Boxer, Beetle (4)

Boxer, Beetle has been blurbed as hilarious. I would call it satirical in the extreme, but I haven't been laughing.

There are no redeeming characters in the book. Not only are the fascists obnoxious and stupid, but their would-be victims, the underclass East Ender Jews of London, are primitive and crude. Seth "Sinner" Roach is the crudest of them: a malformed boxer who lives to fight, who hates Jew-haters but has no political perspective, only selfish interest. His bizarre symbiosis with the anti-Semitic fascist entomologist and amateur eugenicist Philip Erskine and their mutual fate is the focal point of the mystery Kevin Broom is trying to solve under extreme duress in the present. As the narrative toggles between tracking down vanished persons and the obscure events of 1936, we descend further and further into the pit.

Erskine not only names a beetle he has bred after Hitler, he receives an effusive letter from Hitler. Sinner becomes a mercenary in a brewing battle in the East End as Mosley's fascists storm the area to confront the Jews, who are poised for battle.

Well, Broom and his kidnapper (and the latter's mysterious boss) finally solve the mystery of the boxer and the beetles, as do we in a flashback to October 1936. Both halves of the story conclude with no justice meted out to the bad guys, no good guys to win or lose, no redemption and no moral. This satiric portrait of degradation and fascism is a brilliantly written tour de force, well worth reading, but don't expect any wisdom to be gotten from it.

What this young man is about I do not know, or if this novel bespeaks a trend in Jewish fiction, but you can learn more about the author and his work at Ned Bauman's web site, which also links to his blog "Oh my god look at its little face!". Bauman, born in 1985, studied philosophy in Cambridge. Make of that what you will. There is also a bibliography for this novel. The references for artificial languages are:

The Artificial Language Movement by Andrew Large (1985)
Esperanto: Language, Literature and Community by Pierre Janton, ed. Humphrey Tonkin (1993)

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