By Jonas Lüscher
Jonas Lüscher, the author of Barbarian Spring―“a most humorous and convincing satire of the ridiculous excesses of those responsible for the financial crisis” (The New York Times Book Review)―returns to the topic of neoliberal arrogance in his Swiss Book Prize-winning, hilarious, and wicked novel about a man facing the ruins of his life, and his world.
Richard Kraft, a German professor of rhetoric and aging Reaganite and Knight Rider fan, is unhappily married and badly in debt. He sees no way out of his rut until he is invited to participate in a competition to be held in California and sponsored by a Silicon Valley tycoon and “techno-optimist.” The contest is to answer a literal “million-dollar question”: each competitor must compose an eighteen-minute lecture on why our world is still, despite all evidence, the best of all possible worlds, and how we might improve it even further through technology.
Entering into a surreal American landscape, Kraft soon finds what’s left of his life falling to pieces as he struggles to justify as “best” a planet in the hands of such blithe neoliberal cupidity as he encounters on his odyssey to California. Still, with the prize money in his pocket, perhaps Kraft could finally buy his way to a new life . . . But what contortions―physical and philosophical―will he have to subject himself to in order to claim it?
“An exceedingly cerebral comic novel . . . These long winter nights offer a chance to burrow into literary challenges―this winter especially. And though Kraft may sound far afield from your usual reading choices, much of it takes place in America and revolves around the promise of Reaganomics.”
―Ron Charles, The Washington Post
“A finely handled, comic dramatization of the microcompromises, stifled shame and bad-faith gymnastics of sham writers who tell the Culture whatever it wants to hear . . . Lüscher is a perceptive commentator on Silicon Valley’s heady and hubristic ideological climate, with its smug boasts of “disruption” and death-denying (or rather “posthuman transtheotechnist”) longings . . . Lüscher sniffs out the fraudulence in the very roots of his characters’ political stances.”
―Rob Doyle, The New York Times Book Review