Neil Boorman

The Miracle Of Biltong

Published in Manzine

A woman plans to leave the marital home for the weekend to visit her parents, opening a two-day window of freedom for the man. In the build up to the event, the man imagines the debauched possibilities he could indulge in, and get away with, unfettered by the wife. The weekend becomes a beacon of hope that helps him through the weekly grind. And yet when Saturday finally comes, the orgy of vice never transpires. And he finds himself eating a greasy takeaway curry in bed.

Why would a grown man subconsciously associate junk food and poor hygiene with freedom? Because he is a nihilistic hedonist – he just doesn’t know it yet. Emasculated by society, enslaved by machines and impoverished by his paymasters, the only sane option is to self-destruct. It’s a kind of rational pessimism. Knowing there’s no real chance of bucking the corporate system, the nihilistic hedonist accepts his miserable fate, but vows to go out all guns blazing.

There are two ways a man can go about it. If you’re the kind of guy who’s glass (and wallet) is half full, you could pursue death by luxury. The film La Grande Bouffe is the key reference here; a group of men hire a master chef and a gaggle of prostitutes and retreat to a remote chateaux. At which point they resolve to, and succeed in, eating and shagging themselves to death. It’s quite a scene.

For the truly miserable and/ or down at heel, the more realistic option is to trade down instead of up, and embrace everything that is shit. Smoke Lambert & Butler. Drink White Lightning. Watch ITV2. It’s a death by a thousand low-grade, mass-produced cuts. The misery becomes irresistible over time – like a scratch on the side of your gums that would heal if only you could stop tonguing it. Soon enough your behaviour starts to drive loved ones away. It’s around about this point in the journey that a man will discover biltong.

Biltong is one of the most repulsive snacks ever conceived by the fast food industry. The idea of snacking on bite-sized chunks of dead animal flies in the face of ethical consumerism and self-improvement. And being loaded with fat, salt, sugar and MSG, biltong possesses many other qualities prized by the self-destructive male.

Looking for a reassuring stomach cramp when you wake in the morning? Eat biltong late at night. Want to repel fellow office workers with visible meat sweats? Keep a chunk under your tongue all day. Enjoy frightening pretty girls on the bus? Whip out a packet and tear great chunks with your teeth.

The initial experience with biltong can best be described as a challenge. The taste and smell is so strong, you’ll want to spit it out. It’s only natural – you are, after all, chewing on the backside of an industrially reared and slaughtered cow that’s been sitting in a packet for any number of years. Fight the nausea and keep chewing. As the juice trickles down your throat, you feel a meaty electric shock coursing through your veins. A film of grease collects on the roof of your mouth, just like McDonalds fries. It feels so wrong it can’t possibly be right. But the MSG kicks in and you’re reaching for another hit.

By the end of the packet, your breath will be so fierce it could melt lead. Years of social conditioning will compel you to reach for the Wrigleys. Don’t. Walk towards the nearest acquaintance and converse. The more you talk, the more the air fills with the stench of undigested meat. The look of horror on their face is unmistakable. You are repulsive. But that’s OK. They loathe you, you loathe them, and most importantly, you loathe yourself. This is nihilistic hedonism in its purest from.

In this life, a man can rely on few certainties. But he can guarantee his personal failure on a diet of pessimism and dried meat snacks. A man who not only confronts but promotes his inevitable demise, in the manner that he sees fit, is truly in control of his life. And expecting only the worse, he can rest assured that the world will never, ever disappoint him again.

1 comment

1 Davitt McElroy { 10.13.10 at 8:26 pm }


I have just reached the epilogue in your book page 223.
The book is in itself a reality check period. Can you or I change this reality check is the question. Not that its wrong or justified to try. Small steps hey.
The answer is no of course which your experience has brought to bear.

I am curently operating remotely on a blackberry which is ironic at this stage but would ideally like to correspond if posssible properly.

Ultimately we have all just cause for the round ball we share.

Hoping this isn’t going to some bull link with PA’s and secretarial staff, and that you actually receive this email from what I consider to be a real person ie me.

Best regards,