Paul Murray has written a beautiful satire on the 2008 financial crash. He sets his book in Dublin, which was a ‘Celtic Tiger’ economy, which seemed to reinvent banking and economics. Another example of millenial insanity was Iceland, which has circa 350,000 population and held hundreds of millions of British Local Authority funds because they paid very high interest rates. They were bailed out by Gordon Brown- there’s always money to rescue banks.
Murray creates a cast of wildly improbable characters except they seem not to be implausible at all. Howie is a totally amoral ignoramous and Fund Manager:
‘Wait … Howie’s fund is going to invest in Kokomoko?’ This is like hearing that Hitler has deployed the Waffen-SS to build an owl sanctuary….
But that means profiting from human misery! Two bright spots have appeared on Ish’s cheeks.
‘Profiting from conditions we did nothing to create, Howie says. ‘What’s wrong with that?’ ‘Obviously it’s fucking wrong, Howie. How’s anything going to get better if your stupid fund pays out every time there’s a humanitarian disaster?’*
There is Claude a super bright analyst who is routinely subverted because management doesn’t like his conclusions- they want alternative facts to use a modern (2018) term. Ish is in thrall to Claude but it’s unrequited love as Claude is in love with a waitress. Howie has a tame Russian mathematician who creates incomprehensible formulae to justify a black=white narrative. And then there is Paul a failed novelist and (very) amateur bank robber who finds out, to his horror, that investment banks don’t actually have any cash money at all.
Satire is fiendishly hard to do and Murray has succeeded. A brilliant book well worth reading
Why you should buy this book: It’s brilliant and insightful about the 2008 disaster.
Why you shouldn’t read this book: You don’t like satire.
*pp 360 and 366