Here is my problem. Not only have I stated on Twitter that this is one of the best books I’ve read this year, but I’ve also given it five shiny stars. The problem begins with the fact that I could just ramble on for 1000 words without really saying a lot, another issue is that the book is so tough to describe without giving too much away.
Here is an attempt to sum up the plot. We follow the central character Egon Loeser who is a theatre set designer residing in Berlin a little before WW2 kicks off. Egon, one night, falls in love with a beautiful young woman and she walks off and sleeps with somebody else. Despite the fact that Adele wandered off and commenced sleeping with hundreds of men, Loeser pictures Adele as his ultimate goal – a sexual holy grail, if you like. This sparks a trip across the world as Loeser tries to finally take Adele to bed.
That is the plot in its most basic form. I haven’t mentioned anything about Loeser’s obsession with 17th century Venation inventor Lavicini who invented a stage prop called the Teleportation Device – which Loeser is attempting to build himself. Nor have I mentioned the Teleportation Device being developed in America that actually teleports things. There’s a murder mystery, plenty of dark comedy, Loeser’s secondary obsession with a favourite pornographic book that has been lost and he must find again and then there’s the effect the war has on Loeser.
What’s quite wonderful is Beauman’s writing and how he approaches his subjects. Loeser is a superb character but, at times, is utterly unlikeable… which makes him the more endearing. Loeser is self centred, he thinks of no more than himself and his sex life but he is intelligent, witty and a joy to read. It’s a testament to Beauman’s writing that he can make a rather deplorable character so appealing. It’s likely that the humour found in the book is what propels Loeser, he is a caricature of a fictional outlandish personality.
It’s rare that I use quotes in my reviews but there has to be some here to truly depict Loeser. The following quote is taken from a dinner party scene where Loeser meets a man who possibly holds a copy of the pornographic book he seeks and during the conversation he is reminded of Brecht, a man in Berlin who he hated.
‘Nazi, Loeser?’ said Gorge. ‘Pardon me?’ said Loeser. ‘Nazi?’ repeated Gorge, as if he were offering Loeser some sort of hors d’oeuvre. ‘No, Loeser is not political,’ interceded Rackenham. ‘He is very happy, I’m sure, to have escaped all the unpleasantness going on in Berlin.’ Loeser thought of Brecht and nodded.”
Another example of Loeser’s attitude is found in the latter stages of the novel where he receives a letter from a Jewish friend living under the Nazi occupation. After reading the first page of the letter we become drawn in by this absent friend and as he begins to depict the horrors in Berlin Loeser absently screws it into a ball believing nothing more than his friend is over exaggerating and Loeser doesn’t have time for his complaining.
In fact Loeser is totally absent from anything around him. He avoids the news and knows nothing of the treatment of the Jews in Germany. It’s almost as if it is below him. He has his focus in his life and that is found in Adele Hitler (no relation).
The plot is utterly bonkers at times and it spirals through so many off the wall moments that it could be perceived as a farcical comedy/tragedy. It’s no real surprise then that Beauman puts his central star in the most awkward positions and outlandish situations. One such example would be Loeser posing as a doctor who transplants Monkey glands into people to extend their life. Or when Loeser believes his house is haunted and he must bring in a ghost hunter. Honestly, so much happens it’s like an extended (and rather intellectual) sitcom.
[It appears I am just gushing incoherently… apologies]
When I recommended this on Twitter someone asked me what the novel was about and despite my above writings and the fact that I read and enjoyed the book… I couldn’t actually tell them. It’s best just to enjoy the ride rather than worry about how the tracks were laid and why.
Best of all is Beauman himself who writes with both an acerbic wit and a tender narrative. I emailed him after I read the book to clarify something and his reply was so in depth and intelligent I’m still struggling to read his email… three weeks later. His writing is just resplendent and is littered with wry one-liners that made me laugh out loud many times.
When Loeser awoke he realised at once that a mistake had been made: he had been sent the wrong hangover. Somewhere in northern Rhodesia there was a bull elephant who had got drunk on fermented marula fruit rampaged through a nearby village, and fallen asleep in a ditch & was now pleasantly surprised to find itself greeting the day with only the mild headache that follows a couple of bottles of good red wine.”
Perhaps Beauman’s best comedy creation in the novel is Gorge, an old man who suffers from a form of Agnosia which means he cannot decipher between a picture and the real article – he also always greets Loeser by asking “Still German?”. The Agnosia brings out the most riotous humour, particularly when Gorge can no longer tell between the living and the dead. During a conversation with Loeser, Gorge is distracted and runs from the room returning with a shotgun. He then shoots the mounted bear head that is above Loeser…
One of the bear’s glass eyes lay like some sort of ominous cocktail olive in a puddle of pink foam where Gorge’s half-drunk milkshake had been knocked over. ‘How do you think he got in the house?’ ‘That was not a live bear, sir,’ said Woodkin, calm again. ‘That was merely the head of a bear that you shot before in Montana.’ ‘Head! Right. Beg your pardon.’ He looked at Loeser, who was returning tremulously to his seat. ‘Should have explained Krauto. Noggin’s gotten worse.’
[Oh, what do you know, I rambled for over 1000 words. Let’s see if I can summarise the novel concisely, eh?!]
If you enjoy a novel that rampages through strange ideas and leaves behind often hilarious moments in its wake, then you’ll love this book. If you enjoy reading excellent writing from young British talents who will one day be heralded among the best, then you’ll love this book. I’m not sure I can sum it up any better than by saying that even while writing this review I’m chuckling at the jokes and grinning at the premise. Ned Beauman is one to watch and The Teleportation Accident is definitely one to read.
Published by Sceptre. This book was kindly sent by the publisher for review.