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Whatever Happened to Harold Absalon? [Paperback]

Simon Okotie
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
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Book Description

15 Oct 2012
Harold Absalon, the Mayor’s Transport Advisor, has gone missing. Down-at-heel detective Marguerite is trying to find him. Aware that his every action is being monitored by those reading the novel, Marguerite’s mind and world is at constant risk of disintegration. Disturbed by attempts to understand himself and the nature of the objects he encounters, Marguerite’s minute and comically digressive inquiries threaten his very existence.

As he follows and then is followed by Harold’s wife Isobel around the city, Marguerite discovers startling evidence of her involvement in the disappearance and becomes increasingly compromised by his feelings for her. Finding himself cornered by Isobel on a speeding bus, it emerges that Marguerite may be more closely implicated than we think. The resolution of the case brings a discovery that will shatter his world and well-being forever.

Whatever Happened to Harold Absalon? is a unique take on the world of category, cliché and identity and heralds the emergence of a truly original new voice.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Salt Publishing (15 Oct 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1907773347
  • ISBN-13: 978-1907773341
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.8 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 598,810 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


… 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 )


I love your novel… It's very bold … experimental but accessible. (Nicholas Royle )

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clever and very funny 16 Nov 2012
By Keris Nine TOP 500 REVIEWER
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
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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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Transport of delight 10 Nov 2012
By akp
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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3.0 out of 5 stars Quirky puzzling novel 19 Feb 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
If there is such a thing as a quirkiness index for novels, Simon Okotie's Whatever Happened to Harold Absalon? would be well towards the top. It's a novel that will either have you scratching your head in bewilderment but nevertheless enjoying the feeling or giving up in frustration but not until you had screamed what-the-hell-is-going-on several times and maybe even thrown the book into the corner. This is therefore a book which you will either love because of its convoluted humerous narrative or loathe on the basis that the narrative is too digressive and ultimately 'nothing much happens'.

The fact that nothing much happens is indeed central to the story. Okotie leads us a merry dance with this book, on foot and by bus through the streets of an unnamed city in a hunt for Harold Absolon, the missing transport advisor to the city's mayor. On his trail is a detective/private investigator called Marguerite who comes up with a plan to find Harold by following his wife Isobel.

Marguerite dissects in minute detail, the implications of everything he experiences on his journey, analysing what he sees from every possible angle in an effort to ensure he will not make a mistake. Acutely aware that his handling of the situation will be judged at some future point, that he "would stand accused, in short of both fabrication ... and actual indolence", and his "thoughts cross-examined at some point by someone less kind to himself than himself" he is at pains to do things by the book. But every new situation he discovers has so many possibilities for interpretation that take him down blind alleys, that he never really makes much progress with his investigation.

His digressions become more and more absurd as the book progresses.
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