Review: The Teleportation Accident

Posted 5 August, 2013 by Lianne in Books / 6 Comments

The Teleportation Accident
By: Ned Beauman
Format/Source: Paperback; my copy


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 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.


I’ve been curious about this book since I first heard it was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2012. A bit of sci-fi, set as a historical fiction, what’s not to like about this novel? So I was quite excited to get my hands on it back in April but I only got around to reading the book now xP

There is no doubt about it, The Teleportation Accident is a pretty quirky, crazy novel. One can easily get lost in the course of events and the story could’ve quite easily veered into a post-modern sort of meta (whatever it’s called…and in a way, the story sort of did) but unlike most contemporary literary novels that utilise this sort of outside-the-box strain that usually leaves me confused and frustrated about what I’m reading, Beauman handles these sensibilities quite masterfully that the novel is pretty coherent (hence the phrase “unsteady and (largely) coherent novel” in the blurb).

Suffice to say, this is a historical novel that’s high or drunk (take your pick). How a man as clever as Egon Loeser (no pun intended?) managed to live through the madness of the 1930s in Berlin, Paris and Los Angeles without a true awareness of world events is beyond me. It’s not that he doesn’t care (well, okay, he doesn’t), but he’s so consumed by his desire to find Adele and get laid and so caught up in his everyday affairs that all of these larger events don’t touch him. In a way, he kind of reminds me of the main character (whose name escapes me right now) from Hrubal’s I Served the King of England except Loeser isn’t that kind of happy-go-lucky mad.

Yet the funny thing is that he can’t wholly ignore the world as trouble ends up coming his way and knocking on his door anyhow, from spies to mad scientists, hack writers and the dispossessed, all drawing Loeser into a series of crazy events. Thus the novel isn’t just a historical fiction: it’s a thriller, a satirical farce, a noir, a sci-fi and a very introspective novel. In the quieter moments of the novel, Loeser contemplates on love and desire, the strange movement of time and the gradual changes that a person undergoes. It’s all very fascinating.

Oh, and did I mention that it’s pretty darn hilarious? The dialogue absolutely cracks me up, especially early on in the novel; I nearly laughed out loud a few times while reading this in the subway. I was amused by Loeser’s biting criticisms/viewpoints about America and the comparisons he draws between European and American life because of the way he sees & presents these differences. It’s not that he’s ultra-nationalistic or politically-for one thing or another, I think that historically he’s just quite comfortable with the way life moved in Europe prior to the build-up of the Nazi regime and the Second World War. So he kind of looks at things like the escalator and driving from point A to point B as O_o

The Teleportation Accident overall is a crazy and intriguing romp set (mostly) in the 1930s. Loeser is a charming character despite of his all-consuming desire and never-ending irritation stemming from his sexual frustration. I enjoyed following him throughout Europe and to the United States and the crazy chain of events that followed. Naturally this novel isn’t for everyone as it can really go into detail just how frustrated he is and there’s quite a bit of vulgarity and swearing to go around but anyone who’s into crazy genre-mash-ups, bitingly hilarious dialogue and a peculiar sense of humour should check this novel out.

Rating: ★★★★☆

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6 Responses to “Review: The Teleportation Accident”

    • It was! Couldn’t put it down after a while, I had to find out what was going to happen to Loeser next, lol. Hope you enjoy it when you get to it πŸ™‚

  1. I thought this one was great, not to mention is has a beautiful cover. I love novels that are wholly original. Beauman must have quite the imagination. He also wrote Boxer, Beetle which is also quite different.

    • Agreed, Beauman’s imagination is very unique and I think there should be more novels with this sort of mash-up premise out there. Glad to hear that his other novel was also interesting, I’ll need to check it out!

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