The Cockroach Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
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.
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|Listening Length||2 hours and 13 minutes|
|Audible.com Release Date||September 27, 2019|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #270,141 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#644 in Political Fiction (Audible Books & Originals)
#778 in Satirical Literature & Fiction
#4,522 in Political Fiction (Books)
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As a short contemporary satire (100 pages in the paperback edition, not 112 as claimed above) this is surprisingly feeble and one dimensional. The characters are little more than puppets, whose identities are easily decoded. Jim Sams, the chief cockroach, owes something to Theresa May but is basically Boris Johnson. Jim’s special adviser Simon is obviously Dominic Cummings. Benedict, the only human in the cabinet, is plainly Philip Hammond. The leader of the opposition, Horace Crabbe, is Jeremy Corbyn. Jane Fish seems to owe something to Jess Phillips MP. And so on. But none of these characters, apart from Jim, have any inner life. They are cardboard cut-outs. Most are propelled by nihilism. As satire the book is a lot less funny than any edition of the magazine Private Eye.
This is a book for the most zealous kind of Remainer. The German chancellor demands to know ‘Why are you doing this? Why, to what end, are you tearing your nation apart?’ The cockroach has no real answer to her penetrating wisdom: ‘Because. That, ultimately, was the only answer: because.’ In the background we hear that the public have changed their mind about the Referendum result and are expressing ‘Anxiety about what they voted for, what they’ve unleashed.’ But in the end the cockroaches win, assisted by Horace Crabbe, leader of the opposition.
McEwan’s sense of irony is astonishingly heavy-handed. Prime Minister Jim Sams, we are told, ‘knew differently. His understanding, like his vision, was narrowed’. Sams is a serial liar: ‘It was important to maintain face’. One does not have to like Boris Johnson to find this kind of satire crude and one dimensional. McEwan cannot resist a joke about Nigel Farage having a milkshake poured over him. This is lazy humour, designed for a certain sort of reader.
In the end the book seems like a howl of despair on McEwan’s part. His vision is a dark one, with Parliament infested by a seething mass of real cockroaches behind its walls and under its floors. But his anger at Brexit seems to have clouded his self-awareness as an artist. To like the politics of this book (anti-Johnson but also anti-Corbyn) you have to share them. There is also the problem that McEwan reduces the great Brexit debate to a single issue, economics. As a satire it is London-centric, set almost entirely in Westminster. The humour will no doubt please some readers but there is something coarse and inhumane at the heart of this story and it is perhaps as reactionary in the end as the right-wing politicians it sets out to mock. It is disturbing that towards the end of the book McEwan portrays ‘a tale of harassment, bullying, obscene taunts and inappropriate touching’ as a concoction cynically invented for the media to destroy a decent man. It’s an odd perspective to represent in fiction at a time when in the real world more and more women are stepping forward to make just such claims against prominent men.