November Bookclub Review: The Teleportation Accident

Saturday 30 November 2013 by

The Teleportation Accident, Ned Beauman, Book, Bookclub, Review, SceptreThe Teleportation Accident by Ned Beauman

Published by Sceptre


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.



Our first Bookclub was a book suggested by a few people, and one that has been put forward to a variety of book awards, including the Booker. The Teleportation Accident is a surreal, comedic, meandering through the 1930s and 40s, from Berlin to Paris to Los Angeles.

A tough start, this book grew in to a book that became morbidly enjoyable – I spent most of my time wondering exactly why I was enjoying it. Still a confused ramble from a not-very-relatable character, there was something endearing about the incoherence, and the bright pinpricks of humour were astute and comic enough to make me laugh out loud. The comedy is the book’s greatest strength; it’s insightful, quick and perfectly timed, with the punchline deliverance of a stand-up comic.

As for our protagonist; it’s an effort to like Loeser, but he seems to end up a victim of his own arrogance and/or naivety more often than not, which makes some of his actions forgivable (to an extent). The plot itself seems a bit superfluous to Loeser’s self-inflated ego – the book is more a demonstration of intellect and wit (prepare yourself for page-long sentences with words that you need to read twice and look up in a dictionary) than any kind of story. In fact, the story hangs on the fact that our main character hasn’t got laid in a while; shaky grounds for a book by any stretch of the imagination. Although this soon grows in to something beyond Loeser (and his control), we are often reminded of his involuntary celibacy. I understand why (it’s the reason he leaves Berlin and ends up in LA and hanging around in those social circles that end up the main crux of the book) but after a while you get bored of hearing about it. It could have been left behind chapters ago, and you wouldn’t have even noticed.

The story itself is just made up fragments of anecdotes – swift glimpses at the inner lives, an outsiders’ perspective on an event. You meet and forget characters as swiftly as you can turn the pages, and storylines burst into life and fizzle out just as quickly. But then the author does something surprising. He ties up all the loose ends. All those characters, those glimpsed-storylines, are finished neatly (well, as neatly as they can be) and rounded off with long-winded elegance.

I couldn’t help but feel slightly satisfied with finishing this book – partly because it could be such a slog at the time, but also because there was something nice and final about the ending, and I could put it down knowing I had enjoyed the larger part of it, but there wasn’t anything left to wonder about.

However, I know that Carole didn’t feel the same way! You can read the full review on her blog here, but, aside from 3 sentences (3 very good sentences); this was one book she was DEFINITELY not a fan of. The Teleportation Accident is a hard book to love – a book that doesn’t require your affection, but demands your attention, purely as a means as a soapbox to prove how intelligent, eloquent and sharp-tongued the author is (is it the author or the protagonist that should feel our scorn though? Surely the author is simply writing Loeser’s point of view…)

This has the acquired taste of caviar – you like it or you don’t, and some people pretend to like it to seem more cultured. You’re either going to like it or absolutely loathe it.

What did you think of The Teleportation Accident?

December’s House of Blog Bookclub is The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom.

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