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The Teleportation Accident by Ned Beauman

The Teleportation Accident (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Ned Beauman

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360None31,089 (3.75)1 / 61
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 (19)  Dutch (1)  All languages (20)
Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
Hilarious read and also tragic in turns this was one of those very few books I did not want to end the more I read. So much happens that it is impossible to describe the story here. Read it and you will not be disappointed. If you don't like it then there is something wrong with you. ( )
  polarbear123 | Apr 13, 2014 |
Egon Loeser, protagonist of Ned Beauman’s The Teleportation Accident, is an asshole. He’s obsessed with sex, contemptuous of his friends, hopelessly infatuated with a girl who doesn’t return his affections, and completely untalented as a theatrical director. In the hands of a lesser author, such an unlikable main character could be the fatal flaw that alienates most readers. However, Beauman makes up for Loeser’s bad behavior by populating the novel’s supporting cast with striking, sharply drawn characters and filling it with laugh-out-loud comedy throughout.

At the start of the story, Loeser is a set designer in decadent pre-war Berlin. Loeser’s 1931 is full of never-ending parties, desultory work on a play production that never seems any closer to performance, and an ever-vigilant search for good cocaine. The play he is working on is the story of the life of Adriano Lavicini, a seventeenth-century stage designer best known for the tragic accident that ended his career and life.

Lavicini, it seems, built a complex special effect known as the Teleportation Device which brought down half the walls of a theater and killed two dozen people (and a cat). Loeser, set designer for the play about Lavicini’s life, builds a much more modest Teleportation Device that merely serves to accidentally dislocate the star actor’s arms. Different types of Teleportation Devices are a running theme throughout the play; Lavicini’s, Loeser’s and a literal Teleportation Device built by a Californian professor named Bailey who Loeser meets later.

After the failure of Loeser’s stage device, he heads to yet another Berlin party, where he fortuitously runs into a girl named Adele Hitler (no relation). Loeser was Adele’s tutor when she was younger, and when he discovers the pudgy girl he knew has transformed into an incredibly beautiful young woman, he is instantly smitten. This encounter completely changes the course of Loeser’s life; he becomes obsessed with Adele and follows her first to Paris and then to Los Angeles.

As Loeser fruitlessly follows Adele around the world, he runs into a wonderful cast of characters, all of whom leap off the page. Loeser becomes a fan of the hard-boiled fiction of Stent Mutton and accidentally meets Mutton and his wife one day while wandering lost in California. Dolores Mutton, Stent’s knock-out wife, is beautiful but also incredibly terrifying, later threatening Loeser with death in no uncertain terms. Loeser ends up living in the guest house of one Colonel Gorge, a gruff, powerful man who is suffering agnosia, which causes him to confuse pictures for the real thing – hold up a picture of a woman, and he becomes convinced she is there in the room. The book also includes a few chapters from other perspectives; in one, Beauman focuses on a con artist named Scramsfield, who gets Loeser caught up in one of his scams. In another, Beauman tells the story of the surprisingly unhinged Dr. Bailey, whose fraught personal history has influenced the unconventional means and methods he uses to research teleportation.

Even if The Teleportation Accident occasionally rambled, I was always drawn back in by Beauman’s flair for characterization and comedy. I laughed out loud a good dozen times throughout, which is a rare achievement for any book. The only real criticism I’d level against the book is that the opening pages are needlessly obtuse; I wouldn’t be surprised if a number of readers put it down at the beginning out of a worry that the novel would continue at that pitch throughout. Thankfully, once Beauman settles down and gets to business, The Teleportation Accident is a thoroughly readable and highly enjoyable book. ( )
  unsquare | Feb 6, 2014 |
Rating: 4.8* of five


When you haven't had sex in a long time, it feels like the worst thing that is happening to anyone anywhere. 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 an 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.


My Review: My review, if I was up for it, would be nothing but retyping the entire novel in this space. You don't need to read my yodels of praise and warbles of inducement to buy the book, you need to read the book.

Is the book funny, as is claimed for it in so many "real" review sources? Here's something I marked on page 7:
Klugweil, meanwhile, was a twenty-four-year-old sso languid as to be almost liquid, except when he went on stage and broke open some inner asylum of shrieks and contortions, wild eyes and bared teeth -- which made him perfectly suited to Expressionist acting and almost useless for any other type. He'd been at university with Loesser, who had always wondered what he was like during sex but had never quite had the cheek to make an enquiry with his dull girlfriend.
Page seven and I'm chuckling, building to a snorting laugh. This is my kind of humor, this droll and dry as a good martini sort of language making ironic-verging-on-facetious observations of all those about the main character...and which observations comment quietly on the main character himself.

What about the romance mentioned so prominently in the book's sales materials, and in "mainstream" reviews? Loesser pursues the elusive, rich, and utterly madcap Adele Hitler (no relation) across continents, despite this exchange from page 54:
"You'll fuck the man who brings your coffee just because he's handsome, and yet I chase you for two years and --"
She waved her hand as if to swat him away. "Oh, please let's not get into that again. 'Love is the foolish overestimation of the difference between one sexual object and another.'"
"Who said that?"
"I saw it on the wall at a party."
"Oh, so it must be true! And all my devotion means nothing?"
"I'm flattered, but there'd be no point in us even trying. You're the sort of man who couldn't stand it if I were unfaithful, but you're also the sort of man I couldn't help but be unfaithful to. You're that type. You're an apprentice cuckold."
Well, all righty then! That's him told. Loesser's anguished suspicion that Adele is right wars with his indignation at being evaluated, pigeonholed, and relegated to a non-starter position before he can make so much as a move. This propels the rest of the novel.

For noir tropes, we have Loesser's falling in with one Dr. Voronoff, famous in the demi-monde of Paris for his impotence cure: Insert the testicle of a monkey between a man's own testicles and let its nature suffuse the aging roué with unquenchable virility. For madame, there is a similar cure for the debilities of aging: Skin cream made from the foreskins of newly circumcised babies. Fresh, innocent skin cells from a body part famed for its stretchiness...well, what could possibly make more sense? A can't-fail nostrum for wrinkles and crow's feet! And Loesser, plus an accomplice-cum-con man called Scramsfield (who promises Loesser that he will reunite him with Adele, already vanished to Los Angeles), will happily liberate wealthy, stupid American women from their desperately needed money in order to survive the Great Depression.

After a spectacular failure in the quackery trade makes Paris too hot for Loesser, he continues his pursuit of Adele to Los Angeles, and here the story becomes an extremely strange (even stranger, I suppose) send-up of Golden Age science fiction tropes, decadent capitalist stereotypes, rumors of Hollywood loucheness, all of which so deeply informed the interwar popular culture's storytelling.

Teleportation. Actual physical teleportation. Research and development for same. It's almost incalculably difficult to imagine how this could be done on a macro scale in today's scientific universe, but thankfully Beauman hasn't set his story in our world but in 1935 (as it now is in the story). And here we come to a place in the narrative where, although there is no diminution of the chuckle-inducing phrasemaking or the wince-cringe-and-giggle observation that's characterized the book until now, the window-dressing is just that, decoration.

The heart of this book is yearning. Everyone in the book yearns for something, be it a person, a state of feeling, a quantum of knowledge, a passed opportunity, a deed desperately regretted that's in need of recall; yearning and searching for the way to fill the void left by the object yearned for. Adele, that object of Loesser's yearning, seeks to fill her own void by assisting in the creation of an actual, physical teleportation device, being the amanuensis and magician's assistant to Professor Bailey of the currently rechristened California Institute of Technology. The Professor has the most yearning of anyone in the entire book, stretching back to a time in Los Angeles history when what was then the Throop College of Technology welcomed a Midwestern boy called Bailey....

I don't believe anyone would thank me for the spoiler that completes that sentence. It's worth the trip to discover it yourself.

This novel was longlisted for the 2012 Booker Prize, and I see why. Beauman's linguistic playfulness and inventive use of tropes in ways both satirical and satisfying to trope fans is amazing when one considers his revolting youth. (He is under thirty, which I consider an affront to God. No one born after Man left the Moon for the final time to date should understand the world Beauman builds with deft and dextrous motions. Ain't natural.)

I left this reading experience amused, satisfied, and to my own surprise, quite moved. I liked the process of getting to the end of the story. I liked the scenery painted for me along the way. I liked the moral, or to give it less gravitas, the point of Beauman's engrossing, enfolding, bemusing narrative. I really want to know what happens next in Beauman's career. I hope I can keep all my buttons in the proper buttonholes until he finishes his ideas' fermentation.

I've rated the book under five stars, which all of the foregoing would seem to support, because I wasn't catapulted to a new level of spiritual awareness or aesthetic ecstasy (0.1 off), and because the dust jacket of the hardcover edition is coated in some sort of spoodge that has the hand-feel of the years-old bacon grease that coats the interior of a none-too-clean greasy spoon's range hood (0.1 off, after an entire star disappeared; seemed unfair to Beauman, since *he* didn't choose this icky stuff. If I come to find out he *did* choose it, another star off, and no mistake.)

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. ( )
8 vote richardderus | Nov 2, 2013 |
In the words of The Mighty Boosh - "Come with us now on a journey through time and space!" Well, this is not exactly a book about time-travel, though it does bounce to and from the 1930s and '40s, the 1670s, brief forays to both a prehistoric time and several millennia into an imagined future. And it's not a book about space either - though it takes the reader to Berlin, Paris, Venice, a New York City hotel suite, Los Angeles, and a Washington DC committee room, among other places. Neither is this a book of any one style or genre. This one's a tad tricky to categorise. But it certainly is good fun!

So what's this book about? I really have no idea actually! I did though enjoy arriving at that realisation. Ostensibly this is a story of an unlikeable and selfish young experimental theatre set designer of late Weimar-era and early Nazi period Berlin - Egon Loeser - who has two main obsessions in life: The beautiful young Adele Hitler ("no relation") and a visionary 17th century set designer, Adriano Lavicini. It is a comedy, of sorts, (it helped me at times to picture our Loeser as a sort of whiny wannabe who might be played on screen by a young Rick Mayall, or perhaps Richard E Grant of 'Withnail' era...), and is definitely full of fun and frolics, (mostly) recreational drugs and booze, and sex, or at least Egon's desire for and lack of it... While all along the off-stage presence of the Nazis is felt - somewhat fuzzily (he even gleefully joins in with the book burning as a Nazi happens to thrust a copy of his nemesis Rupert Rackenham's book into his hands) - as Loeser chases his obsessions seemingly oblivious to the fate of the world around him. At one point, while reading a letter from a Jewish Berliner friend, describing an horrendous encounter with an SS man on a tram, Egon screws up the letter, unable to maintain an interest in anybody else's suffering - such is his self-absorption and general misanthropy.

The plot twists and turns and incorporates many a scam, caper, and devious turn. We encounter a cast of many artfully drawn characters that feel like ones you've seen somewhere before: the ever-so-charming British cad, the shmoozy American-in-Paris con-artist, the German radical playright, the wealthy author's beautiful socialite wife, the cut-price neighbourhood porn and sci-fi dealer who has principles but no friends, and there are countless others. Replete with bohemian hedonism, literary figures of pulp fictions, mid-century mass transit schemes, spying and the Cold War, antiquarian pornography and rare books, experimental cellular biology and at least three if not four counts of apparent teleportation - and yes, as the title implies there are several accidents. There's murder, affairs, jealousy, madness, a dash of romance, ghosts, and even a dead skunk.

Unfortunately, I can't write a real review of this book, it's just one of those books that I'm lifting my hands up in surrender to. It's a romp and a half alright, and at times it is more than a little bit baffling, but I actually found myself enjoying it increasingly as I neared the end. Not really sure if it deserved a Booker short-listing (but who's to say?), but it certainly is fun and suggests an author with an awfully grand imagination and much promise. Four stars and probably quite unforgettable. ( )
7 vote Polaris- | Oct 23, 2013 |
What a brilliant book. I got it as a holiday read when we went to Berlin. It turned out to be a happy accident. A literary version of a Marx brothers film with a sort of Forest Gump central character whose wilful ignorance and innocence puts him at the centre of large historical events. A work of great imagination with elements of Buster Keaton inspired stone faced description that brings a smile and a laugh. I didn't learn much about Berlin but I did have an enjoyable few days in the company of Egon Loesser and his aquaintances. ( )
  Steve38 | Jul 29, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 19 (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)
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Ik haat politiek en het geloof in politiek, omdat mensen er arrogant, bekrompen, koppig en onmenselijk van worden.
- Thomas Mann, Betrachtungen eines Unpolitischen
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Egon Loeser's 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 the mystery of whether it was really a deal with Satan that claimed the life of his hero, Adriano Lavicini.… (more)

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