by Paul Murray
‘The very scale of AgroBOT’s impending collapse means that it cannot be allowed to happen. Thanks to his expansions, we are so big now that if we go down, an untold number of trading partners and counterparts will be pulled down with us, bringing the entire global banking system grinding to a halt. In a matter of hours, money will stop coming out of ATMs. In two or three days there will be no food left on the supermarket shelves. By the end of the week, petrol will have run out, followed shortly by electricity. Within a month, the very fabric of civilization will have totally collapsed…’
Who’d have expected a tale about a French banker working at an Irish investment bank to be so brilliantly funny – and so surprising? Clever too: the plot twists and turns like a twisty turny thing; at no point does the story end up where you think it’s going to. Everything surprised – and delighted – in equal measure with interesting, exciting things to say – about banking of course, but also art and literature, the nature of time, the fragility of culture. ‘look down,’ Ariadne says, after showing Paul a beautiful piece of art; emaciated figures, a memorial to the victims of the potato famine.
…although the figures themselves are anonymous, names have been printed on the stylized bronze cobblestones beneath their bare feet – names of companies, names of banks, names of individuals: the corporate and private sponsors who paid for the work. Multinationals, meat processors, politicians, businessmen, a society hostess, a disgraced prime minister… ‘So,’ Ariadne asks, ‘who does this artwork want you to remember?’
Mark and the Void is very long, unexpectedly long – 544 pages – but that’s never a problem because it’s constantly changing, consistently witty and always unpredictable. And amidst all the humour, a series of dismal lessons exactly why certain bankers seem to have got away with murdering the economy and why some banks are too big to be allowed to fail. Outrageous, horrifying and very, very funny.
This is a pre-publication review. Mark and the Void is due out on 30th July 2015