Irvine Welsh, Trainspotting and Filth

I recently read Trainspotting, Irvine Welsh’s infamous work set amongst a drug-addicted group of friends flitting about Edinburgh. The book is written in a code-switching dance of English and Scots. The book was loads of fun to read. It was cringey, sick, unforgettable, hilarious, and subversive. Irvine Welsh deserves to be admitted to the god-level tier of filth writers: John Waters, Geoffrey Chaucer, Chuck Palahniuk.

Divine from Pink Flamingos: “Filth are my politics. Filth is my life!”

The suppository sequence. The sheets in the kitchen. Those vivid scenes that these creators manage to produce that remain stuck in our head. There are several such in Trainspotting, but below is an excerpt of just one example. Kelly was at work in a local bar when some raucous English bastards come in.

Ah’m smack-bang in the middle ay a heavy period, and ah’m feeling that scraped out, drained way. Ah go tae the toilet and change tampons, wrapping the used one, which is saturated wi discharge, intae some toilet paper.

A couple ay these rich, imperialist bastards have ordered soup; our trendy tomato and orange. As Graham’s busy preparing the main courses, ah take the bloodied tampon and lower it, like a tea-bag, intae the first bowl ay soup. Ah then squeeze its manky contents oot wi a fork. A couple ay strands ay black, uteral lining float in the soup, before being dissolved wi a healthy stir.

The men’s bawdy conduct continues, so Kelly does not end her revenge there.

Ah go back tae the lavvy and fill a saucepan with ma urine. Cystitis is a problem for me, particularly during ma periods. Ma pish has that stagnant, cloudy look, which suggests a urinary-tract infection.

Ah dilute the carafe ay wine with ma pish; it looks a bit cloudy, but they’re so smashed they winnae notice. Ah pour a quarter ay the wine intae the sink, topping up the carafe with ma pish de resistance.

Ah pour some more ay ma pish ontae the fish. It’s the same colour and consistency as the sauces which marinated it. Crazy!

The pricks eat and drink everything withoot even noticing.

Now if that is not one disgustingly filthy scene, I don’t know what is. Unforgettable.

Welsh’s book is supremely subversive. Writing in Scots is itself a way to subvert the convention of using “Standard” English. The central themes and subject matters are topics that many would shy from: drug-use, HIV, nationalism, death. Welsh takes all of those heavy themes and wraps them in vignettes that weave a cohesive story. Trainspotting is going on my shelf of favorites.  

Renton diving into the worst toilet in Scotland

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