Two men discover they share more than just a name in this Belgian bestseller from Flemish author Lanoye (Speechless, 2018).
When the book opens, Tony Hanssen—a 42-year-old former cruise director–turned–reluctant gigolo—is squiring the wife of Chinese tycoon Mr. Bo Xiang around Buenos Aires. Tony hopes to charm Mrs. Bo Xiang into convincing her notoriously ruthless husband to forgive his gambling debts. Unfortunately, the elderly woman suffers a fatal heart attack in flagrante delicto, sending a panicked Tony scrambling. Meanwhile, at a South African game reserve, a different Tony Hanssen—this one a 40-year-old computer programmer who engineered a now-bankrupt investment firm’s high-tech Ponzi scheme—is poised to shoot a protected rhinoceros. Tony plans to sell the creature’s horns and use the money to regain his family, rehabilitate his reputation, and resume his opulent lifestyle, but another poacher beats him to the kill, forcing him to improvise. Events ultimately conspire to place both men at the same Guangzhou hotel, where a case of mistaken identity entwines their fates. Lanoye’s weird and woolly tale gleefully lampoons the wantonness of capitalism and the destructive nature of greed. Evocative prose conjures lurid imagery, intensifying reader revulsion for the equally contemptible Tonys, who are but interchangeable cogs in a global machine. Regrettably, muddy plotting and momentum-sapping monologues plague the last two-thirds of the story, blunting its impact and depleting its narrative drive.
An attempt at artful satire that gets lost in translation.