2012 Man Booker Prize: The Teleportation Accident

The Teleportation Accident – Ned Beauman

The Haus Vaterland, which had been opened the year before last by a shady entrepreneur called Kempinski, was an amusement complex, a kitsch Babel, full of bars, cinemas, stages, arcades, restaurants, and ballrooms, with each nationally themed room (Italian, Spanish, Austrian, Hungarian, and so on, but no British or French, because of Versailles) given its own decor, music, costumes, and food. Up in the Wild West Bar where Loeser and Achleitner now sat, a sullen Negro jazz band wore cowboy hats to perform, which gave a sense of the Haus Vaterland’s dogged commitment to cultural verisimilitude, while downstairs you could take a ‘Cruise along the Rhine’ with artificial lightning, thunder, and rain like in one of Lavicini’s operas. It was as if, in some unfashionable district of hell, the new arrivals had established a random topography of small territorial ghettoes, each decorated to resemble a motherland that after a thousand years in purgatory they only half remembered. The whole place was full of tourists from the provinces, always strolling and stopping and turning and strolling and stopping again for no apparent reason as if practising some decayed military drill, and it was as loud as a hundred children’s playgrounds.

Welcome to an alternate history of the world where teleportation machine has been first invented around 1679. Of course it wasn’t a real Star Trek-style or Christopher Priest’s The Prestige-style teleportation device, but merely a mechanical special effect contraption for theater plays; or at least, people thought it wasn’t real.
In 1930’s Germany, a sex-hungry and sex-depraved theatre set designer Egon Loeser tries to–no, a teleportation machine is not the most important thing he would care about–woo a girl named Adele Hitler, who sleeps with so many, too many, important men and some less important men in Berlin, and outside Berlin, except Egon Loeser. He chases Adele to Paris, where he meets Scramsfield, a con man with cowardly past, only to find that the girl had already gone to Los Angeles.
Along the way across the world, Egon encounters lots of fictional artists, writers, composers, citing fictional movies and musical pieces, reads fictional books; all delightfully coexisting along Brecht, D.H. Lawrence, Lovecraft,  Shanghai Express, Berlin Alexanderplatz, Chateau Marmont, Siemens, General Motors, CalTech, and other real–our real–European-American historical cultural products; and finally, although unintentionally, confronts the real–not our real, supposedly functioning teleportation machine prototype that supposedly will run on the energy of…love; or at least, it appears to be real. How outrageous is that?

Check out my other 2012 Man Booker Prize longlist reviews:
Bring Up the Bodies
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry


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