Therapeutic Mockery

An impeccably-timed satire

That morning, Jim Sams, clever but by no means profound, woke from uneasy dreams to find himself transformed into a gigantic creature. For a good while he remained on his back (not his favourite position) and regarded his distant feet, his paucity of limbs, with consternation.

When an established novelist dips his pen into the satirical inkpot, the result is likely to be interesting. When a writer of Ian McEwan’s calibre takes on the farce and madness that is Brexit, as orchestrated by its chief farceur, Boris Johnson, the outcome is simply exquisite. I read this novella in one sitting and by its end was doubtful that anything better could ever be written on the subject: The Cockroach has to be the political satire of our time.

Just as a rotten, bloated corpse will eventually rise to the surface of a fetid swamp, so McEwan’s mendacious Prime Minister, Jim Sams, rises to the top of his deceitful clique. And what advances this ghastly outcome? Sams, the protagonist, undergoes a startling transformation (a metamorphosis, if you like, with a cheerful nod to Kafka’s creation).

And there I’ll leave it, for to tell you more would only spoil a treat that is in store, if you read this book. And, should you want to gain some sort of sane perspective on this still-unfolding tragedy at the same time as being highly entertained, read it you probably should.

Ian McEwan, The Cockroach, Jonathan Cape, Vintage

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