FEATURE: Teleportation moves Beauman into the Booker Prize spotlight
Author Ned Beauman
Publihed: 2 August, 2012
by GERALD ISAAMAN
His novels are full of fizz, frenzy and fun. And the praise of critics seems unending for Ned Beauman, author of just two novels in a new genre admirers declare that you wouldn’t normally want to read.
Yet, at 27, he is on the 2012 Booker Prize longlist of a dozen authors seeking the £50,000 prize, among them such well-known names as Hilary Mantel, Andre Brink and Michael Frayn, late of Primrose Hill.
“It was a very pleasant surprise,” Beauman reveals back home for a break in Christchurch Hill, Hampstead, where he grew up, then audaciously adds: “I thought I had a chance.”
And his success will be precious to NW3, where the Booker was created by publisher Tom Maschler, his original idea now having been backed by various sponsors – it’s currently the Man Booker.
Among celebrated local winners in the past have been Bernice Rubens, John Berger, David Storey, Kingsley Amis, Alan Hollinghurst and Julian Barnes.
More remarkable is the fact that Beauman’s second novel, The Teleportation Accident (Sceptre, £16.99), was published on the very day the longlist was announced by Sir Peter Stothard, author and editor of the Times Literary Supplement, who chairs this year’s Booker judges.
And he too is a Hampstead man of letters, who lives in Eton Avenue, Belsize Park.
“Goodness, madness and bewildering urban change are among the themes of this year’s longlist,” says Sir Peter. “In an extraordinary year for fiction, the Man Booker Dozen proves the grip that the novel has on our world.
“We did not set out to reject the old guard but, after a year of sustained critical argument by a demanding panel of judges, the new has come powering through.”
That’s certainly a bit of finger-pointing towards Beauman, regarded by some as a difficult but highly talented natural writer whose imagination ran riot through his first novel, called Boxer, Beetle, and about which he displays a touch of arrogance.
“Boxer, Beetle got a lot of praise and a little bit of criticism,” he recalls. “But what sticks in my mind is praise from the wrong people.
Obviously this is incredibly elitist and snobbish, but that’s my prerogative as a novelist. The people who wrote four-star reviews were almost more annoying than the one- or two-star reviews, because of the way they looked at the book.”
And his latest produced this description from The Independent: “At the centre is an anti-hero called Egon Loeser, one vowel away from being a loser by name as well as nature. An avant-gardish set designer in the Weimar Republic, he is so desperate to have sex with the beauteous Adele Hitler (no relation) that he pursues her halfway across the globe, to Los Angeles via Paris. His infatuation is such, moreover, that he hardly notices when her namesake begins his war of genocide and world domination. Distracting the passive, self-centred Loeser are attempts to design a fully operational teleportation device in 17th-century Venice and 20th-century California; a Communist spy ring; Los Angeles’s nascent public transport system; and a serial killer eating hearts at Caltech.”
Yet Beauman, who was inspired by a left-wing history of Los Angeles called City of Quartz, and the arrival there of Weimar emigres, can be perverse too.
“I wanted my émigré to have the opposite of an émigré experience,” he points out. “Instead of being sad to leave Berlin, he’d be happy.
“Instead of feeling like his life is being swept aside by politics, he is completely incognisant of it, so most of his character traits grew out of that.”
But it is no surprise when you discover that Beauman has writing in his genes. He is the son of biographer and publisher Nicola Beauman, creator of Persephone Books, based in Holborn, and her husband Christopher.
“I always intended to be a writer,” Ned insists. “My first novel was well received but I’ve no idea how many it sold. Now I hope to do better with the new one.”
His conversation is guarded and belies the wild fantasies of his novels.
A third novel is on the way. “I work on a computer in my bedroom,” he explains. “It’s pretty hard work – but easier than doing an office job.”