Socialist Worker

Ian McEwan’s new novella is Kafka with a difference

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2674


The Cockroach - a very readable short story

Ian McEwan’s new novella tells the story of Brexit and the political crisis it has caused.

It starts with a dramatic transformation for the main character, an echo of Franz Kafka’s novel Metamorphosis with a difference.

The character, Jim Sams, is Britain’s prime minister who has to push through Reversalism after a public referendum backed it. But unfortunately the people have voted for a terrible idea, so Sams is having trouble implementing it.

A cabal in his party is organising to vote down the Reversalism Bill, and there are protests over it.

The book shows Sams’ ruthlessness in dealing with his opponents.

A lot of the detail is very close to reality, or at least one version of reality. So the US president, Archie Tupper, is famed for sending dramatic, contradictory tweets. And the leader of the opposition, Horace Crabbe, is “an elderly Reversalist of the post-Leninist left”.

This is a very readable short story, and people who follow the twists and turns of official politics will no doubt enjoy getting the references.

It gets all the relevant elements in to make the story feel like it’s describing the world today, including climate chaos and Me Too. And there are some really funny bits, especially the parts that focus on Sams’ transformation.

But ultimately the message is that, if you support Brexit, you’re probably not human.

And the people really pushing it are doing so to make the majority poorer so they can “thrive”.

The Cockroach by Ian McEwan is published by Jonathan Cape, £7.99

Theatre—Blood wedding

The Young Vic
Until 2 November

Spanish poet and playwright Federico Garcia Lorca’s play “Blood Wedding”, written some years before his murder by fascists during the Spanish Civil War.

The main character of the play is the Bride played by Aoife Duffin who effortlessly portrays the character’s burning lust for freedom.

Her longing for lust, love and a deeper meaning in her life get her caught in a doomed love triangle.

The Bride’s purpose in life is mainly determined by traditional gender roles.

For her, what it means to be a daughter, wife and mother is questioned.

Violence is weaved throughout the play, starting and ending with blood in the hands of the groom’s mother played by Olwen Fouere.

She was absolutely amazing carrying the dark humour throughout the play.

Naima Omar

Dance—Hard to be soft

Queen Elizabeth Hall, London
Until 11 October

Contemporary dance work Hard to Be Soft: A Belfast Prayer was one of the highlights of the recent Edinburgh International Festival.

The work of young Irish choreographer and dancer Oona Doherty, it is a deeply moving contemplation of working class life in the biggest city in the north of Ireland.

From its set of a slatted partition wall to its evocative soundtrack and its extraordinary and emotive dance, this is a uniquely powerful work of art.

Mark Brown

Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'

Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.