hair and eyelashes that fall out. These fixations are symptomatic of deeper, more personal afflictions like psychological trauma and abuse. The writers, by using these sloughed off objects, illustrate the ordinary yet disturbing notion of modern anxieties. Featuring literary powerhouses like Mark Haddon, Saleem Haddad and Margaret Drabble, this eerie, provocative anthology redefines modern horror for our era.

Comma Press, out now, £9.99