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Kafka meets The Thick Of It in a bitingly funny new political satire from Ian McEwan
That morning, Jim Sams, clever but by no means profound, woke from uneasy dreams to find himself transformed into a gigantic creature.
Jim Sams has undergone a metamorphosis. In his previous life he was ignored or loathed, but in his new incarnation he is the most powerful man in Britain – and it is his mission to carry out the will of the people. Nothing must get in his way: not the opposition, nor the dissenters within his own party. Not even the rules of parliamentary democracy.
With trademark intelligence, insight and scabrous humour, Ian McEwan pays tribute to Franz Kafka’s most famous work to engage with a world turned on its head.
In this slight, occasionally diverting satirical exercise about the follies of Brexit from McEwan (Machines Like Me), a Machiavellian cockroach advances a disastrous economic policy. The roach emerges from the "pleasantly decaying" Palace of Westminster to inhabit the "clever but by no means profound" prime minister, a description that could equally apply to the novella. It seeks to secure the passage of Reversalism, a cockamamie plan that would reverse the flow of money such that people are paid to shop and pay to work: "The better, and therefore more costly, the job she finds for herself, the harder she must shop to pay for it." Once the premise is established, all eeriness drains away. McEwan dutifully describes the slithery parliamentary maneuvers, disinformation campaigns, and ginned-up scandals employed by the prime minister to ram the proposal through. The American president, Archie Tupper a thinly veiled Donald Trump makes a requisite cameo, intrigued that Reversalism would reroute his nation's defense budget to his bank account. McEwan gets in some good lines about Twitter as "a primitive version... of the pheromonal unconscious" and the thrill of weaving "a closely knit sequence of lies. So this was why people became writers." The lone spark of interest, though, lies in why this famously hardy species would care to meddle in human affairs. The answer makes about as much sense as Reversalism.