Robert Newman is turning out to be a very interesting novelist, and The Fountain at the Centre of the World
an interesting novel. Unlike many of his fellow writer-comedians, he appears to be genuinely interested in his craft, regarding his novels not just as vehicles for gags or smart observations, but as structurally and emotionally satisfying objects. But then he always was the cerebral one. The Fountain at the Centre of the World
is certainly worth reading for its qualities as a novel; but it is also worth paying attention to because, in addition to being ambitious and intelligent, it is that rather rare thing, a genuinely political novel. This is not, however, the politics of Westminster or Washington, though it does embody analogous clashes between personal ambitions and ideologies. The politics are those of globalisation and world trade, and it is greatly to Newman's credit that he has ventured as a novelist into an area hitherto mostly the prerogative of polemicists such as Naomi Klein and George Monbiot.
Reduced to its essentials, the plot may seem a little schematic, but this is not such a bad thing when the moral and political issues engendered are so powerful. Chano Salgado, resting Mexican political dissident, whose wife has been murdered by the militia and whose young son Daniel has disappeared, is persuaded by old comrades to come to life and destroy the pipelines through which a (bad) Global Corporation is sucking up a community's groundwater. From his acceptance of the job flow enormous consequences. Meanwhile, in London, Chano's brother, adopted by a British couple and known to himself as Evan Hatch, is a PR executive working to promote the interests of precisely the corporate entities opposed by Chano and his cohort. The formal structure of the book entails a double curve as these two main characters converge inexorably on the World Trade Organisation talks in Seattle in 1999. Besides these two protagonists, Newman peoples his novel with a richly variegated cast of capitalists and anticapitalists whose combined purpose is to propel the brothers on the way to their fateful meeting but who also manage to maintain their own vigorous and independent life in the margins. Like the fountain of the title, an ordinary Mexican village fountain which is at the same time a seismograph, symbolically "responding minutely to everything that's going on everywhere on earth", they determine the moral compass of this remarkable story. --Robin Davidson
"... a sublimely frisky novel ... it reads like what you'd get if Tom Wolfe climbed inside the head of Noam Chomsky." -- New York Times "...the talismanic Catch-22 of the antiglobalization protest movement, the fictional complement to Naomi Klein's influential treatise No Logo. Expect to see copies of it peeking out of battered rucksacks from Berkeley to Burlington... startlingly vivid... who is this guy?" - The New York Times "makes a lot of British fiction seem rather tender-minded in comparison." -Guardian "[A] wonderful, big-hearted, textured, funny, moral and deeply unfashionable book." - Guardian Weekend "[An] epic novel... full of incedent, emotion and polemic... an expansive, fluid and moving story." - Independent on Sunday "A] testimonial to Newman's formidable range, intelligence and talent." - Publishers' Weekly "Could this herald the resuscitation of the English 'literary political novel', almost dead in the water since the best work of Malcolm Lowry and Graham Greene"... [Newman] has... taken a rare risk... to remind us how the personal is political and vice versa." - Independent
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.