Forces of evil on a Bozo nightmare – ‘The Teleportation Accident’ by Ned Beauman

If I had to provide a one word review for the cover of  ‘The Teleportation Accident’ it would be ‘picaresque’.  This is a meandering involving novel, with a host of peculiar and frankly, detestable characters. That the ‘hero’ is called Loeser, might give you some idea of his capabilities.  Egon Loeser is possibly the most incompetent man in literature.

Anybody who has read Beauman’s first novel ‘Boxer Beetle’ will know that he is a unique talent.  If you haven’t read it yet,  you might want to start there.  It has a more straightforward narrative, but still showcases the author’s unorthodox world view.  Beauman is a funny writer, but I’m not sure all readers will get the joke.

To try to describe fully what the Teleportation Accident is about would take many many words and I would still fail to do it justice.  It follows Loeser as he crosses the globe trying to catch up with the women he is infatuated with, Adele Hitler.  The novel opens in Berlin in 1931. Loeser is, in theory, a set designer, but his obsession with Seventeenth century Italian set designer Lavincini, means he does little in the way of real work.  He hopes to stage a play about Lavincini’s death. A theatre collapsed on Lavincini during opening night of his play. A play that featured an engineering marvel; a teleportation device.  This is just the first reference to a teleportation accident in the book.

Loeser is a bottom feeder of the Berlin art scene. His work is almost entirely without merit, yet he is contemptuous of just about everybody.  He has no friends, but is vile to anyone who approaches him with friendship.  He is entirely devoid of any sense of self-awareness or empathy. Yet hapless and selfish as he is, it is impossible (as a character) not to like him.  He travels from Berlin to Paris, then New York and Los Angeles, trying to track down the object of his affection.  He crashes from scrape to scrape, causing havoc, and missing out on golden opportunities.

Beauman’s novel is a masterclass in creativity.  There are masses of literary references, and philosophical musings.  Characters disappear only to resurface when you least expect it.  Much of the novel feels like an aside; like an aimless ramble in beautiful countryside. Engaging but without purpose. It’s only as the novel draws to a close that you realise there is nothing extraneous in what has come before. Beauman weaves his threads to form a glorious whole.

Accusations of being overly clever could be cast in Beauman’s direction. A smug sense of satisfaction at his own cleverness does occasionally threaten to peek through, but ultimately the author delivers.  The ending is truly unexpected (some might say frustratingly obtuse), and in keeping with the absurd nature of what has come before.  The plot is multi-layered, and also double backs on itself,  reminding me of Adam Ross’ Mr Peanut (though I greatly preferred TTA). A great piece of slight of hand leaves the reader wondering just exactly when the teleportation accident occurred. Reading this novel certainly exercises the brain.

‘The Teleportation Accident’ is as fresh and original as fiction can be.  It requires close attention, and won’t be to everyone’s taste, but there is much to enjoy here for those prepared to run with it. It’s witty and laugh-out-loud funny in places; Loeser may become literature’s best-loved anti-heroes. If you are looking for something different from the norm, this book is well worth a look.

For another glowing review of this book read Dan’s at Dog Ear Discs

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