By Johannes Kaiser

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Kafka the other way around: A cockroach awakens as British Prime Minister – and turns a whole country upside down. Ian McEwan's "The Cockroach" satirizes the farce about the Brexit. (Diogenes)

"The Cockroach" by Ian McEwan is a bitter satire on Brexit and its consequences. A cockroach transforms into the English Prime Minister, plunging the country into chaos with lies, deceit and deceit. Boris Johnson sends his regards.

Kafka was the godfather. Only this time, no one awakens in the morning as a bug, but a cockroach as British Prime Minister. After a brief introduction to the new role, he fires his personal secretary first. He wants to have a free hand in his decisions to create a completely new economic and social system: reversalism.

If you have work, you have to pay

Behind this is the idea to reverse the flow of money. If you have a job, you have to pay the employer for it and pay the salary. When shopping in turn you get paid for the purchased goods, the price. With that one then pays his employer. Surpluses may not exist. All money must be spent again immediately. The higher the remuneration of the job, the more you have to buy. This gets the economy going and leads to the distribution of wealth. So the theory.

An equally funny and outrageous idea. An allusion to the Brexit friends, who promise a return to those times when the British Empire dominated world trade and the political arena.

Kafka allusions in McEwan style

That the writer calls his prime minister Jim Sams is to be understood as a bow to the famous predecessor, whose protagonist is Gregor Samsa. Also, as in "The Metamorphosis," there is a narrator who expands the events in great detail before us.

The style, however, is definitely Ian McEwan: elegant, witty-ironic, sometimes sarcastic, a firework of ideas. With almost malicious pleasure, the writer takes up again and again typical phrases of Brexit friends, puts them in the mouth of his premier. He describes the entire situation from his perspective. Cleverly, McEwan lets his Jim Sams use social media to spread fake news and slander. He shows him as a cunning, unscrupulous manipulator who is not afraid to spread lies to enforce his economic revolution.

Premier shamelessly breaks agreements

When a British warship inadvertently rams a British fishing boat in dense fog and dies six mariners, it is inflated to a deliberately provoked attack. The Cabinet is well informed that fishermen poached illegally in French waters, a flagrant breach of international maritime law.

But that does not prevent the PM from launching a smear campaign against France. When the truth comes to light, one apologizes half-heartedly. What remains is the heated mood that benefits the reversalists. It is not the only trick that comes to the prime minister to disavow his opponents. In order to get his plans through the parliament, the prime minister shamelessly breaks a traditionally agreed parliamentary agreement between ruling party and opposition.

A fun read

Although the book initially claims to be a work of fiction and denies any resemblance to live or dead cockroaches, one can easily see numerous parallels between the actual events surrounding Brexit and satire.

An amusing, light-footed little fun.

Ian McEwan: "The cockroach"
Translated from English by Bernhard Robben
Diogenes Verlag, Zurich 2019
133 pages, 19 euros

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