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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent comic novel in the tradition of Waugh and Huxley, 8 Sep 2012
This review is from: The Teleportation Accident (Hardcover)
'The Teleportation Accident', Ned Beauman's second novel, long-listed for the 2012 Booker Prize, is an overtly clever and very entertaining comic farrago that draws together influences from genres not normally considered bedfellows. It might loosely be described as an historical conspiracy thriller in the manner of Pynchon or Eco, re-imagined by Evelyn Waugh with some input from H.G. Wells and H.P. Lovecraft - all in the service of a comic-opera plot. This is not inappropriate for a novel whose characters seem unaware that they have strayed out of the pages of half-a-dozen different fictional worlds. It's a measure of Beauman's control of his structure that the reader is hardly aware of the strain; not least because he or she is likely to be laughing.

Beauman's novel is set primarily in a period, and in places - the 1930s in Berlin, Paris and Los Angeles - not often thought of as long on humorous incident. But when a novelist gives one of his female characters the surname Hitler one has some forewarning of what is to come. Suffice to say that this is not a book for those of delicate sensibilities, or those who think that there are matters that are not fit subjects for comedy.

The central character, Egon Loeser, is a deeply self-centred young set designer working on the neo-Expressionist fringe of Berlin theatre. His projected play, 'The Teleportation Accident', revolves around an historical incident in which one of his professional predecessors in the France of Louis XIV demolished part of a famous theatre while attempting to perform a novel theatrical illusion. Loeser, who is almost pathologically unaware of larger perspectives, is distracted from his project by his erotic fascination with Adele Hitler, a former pupil turned femme fatale. His pursuit of Adele takes him first to Paris and then to Los Angeles; where he encounters a rather different sort of teleportation accident.

In a novel so driven by plot - Beauman is still producing surprises at the very end - it would be unfair to do more than hint at the main outlines. But there is plenty here for those who look for other pleasures. Beauman writes well, in the satirical tradition of Waugh and Aldous Huxley, but with an awareness of later developments in fiction that at different times put me more in mind of Pynchon, Vonnegut, DeLillo or Jonathan Lethem. The central characters are memorable and the minor figures never merely comic stereotypes. Beauman stumbles only rarely, when the various awful matters happening in the background threaten to obtrude: but the basic premise, in which personal needs and obsessions are seen to override historical consciousness, is well sustained.

Inevitably, the book is founded on much research; but Beauman wears his learning lightly - though I did detect one obvious error - and one might question whether the past was really quite so relentlessly similar to the present as Beauman's comedy requires. But a book that can bring together a seventeenth-century magician of the theatre with H.P. Lovecraft, a monkey-gland-peddling medical charlatan with high-energy physics, without having the whole thing collapse like a pack of cards has been cunningly contrived.

It's rare now to find a comic novel of real style and intelligence that one can imagine rereading. If it lacks the final degree of seriousness, that's in the nature of the comic-operatic. I'll be keeping an eye out for Beauman in future.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 21 Sep 2012 15:50:41 BDT
Melchy says:
Only a publicity department could have written this.

In reply to an earlier post on 22 Sep 2012 07:09:10 BDT
Paul Bowes says:
Apparently I'm a publicity department.

I don't mind you disagreeing with my views, Mr. Rowe, but implying that I'm in any way connected with the author or publisher is a slur. You should think about withdrawing your comment.
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