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The Teleportation Accident by Ned Beauman

The Teleportation Accident (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Ned Beauman

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5182719,555 (3.66)1 / 68
Title:The Teleportation Accident
Authors:Ned Beauman
Info:Sceptre (2012), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover
Collections:Your library
Tags:Read, Germany, France, USA

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The Teleportation Accident by Ned Beauman (2012)


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English (25)  Dutch (1)  French (1)  All (27)
Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
No book that I actually finished has ever made me want more to take a shower after the last page (no, not even one by Chuck Wendig. I KNOW!) more than Ned Beauman's debut novel, Boxer, Beetle. It was therefore with a trepidation only partly assuaged by my knowledge that my best reading pal SJ loved this one that I began The Teleportation Accident.

The cover helped.

Misleading as it is as to its contents.

What's inside is often unspeakably foul, vaguely misogynist (at one point early on the phrase "non-mercenary vulva" is used to describe a theoretical female who might be kind enough to sleep with our protagonist) and reads a lot like one might imagine a (wildly unlikely) collaboration between Robert Silverberg and Douglas Adams would, if it were set in pre WWII Berlin, Paris and Los Angeles (with a little -- a very little -- and the wrong bits of -- Henry Miller thrown in). I was craving a shower before I'd even finished one chapter. But...


Well, I did not mention Douglas Adams lightly, except instead of gentle absurdist/parodic humor, the humor one is slapped in the face with every few lines is nasty and sordid and really pretty repugnant, but funny nonetheless. Funny enough to make even the most umbrage-taking feminist keep on reading, even if she winds up hating herself for it. As in chock full of lines like "the moon over Berlin shone bright as a bare bulb in a toilet cubicle." Ha ha ha and eww.

As for what it's about, well, it's sort of a companion piece to Boxer, Beetle in that it, too, is largely concerned with Germany in the 1930s, but where many characters in that book are obsessed in various ways with the Nazis, those in The Teleportation Accident, even though unlike the Boxer, Beetles they are from Berlin, are pretty much oblivious to them. Egon Loeser and his friends are more concerned about parties and pussy and scoring some decent cocaine -- or a corkscrew -- no, an actual corkscrew, jeeze -- than about world or local affairs. Politics is for people who can't handle art.* "History happened while you were hungover," the tagline says. And for these people it's so true that it's only when Loeser chases his ill-chosen anima projection, one Adele Hitler**, to Los Angeles (via Paris) that he gets even an inkling of what is happening to the Jews in his home city and country, and this only in that people he meets in LA assume he's a refugee like everybody else -- and assume he knows why they might think this.

So this book could almost be an exploration of how people could remain carefully, willfully ignorant of one of history's greatest crimes right up until it was too late for them to do anything about it. So described, this book becomes somewhat admirable (I'd posit it's this quality that got it listed for the Man Booker prize). But that makes it no less tough to take. But I suppose I'm supposed to admire that as well.

The book does, though, get a few bonus points for playing a bit with an amusing conceit -- that H.P. Lovecraft's fiction wasn't really fiction but just sort of veiled/fictionalized references to staggeringly difficult concepts in particle physics and dimensions and whatnot -- but like so many of the neat ideas tossed around in here, it doesn't get the attention it deserves. It's kind of like Randy from A Christmas Story opening his presents. Wow, oh neat, wow, yeah, and RIIIIIIIP into the next package. Except the Lovecraft stuff is not the toy zeppelin we see the kid asleep and cradling at the end. The Lovecraft stuff is the socks.

And speaking of the end, or rather, the four ends, the words "Scooby Doo Ending" kept coming to mind. And even though the very last bit where [REDACTED] turns out to be [REDACTED] in [REDACTED] is pretty cool and amusing, that last of the four epilogues is really the most interesting bit of the book. So interesting, in fact, that I wound up wishing I'd gotten to read that book instead of this one.

Ah, me.

*Of course, in no small part that proved to be quite true, as Adolph Hitler was famously a failed artist.

**No relation to Adolph, we learn in very casual passing. ( )
  KateSherrod | Aug 1, 2016 |
Having read this, I now understand why Lavie Tidhar is such a fan of the book. It addresses some of his favourite subjects. Myself… I enjoyed it, thought it amusing in parts and cleverly done overall, but I wasn’t taken with the engine which drives the plot. The title refers to a piece of stage machinery, first invented in the late eighteenth-century, which allows for the rapid, and apparently instantaneous, changing of scenery. In Weimar Berlin, Egon Loesser is trying to build a new version of that machine, but one that moves the cast around rather than the scenery. But during a test it goes wrong and dislocates both arms of the actor wearing it. Loesser is one of those horrible comic protagonists you find yourself inadvertently rooting for – he’s self-centred, fixated on his sex life (or lack thereof), and nasty to pretty much everyone he meets. It is Loesser’s lack of a girlfriend, and desire for the nubile Adele Hitler, which drives the plot, as Loesser chases her to Paris and then onto Los Angeles, at each place bumping into friends and acquaintances (some Jewish, some not) from Berlin. It all ends up with Loesser getting involved in a WWII project at a LA university to build an actual teleportation machine, which may or may not work and which may or may not have something to do with the strange murders which have been occurring on the campus. A fun read, even outright funny in places, although not particularly pleasant and often only saved by its cleverness. ( )
  iansales | Dec 31, 2015 |
I judged a book by its cover.
The cover is fantastic—I mean look at it.

It was screaming for me to pick it up and then, well that’s a coincidence, the author’s name is Ned Beauman. Could it be? Why yes. This is the son of Nicola Beauman, founder of Persephone Books Ltd.—and we all know how I feel about Persephone Books.

Ned, I congratulate you on the stunning representation of L.A.

"The whole city felt like an apartment for sale, which the estate agent had sprayed with perfume just prior to a viewing."

and the many other, equally unique sentences that I wanted to copy down and pin to my wall. However, I could have done without reading the whole of the book. Yes, I get it, you went to Cambridge and you’re a very clever boy, but really?

Can someone please just put together a book of collected witticisms by Ned Beauman and call it good?
  READnotowned | Sep 21, 2015 |
I almost stopped reading this a few times in parts I and II. In part III it develops into a more interesting story. ( )
  gregandlarry | Nov 29, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
Egon Loeser, the sex-starved German stage designer at the heart of this strange and brilliant novel by Ned Beauman, is obsessed with two things. The first is a girl, inauspiciously called Adele Hitler, who he meets in Thirties Berlin, where the book begins. The second is Adriano Lavincini, a late Renaissance Venetian stage-designer who, in 1677, caused part of a Parisian theatre to collapse with his teleportation device – the accident referred to in the title.

Loeser follows Adele from Berlin to Paris and Los Angeles, in the hope that she will eventually sleep with him. On the way, he meets a cast of eccentrics: a caddish Brit, Rupert Rackenham, who seduces Adele and steals the Lavincini story for his novel (and who writes for The Daily Telegraph); a physics professor trying to build his own teleportation device; an Angeleno bookseller who collects science fiction by H P Lovecraft and a con-man in Paris who tries to pass off his own work as an undiscovered novel by F Scott Fitzgerald.

Beauman, whose first novel Boxer, Beetle (2010) interwove the stories of a modern-day collector of Nazi memorabilia with that of a homosexual Jewish boxer in the 1930s, is blisteringly funny, witty and erudite. A series of dazzling metaphors and similes pinpoint an experience exactly: the physics professor, for example, “had that odd conversational manner of some scientists… that is so doggedly awkward that it sometimes seems to verge upon flirtation”. Only once or twice does this style, and off-beam subject matter, strain slightly. For the most part, however, Beauman manages to combine the intrigue of a thriller with the imagery of a comedy. It makes for an excellent read.
added by kidzdoc | editThe Telegraph, Ellen Hogan (Aug 6, 2012)
Living in Berlin just before the second world war, everything goes wrong for Egon Loeser, and it has nothing to do with the Nazis. In Ned Beauman's terrific second novel, longlisted this week for the Booker, his protagonist, a German set designer, is too sex-starved, self-pitying and, usually, hungover to notice that history is happening all around him.

At one point, just before he leaves Berlin to chase a girl named Adele Hitler (no relation), Loeser sees a group of what he thinks are students holding a bonfire outside the library. He assumes it is "some sort of silly art performance" and joins in, cheerfully burning the books of writers he envies. This comes at the end of a section titled Literary Realism – a dig at the one genre that doesn't know it's a genre – after which the book veers gleefully through hardboiled noir, SF, murder-mystery and romance, distorting each in turn.

There is so much pleasure in the unstable elements of the story that I couldn't help feel a loss as the wheels of the plot started to turn. Luckily, the setting up of various false leads, reveals and tricks are worth it for the brilliant finale. If there was ever any worry that he might have crammed all his ideas into his first book, the prize-winning Boxer, Beetle, this makes it clear he kept a secret bunker of his best ones aside.
added by kidzdoc | editThe Guardian, John Dunthorne (Jul 26, 2012)

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ned Beaumanprimary authorall editionscalculated
Baardman, GerdaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cárdenas, Juan SebastiánTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Detje, RobinTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
La BocaCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mingiardi, VincenzoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Scherpenisse, WimTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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I hate politics and belief in politics, because it makes men arrogant, doctrinaire, obstinate and inhuman. Thomas Mann, Reflections of a Nonpolitical Man
...all I had to do was go down into the subway. It was like fishing down there. Go down into the subway and come up with a girl. Philip Roth, The Human Stain
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When you knock a bowl of sugar on to your host's carpet, it is a parody of the avalanche that killed his mother and father, just as the duck's beak that your new girlfriend's lips form when she attempts a seductive pout is a quotation of the quacking noise your last girlfriend made during sex.
...In Pasadena, motorised sleighs were rolling along the streets like tanks, men in Santa Claus costumes were standing guard on corners like infantry, and carols were blaring from loudspeakers like patriotic anthems. As far as he could tell, Christmas here was equivalent to a sort of martial law.
There was enough ice in her voice for a serviceable daiquiri.
This is infernal... It's as if they've decided to incorporate the eventual hangover directly into the flavour as a sort of omen.
As a result, no doubt, of some bureaucratic oversight, Sunset Boulevard had a beginning and a middle but no end.
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When you haven't had sex in a long time, it feels like the worst thing that could ever happen to anyone. If you're living in Germany in the 1930s, it probably isn't. But that's no consolation to Egon Loeser, whose carnal misfortunes will push him from the experimental theatres of Berlin to the absinthe bars of Paris to the physics laboratories of Los Angeles, trying all the while to solve two mysteries: whether it was really a deal with Satan that claimed the life of his hero, the great Renaissance stage designer Adriano Lavicini; and why a handsome, clever, charming, modest guy like him can't, just once in a while, get himself laid. From the author of the acclaimed Boxer, Beetle comes a historical novel that doesn't know what year it is; a noir novel that turns all the lights on; a romance novel that arrives drunk to dinner; a science fiction novel that can't remember what 'isotope' means; a stunningly inventive, exceptionally funny, dangerously unsteady and (largely) coherent novel about sex, violence, space, time, and how the best way to deal with history is to ignore it.… (more)

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