The Teleportation Accident
Ned Beauman's second novel starts briskly, set in the early 1930s in bohemian Berlin – a time when the country was on the brink and the drink / drugs and casual sex excesses of the previous decade would be wiped away with the onset of Nazi-ism. The central character is Egon Loeser – a somewhat dislikeable and politically incorrect theatrical set designer who becomes obsessed with reproducing seventeenth century Adriano Lavicini (don't bother Googling – he's fictional) magnum opus – an on-stage teleportation device capable of moving scenery using a complex combination of pulleys and ropes.
He bumps into Adele Hitler (no relation) who he taught whilst she was a child, only she's blossomed into a charming and beautiful young lady who is liberal with her virtual to all interesting men she meets, and that obviously omits the lustful Loeser.
The first third of the book, centred around Loeser and his interactions in the Berlin 'scene' is close to masterpiece status. It bristles with wit, originality and captures the essence of a man consumed with paranoia in the belief his acquaintances are more successful with women and career. The narrative then decamps to Paris as Loeser searches for Adele and the pace barely slackens.
It's only during the second half of the novel when Loeser ends up in Los Angeles continuing his quest to find the elusive Adele that the narrative starts to wear out its welcome. The humour, so fanciful and whimsical yet densely layered in the first half is surpassed by threadbare slapstick. The set-pieces become sillier and the thrust of the novel runs out of steam.
There is plenty of joy to be exacted from Beauman's book but it just falls short of the mark.