Razor-sharp political satire
P. F.Thomése broke through internationally in 2003 with Schaduwkind (Shadow Child), the heartbreaking story of the death of his newborn daughter, Isa. The contrast with his most recent novel couldn’t be greater: Vladivostok! is political satire about power shifting to the media, which, through polls and spin-doctored news, manipulates public opinion. Thomése has used pornography as his vehicle, reinstating this genre as the critical instrument it was originally in the eighteenth century. This vision combines power and porn, both as sinister as they are banal.
The main character is Fons Nieuwenhuijs, a communications consultant who helps his childhood friend, Hans Portielje – parttime senior lecturer and Africa expert - prepare for a top position in politics. Nieuwenhuijs has to guide him into Parliament and prepare him to be a Minister. Having worked for a progressive weekly in the past, both arrivés now present themselves as thoroughly cynical alpha males who define their existence entirely in terms of their one-dimensional sexual urges.
Since Martin Amis’ Money (1985) it has been rare for so much stylistic ingenuity to have been put into blatant sexism: ‘She could silently undress and offer herself to him as an object. Take me. So easy, he could do anything with her without her obstructing him. The nice thing about her was that he had stopped seeing her as a person a long time ago. She was but wrapping for his dick, a piece of female wetness around it which always fitted.’ Both protagonists also use racist language without shame. Still, it is not Portielje’s pompous, conceited opinions which bring about his ruin after a failed television appearance. Thomése has a better fate in store for Nieuwenhuijs. He comes to realise that he can actually mean something to someone. Vladivostok! is a razorsharp, funny and controversial novel about our media-dominated democracy in which everything is superficial and power madness translates literally into pornography.