Richard Major: ‘Why I wrote the world’s first satirical novel about Trump’

IndieBooks’ Richard Major has been talking to Oxford Today about how he came to pre-write a satirical novel about Trump.

‘…In autumn 2015 my family and I were living in Budapest. On a certain night of November, a night as dark-and-stormy as any gothic yarn might require, I enjoyed an elaborate nightmare. I saw the students of a huge Northern ex-polytechnic invent a mascot, a made-up student. They cobbled its portrait together with Photoshop, using visual scraps from here and there; they registered it for its course, meaning to write its essays, and eventually get it its degree – for at this dreadful place no student need ever speak to a lecturer. Only the creators outdid themselves. They emptied into their concoction all the filth of their own ids: ideas too dire to air on their own Facebook pages. Their mascot became hypnotically awful; became nationally infamous; rose to supreme power; dragged the country into general ruin. – Such was my nightmare. 

In a way it’s easily analysed. As everyone knows, Mary Shelley had a similar dream, which she wrote up over the next three days; this eventually grew into the novel Frankenstein. We had been talking about Frankenstein before I went to bed that night; here was Frankenstein’s creature reimagined. 

The difference is that Mrs Shelley, being an optimistic Liberal, gave her  monster no political role. Its public acts are limited to murders; it didn’t stand for office in the Republic of Geneva. 

But what if it had? There’s a kink in human nature (Augustine called it the mysterium iniquitatis) which draws us toward iniquity, if the iniquity’s sufficiently extreme and bizarre.Frankenstein’s creature was so frightful, so unreal – physically as well as morally – that it would surely have spoken to the basest layer of humanity, always a lively constituency. Wouldn’t it have been enthralling? So enthralling that in the end it would be irresistible? 

Anyway, I jotted down my dream; in pious imitation of Mary Shelley I managed this in three days, between lectures. Then I put it away and pretty much forgot it. 

A year later it came to mind again because history had jumped tracks.  Autumn 2015 is a long, long time ago. The issues in international politics were the Paris climate agreement and intervention in Syria. Even American politics were adult: either Jeb or Rubio was to be the Republican nominee; the debates were about the economy. Donald Trump was low-comic relief at the margin of affairs; I’d scarcely heard of him. 

But now it’s as if Shakespeare’s hunchback had hobbled downstage, dropped himself onto the shoulders of the groundlings, been carried with howls across London Bridge, been deposited in the palace, given the crown. We have slid (suddenly, how suddenly!) into an age of made-up monsters. Satire cannot keep up with the phantasmagoria…’

Intrigued? Luckily begat is still available on our website for the special launch price of just £5.

 

TPBP Winter Showcase

We were delighted to see IndieBooks’ titles selected in all categories for The People’s Book Prize Winter Showcase: charity fundraising title, From Syria With Love in non-fiction; Richard Major’s Quintember in fiction; and the timeless Worrals series in children’s books.

The People’s Book Prize spoke to Richard Major about Quintember, and what he has planned for the future:

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  1. Have you got a message for your readers?

 I hope people thoroughly enjoy Quintember! It’s supposed to break out of the usual genre divisions – it’s a satire as well as a thriller, a novel of ideas as well as a romp, a fantasia but also a comedy of manners  – and to be neither high-brow and serious nor low-brow fluff. And if you do enjoy it, there’s lots more to come.

  1. What can we expect from you in the future?

There are five more installments of the misdemeanours of Felix Culpepper written, and they’ll appear over the next few years. He doesn’t become any better behaved.

My short novella Attu appeared as an ebook at Christmas. It’s about a mischievous president who announces the end of the world. He’s joking, he’s just kidding about with comets – isn’t he? Eight billion people around the world aren’t so sure.

A more serious political novella, begat, will be published spring. It’s a blackly comic tale set in a grisly, too pre-failed to fail, English university, where the students invent a mascot: an imaginary student, who bodes larger and larger as they empty into him all the worst of themselves. He’s monstrous, he even looks monstrous (being a bad online montage, a photoshop Frankenstein); but his nastiness is oddly irresistible, especially on social media; he effortlessly rises to national power, and inflicts national destruction, without having to exist. begat’s a satirical study of how an apocalyptic monster is created: how the mob drains all the evil stowed within their ids into one phantasmagorical abortion of a human, cherished for his deformities. For what it’s worth, it was written fourteen months ago, before I had heard of Donald Trump.

  1. Any suggestions to support libraries?

Like (I imagine) most children, I discovered the joy and importance of reading at my local public library — and not at school — and therefore owe libraries a debt that can never be repaid. It’s worth saying this, perhaps, in a time when arts funding of all sorts is under question in this country and elsewhere. So nothing would make me prouder than bringing this tiny addition to literature in English back to libraries by way of talks or readings or displays.

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Richard Major

You can vote for Quintember here.

Entertainments for the Trump epoch

“The election had an apocalyptic feel to it,” says Mr. Thiel, wearing a gray Zegna suit and sipping white wine in a red leather booth at the Monkey Bar in Manhattan. “There was a way in which Trump was funny, so you could be apocalyptic and funny at the same time. It’s a strange combination, but it’s somehow very powerful psychologically” New York Times, 11/01/17

‘Apocalyptic and funny’, respectively, also describe our two latest releases – entertainments for the Trump epoch – ‘begat’ and ‘Attu’.

Attu, released shortly before Christmas, but available for free today on the kindle store, is an escapist eBook for those currently absorbed with anxious political thoughts (so everyone)…

‘A mischievous president announces the End of the World. He’s joking – isn’t he? Eight billion people around the world aren’t so sure.’

 

Today is also the perfect opportunity to announce our latest acquisition – begat – perhaps the first serious comic novella of the Trump era, by Dr Felix Culpepper of Cambridge University.

‘begat’ – out this spring – charts a national plunge into political and social madness with eerie parallels to today’s apotheosis of Trump. It is a satirical study of how an apocalyptic monster is created: ‘the mob drains all the evil stowed within their ids into one phantasmagorical abortion of a human, cherished for his deformities’.

As a taster, you can download an extract of ‘begat’ from our website.