Tuesday 12 December 2017

Satire will not only entertain, it will make you angry

Meet Jude: a likeable fellow who doesn't ask much from life. He owns a henhouse, a roofless shack bought at the height of the property bubble; Jude owes €10m, the debt most likely to default in all of Europe. It's considered the symbolic heart of the eurozone crisis.

So, to stabilise the economy and "reassure the markets", he's coerced into leveraging the henhouse against further debt. Jude now owes €100bn. He's ordered to cover the entire country with a plastic roof, to funnel off rainwater in part-payment of his debt (and by extension, the nation's).

The head of the banking system is playing golf half-a-mile up in the sky, Jude is getting evermore indebted but falling in love with lovely Heidi, and they're running out of eggs to make his speciality omelettes . . .

This, of course, is satire, from the ever-inventive brain of Julian Gough. But the last few years of eurozone disaster have been so GUBU that it's almost plausible as fact.

Grotesque, unbelievable, bizarre, unprecedented: yep, that describes how Irish taxpayers found themselves on the hook for €80bn, with fellow citizens across Europe also hammered. As CRASH! explains, the people are being sacrificed to protest a system that doesn't work; saving banks and assuaging markets is more important than helping humans.

Lampooning something so perverse and absurd is hard, but never fear: Gough is one of our most talented satirists, following a tradition which dates to Dean Swift (fittingly, the BBC radio play on which CRASH! is based was recently staged at the Swift Satire Festival in Trim, with Michael D in attendance).

This novella, published electronically through Amazon's new Kindle Singles programme, is very funny – laugh-out-loud at times. You'll chuckle at the fictional placenames: Jude lives in Fripperary, in the state of Squanderland; Frugalia is Germany, Anarkos Greece, Paella Spain.

You'll cheer in sarcastic recognition of buffoonish banker Finian O'Driscoll; cold-blooded Frugalia chancellor Helen Dunkel; Bertrand Plastique, oily head of the European Bank of Common Sense and Stability. (And this was all written long before the Anglo Tapes!)

Most profoundly, perhaps, you'll feel the righteous anger at the heart of all good satire. Gough isn't just entertaining us; he's tearing apart the greed, bureaucracy and endemic lunacy of the politico-economic complex that rules our lives.

Gags without anger are brainless and childish; anger without empathy is just nihilism. Gough cares about what happens to ordinary people, you feel, and wants us to care.

He wants us to get angry with him, and wants us to laugh at how ridiculous they all are, maybe the last act of defiance left. Read CRASH! and you'll do both.

Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus is author of The Polka Dot Girl and Even Flow.

Irish Independent

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