Linda's Reviews > Cokcraco

Cokcraco by Paul Andrew Williams
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's review
Aug 12, 2013

it was amazing

"Ever since Don Quixote, novelists have been taking the piss. In Cokcraco, Paul Williams does exactly that, turning the full beam of his satirical spotlight on the civil wars of university departments, the cultish bunkum of literary theory, the self-obsession of creative writing courses and the self-flagellation of white liberal guilt. In the process, Mr Williams also succeeds in poking fun at the conventions of the novel itself. Cokcraco reads like a collage of what one of its pompous academics would probably call discourses – pseudo-scholarly footnotes, pseudo-scientific articles, pseudo-poems, pseudo-stories and a cod travel guide memorably called Crowded Planet. This is a novel that does its best to defy classification. This is a novel that sets out to be a real genre-bender – it’s at once a cross-cultural comedy of manners, a campus comedy transplanted to post-apartheid South Africa and a sly philosophical whodunit.

So there is some serious fun to be had here, but with something darkly serious lurking under the lush tropical surface. In this country of gated communities and ubiquitous Kalashnikovs, violence never seems far away. The novel’s central character, an expat Australian academic called Timothy Turner, has braved the post-apartheid chaos and come to KwaZulu on a quest to find a renowned local writer whose diverse literary output celebrates the cockroach as an emblem of both oppression and resistance. This quest turns out to be a lot more than the ingenuous Dr Turner bargained for. By his side, the reader will encounter cockroaches in every incarnation under the sun – as scientific marvel (surviving nuclear war and all that), as cultural marker (the rich don’t like them), as interior decoration (glued onto furniture as a kind of ornamental strip), as embodiment of the frustrated male ego (well, we all know who Gregor Samsa is), as narrative voice, as literary inspiration. The result is a strange, funny, intelligent and quite unforgettable novel. What Flaubert did for parrots, Mr Williams has done for the humble roach."
– Jeffrey Poacher, September 2013 (with permission)

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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
August 12, 2013 – Shelved

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