Hazel was in Love. With her brother. Poor boy, riddled with cancer, he died. Thus begins a comic novel which waltzes the reader along through war-torn Europe, the American Midwest, Apartheid South Africa, space and time itself - and eventually lands up in singing London (sic) in the 1970's and yes, there are drugs involved! Also spies. And death too. Thomas Bloch was Hazel's grandson. Much beloved, even trusted. Which was strange, considering Tom's mother considered her to be the archetypal wicked stepmother. Perhaps the fact that Tom quite liked her arose from teenage rebellion? So Hazel told him the story of how, back in war-torn Europe she had romantically met the very romantic Count Laszlo Mindchyck, whose legendary penis had impaled many women but none he had loved more than Hazel. How in the nipple-shaped castle in the backwoods of Hungary she had been tormented by his evil twins from a previous marriage, leading to her fleeing from this fairytale by night, finding herself in Vienna in time for the Anschluss and eventually returning to South Africa with the ashes of her brother and the ashes of her dreams. Where she meets and falls in love with recently bereaved Tom's Grandfather, Robert Stone, the demented old man who later, in his wheelchair, confronted terrorists at Tom's wedding...slow down!Tom is not what BOSS, the Bureau of State Security, would call a good boy even though he is a Hero of the Republic. (Another story.) He is in fact deeply enmeshed in Student politics on the campus of the University and is amongst the body of Anti-Apartheid pro ANC activists referred to as "e;Komminists"e; by BOSS. And Tom's best friend Pieter is one of their spies. Fine! Until Tom discovers his activities and joins in...with the avowed intention of undermining BOSS and all their works. And then Tom discovers love and drugs, pretty much in the same afternoon. Mona! American and very purple and flowing. Then, once enlightened spiritually and politically, they decide to marry and flee to London where freedom and drugs seemed equally available. But on the way, on the ship, with the help of some excellent LSD, Mona goes mad Once in London, the pair - the now schizophrenic and possibly mass-murdering Mona and a somewhat confused Tom, meet Pieter who, as one of BOSS' favourite agents, lives in a ramshackle shared house in suburbia and reports to the avuncular figure of the Brigadier who by day cleans the Gents' toilet at Sloane Square and by night runs the network of BOSS agents, whose remit in Britain is to spy on and, if possible, kill Anti-Apartheid activists. It is in this background of mayhem that Tom learns that he is Hazel's heir. That Laszlo left her his whole fortune. How, on learning this, Hazel dropped very dead. And Tom could, should he play his cards right, inherit the lot. But only On Condition! Hazel in her wisdom had stipulated in her rambling and discursive will that her grandson would have to prove himself to be "e;a sane and responsible adult"e;not easy! Sell out? Cut his hair? Get a job? Submit himself to the decision-making process created and supervised by the eccentric lawyer James Truelove, whereby he would have nine months of being secretly observed by a panel of "e;Jurors"e; who would reach a decision on his 21st birthdayPossibly a sequel to Elkon's first novel, 'Umfaan's Heroes', possibly not, this book reaches heights of comic inventiveness, with a deep undertow of sadness and loss. In style, the writing is Tom Sharpe meets Monty Python via Kurt Vonnegut with a dash of Franz Kafka. This book has been entirely rewritten and remastered since it was published in 1992, in what the author describes as 'a frenetic burst of joy and pain - in memory of all those blurry-eyed optimists who, even before the eventual liberation of South Africa from its racist regime, believed there could be a future'. In addition it is a memory of a London we will never see again, bursting with inventiveness and colour, music, light.
av Jon Elkon
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