This entertainment for the Trump epoch (IndieBooks)
has been called “the first significant fiction to confront the facts of our grotesque new age. Just as Muriel Spark’s Abbess of Crewe placed the Watergate scandal in an English nunnery,
and Brecht’s Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui cast Hitler as a Chicago gangster, so begat, concerning
itself with UCAS and Facebook postings, manages to be creepily topical and globally significant.”
This blackly comic tale is set in a grisly English university, too pre-failed to fail, where the students invent a mascot: an imaginary student, who bodes
larger and larger as they empty into him all the worst of their ids.
He is monstrous, and even looks
monstrous (being a bad online montage, a photoshop Frankenstein); but his nastiness is oddly irresistible, especially
on social media. After a while his webpage gathers a following well beyond the university; he is elected to Parliament; his pronouncements push Britain into a nuclear confrontation with Iran; terror of missiles drives
the population into the winter countryside, where they starve, slay each other and die; and the story ends with
The author writes: “I produced begat in November 2015 in the blizzard-ridden hills above Budapest.
I was working full-time preparing a student for her Cambridge
interview: she wanted to read English lit. Alex was brilliant and easily got in, but talking to her about imbeciles she knew, about university admissions,
and about Frankenstein (one of her texts), led me in the stormy small hours of Tuesday to dream of a pale student beside the thing he had
put together; however it wasn’t Mary Shelley’s student I was seeing, and it wasn’t her monster. She wrote Frankenstein in three days, and
as an experiment I imitated her speed; I wrote between tutorials; by Friday afternoon the story was done and presented to Alex as a souvenir.
These pseudo-gothic circumstances wouldn’t be interesting except for the odd fact I hadn’t then heard of Donald J. Trump.
When I lightly revised begat a year later, I looked at a couple of mediaeval romances about the antichrist, and
was charmed to find the same orange hair, deformed fingers and unhuman blankness that had come to me in nightmare.
Perhaps charmed isn’t
the right word.”