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Whatever Happened to Harold Absalon? Paperback – 15 Oct 2012


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Product details

  • Paperback: 212 pages
  • Publisher: Salt Publishing (15 Oct. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1907773347
  • ISBN-13: 978-1907773341
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 1.2 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 877,238 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Simon Okotie was born to Nigerian/English parents. His family moved to rural Norfolk in the late seventies - seemingly one of few black families in the region. Whatever Happened to Harold Absalon? was conceived on his evening commute from work, as a transport consultant in central London, to Birkbeck, where he was studying philosophy. He also wrote a play on his morning commute from Kilburn to Oxford Circus, on the 189 bus.

Product Description

Review

... charming and fresh; indeed, the only recent comparable fiction would be Will Self's Booker-shortlisted Umbrella, which also features a prolonged, digressive sequence set on a London bus. Simon Okotie's book will receive less attention, but it is equally audacious, and in its own, low-key way, just as compelling. -- David Evans Financial Times Okotie's protagonist, Marguerite, is an investigator (of some kind) charged (by someone) with following the wife of Harold Absalon after the disappearance (perhaps) of her husband. Hardly a nail-biting procedural, the action such as it is goes no further than up and down in an elevator and onto a bus-a timespan of a few minutes, at most. It's a marvel of compression, not in the manner of Jean Echenoz and others who strip the detective novel down to its bones, but by taking a few minor, even meaningless moments of a larger investigation and exploding them to the point of rewarding absurdity. Necessary Fiction

About the Author

Simon Okotie was born to Nigerian/English parents. His autobiographical first novel about growing up in rural Norfolk was a runner-up for the 1998 Saga Prize for black British fiction. He has a First Class engineering degree and Master's degrees in Philosophy and Transport Planning. He lives in London.

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Keris Nine TOP 500 REVIEWER on 16 Nov. 2012
Format: Paperback
The answer to the question posed by the title, presuming it isn't rhetorical, which since it is a detective story (nominally at least) one must presume not, is a destination that you gradually come to feel you might never quite satisfactorily arrive at - much like the end of this sentence. The reason why you might have serious doubts about ever discovering the whereabouts of Harold Absalon is due to the elaborate, circumlocutory, tortuous and frankly digressive processes of the person charged with discovering the whereabouts of the Mayor's missing transport advisor, Marguerite (the detective that is, not the transport advisor, who is indeed, or at least up until recently was (which doesn't suggest that he is dead, although this could be one eventuality) the aforementioned missing Harold Absalon), but the meticulous and indisputable logic of Marguerite at least points to a certain thoroughness in the investigation. So, Whatever Happened To Harold Absalon? You might well ask...

Whether you get there or not (it's worth taking all eventualities into consideration), you will at least enjoy the process (or possibly not) of the entertaining (or otherwise) diversions, digressions and deliberations of the thought processes of Marguerite that, frankly, stretch the elasticity of time and its relation to space to lengths hitherto unexplored in any work of fiction that I have come across.
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It took me a while to get the hang of this book, being (me, that is, rather than the book) a fairly literal-minded, rather than literary-minded, sort of person. But I persevered, four pages at a time, sometimes laughing at the absurdities of the human condition; and I soon found, somewhat to my surprise, that I was beginning to enjoy the constant drip-feed of the contents of the detective's mind. By a quarter-way through I was thinking his mind was very irritating; at the half-way mark I found myself rather liking the chap; by three-quarters way through I was eager to know what he would do next; and by the end I wanted the book not to stop. I do hope Simon writes a sequel, or at least a blog, entitled, `Whatever Happened to Marguerite?'
(I still don't understand the footnotes!)
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Every now and then you find a novel that stretches what a novel can do. This one follows a classic form (in this case, a mystery) then inverts that form (by making its protagonist a mystery himself). It plays with language, and, in doing so, makes you rethink just about everything you see. And, most of all, Whatever Happened makes you identify, deeply, with someone you would be unlikely to identify with if you weren't privy to what's going on in his head. A mystery set on the top deck of a bus may be hard to imagine, but when you start this book, you will be there on that bus, and, once you get going, you will definitely want to ride until the end.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By akp on 10 Nov. 2012
Format: Paperback
This is not an ordinary detective novel. Much is implied, and we are left to work things out for ourselves. There is a mystery, and there are clues which unfold as the book progresses. But most of the action takes place in the protagonist Marguerite's mind as he spends an inordinate amount of time investigating - not the ostensible problem of the whereabouts of Harold Absalon, the Mayor's transport adviser - but exactly what is going on around and within Marguerite at any given moment. One train of thought leads to another, and the digressions and depth of parenthesis are often comical in their detail and incronguity. This is a philosophical book very much in a modernist mode, and I was reminded of Samuel Beckett's novel Watt, and particularly that work's frequent logical digressions. 'Whatever Happened ...' is an impressively sustained investigation into the state of mind of a detective who is, perhaps, not quite as much on the case as he thinks he is.
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