James Gault reviews THE IMPOSTORS by Timothy Balding
For everyone, this is a very funny book. But, if you’re an aficionado of philosophy, it’s a very, very funny book.
More of philosophy later, let’s look at it just as a hilarious comic novel. The hero, the improbably named Will Power (the first signal of some deeper meaning?) is an unsuccessful aspiring actor, who signs up with a theatrical agency with a standout Unique Selling Point: it sends its thespians out to play fictional parts in the real world, not in films or plays. Normally this involves impersonating non-existent boyfriends of desperate but unattractive ladies, but Will is entrusted with the challenge of being the agency’s first official mourner. The defunct, a man he has never met, has been blessed with a very eccentric merry widow with an obsession for having fun and quoting Shakespeare. What can go right?
The plot, peopled with delightfully eccentric characters firmly rooted in middle class England, belts along at a hilarious and fast pace that brought back memories of Phillip King farces, although this modern version is more intellectual and wittier than these relics from the fifties and sixties. Some may feel the characters are caricatures, ciphers constructed to fit into situations depicting the author’s metaphysical predilections, but for me that made them even funnier and more enjoyable. I particularly loved the Austrian ‘psychoanalyst’ who complained that ‘ze English’ do not ‘sink’. There’s a laugh in every line or at least in every paragraph.
So much for the comic novel; what about the philosophy? Who are we? Why are we here? Does it matter? If we are pretending to be someone else, are we really that person? Or, if we are being ourselves, are we really pretending? Is philosophy merely a parlour game, or should we take it seriously. Is existentialist angst a fad? Or maybe a hobby? Was Freud a fraud? Was Sartre a swindler?
Like a good philosopher, Mr Balding asks all these questions, and many others. And like a good philosopher, he doesn’t answer any. A book to make you think. Nice work!
An outstanding novel and a real pleasure to read.