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The Coup (1980)

The Coup (1980)

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3.39 of 5 Votes: 3
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0449242595 (ISBN13: 9780449242599)

About book The Coup (1980)

when extolling the virtues of capitalism -- “the worst economic system, except for all the others” -- to the commies, pinkos, marxists, fags, and anti-americans i pal around with, my favorite defense was formerly the fool-proof statement that ‘nobody washes a rented car’. the final section of the coup is my new favorite. it’s totally outrageous and funny and also kind of seriously depressing. we have one hakim felix ellellou, islamic marxist dictator of the tiny (and fictional) african nation of Kush. after deposing the king and kicking out all the ‘white devils’, he’s left to figure out how to make the country work by the laws of allah, marx, and benevolent totalitarianism. no easy task, eh? as it’s written by john updike, the coup is filled with linguistic flourishes that destroy. check this bit as ellellou unwraps the blade he’s about to use to chop off the king's head: Think of the blade of that guillotine, wrapped in straw and burlap to protect its edge, but perhaps gaps worked loose in the wrapping causing glints of reflections to fly across the desert as the pack-camel swayed on its way as it brought humanitarian murder to this remotest and least profitable heart of Africa.tThe handle of the scimitar, bronze worked to imitate wound cord, nearly fell from my hand, so unexpectedly ponderous was the blade. In this life woven of illusions and insubstantial impressions it is gratifying to encounter heft, to touch the leaden center of things, the is at the center of be, the rock in Plato’s cave. I thought of an orange.just preposterously good, huh? here we go: riding through his drought-ridden country, ellollou notices, at one point, 'two yellow parabolas' off in the distance. much later they are revealed as the ubiquitous 'golden arches', home to the big mac and chicken mcnugget and all that other disgusting see, way out in the Kushian desert, the americans secretly set up a town modeled on small-town USA: manicured lawns, drug stores, fast food, coca-cola, movies, diners... ellollou flips his shit, grabs a microphone, and screams to the people of the town:“What does the capitalist infidel make, you ask, of the priceless black blood of Kush? He extracts from it, of course, a fuel that propels him and his overweight, quarrelsome family – so full of sugar and starch their faces fester… I have visited this country of devils and can report that they make toys that break in children’s hands, and hair curlers in which their obese brides fatuously think to beautify themselves while they parade in supermarkets buying food wrapped in transparent..." blah blah blah… you get it. (of course, it’s all kinda true. updike takes many the shot at capitalism and america. i think the rascal was a closet anarchist!)worth noting that the monologue is shouted while the smell of wafting donuts fills the air, while the americans hand out free beer, and while hot women stroll around in short shorts. ellellou urges them to give up the beer and burn down the town. yeah... i wonder what they're gonna do?here’s what follows:Ellellou, known to his co-workers only as Flapjack, served as a short-order cook for three months, before grease burns compelled him to take employment as a parking attendant in the city’s one multi-level garage. genius.if we had substituted big macs for bombs, playboy magazine for bullets, britney spears for blackwater, and monday night football for abu ghraib… baghdad would look like downtown cleveland right now.

Updike published The Coup after traveling to Africa as a Fulbright Lecturer in 1975 and it remains a timely look at the politics, social unrest and desperate economy of the struggling young countries as they crawl up from from the stone age into the 21st century by way of a crushing colonialism. The protagonist is the cruel dictator and President For Life, Colonel Ellellou. The story is told through the eyes of the colonel in a bizarre manner in both the first and third person. Reviewers called it funny, black (no pun intended!) and satirical.

Do You like book The Coup (1980)?

As the author of my own book on Africa, Gabon, I have to acknowledge Updike as a great master.First published in 1978, The Coup is as fresh today as it was then, the cautionary tale of an African dictator's life and loves which moves effortlessly between exquisite poetry and high farce.The imaginary country of Kush, a desert landscape unblessed with oil, producing only a meagre crop of peanuts, is the great prize which falls into the lap of the hero, Ellellou, at the stroke of a sword. It is a metaphor for his own life, sprawling, yet producing so little.Drifting between his many women, Ellellou never succeeds in governing either them or his country. Instead, he meditates on his own life: his student days in America, his travels through the often mythical world of the Sahara, his own search for self-realization. The miracle of the book is that in the end he finds himself, not as a dictator or a political being, but simply as a man.Seldom does writing give one so physical a pleasure as the lyrical passages in this book.A magnificent achievement, perhaps Updike's greatest novel.
—Marius Gabriel

This is a brilliant piece, up there with "Toward the end of Time". Written with magic, the principle character Ellellou is a romantic by nature and the narration is romantic in the sense of searching for that special something, which in the case of Ellellou, is done by a blief in Islamic Marxism. In reality it's a sort of aestheticism, characterised by craving for something never really exixted, or exists in dreams. The only chapter(s) which are a little disheartening are the ones in which Ellellou flashes back from Kush, back to Wisconsin, where he went to University. These pages however, are essention for the book to carry the clout of disillusionment and eventual disappointment with that dream, which strange as it may seem was actually formed in the USA. It's a mesmerising, brilliant, totally absorbing piece. Definitely going in my books to read a second time shelf.
—Denis Materna

After the Rabbit Angstrom meganovel, I think this is Updike's best book. The unflagging stylistic virtuosity invites and sustains comparison to Lolita. The imaginary country in which it is largely set (there are also charming vignettes of 1950s Wisconsin) is not only plausible, but vividly and seamlessly real. So it's strange that this is Updike's only novel to languish out of print. Fawcett owns the paperback rights to his novels, but hasn't deigned to issue an edition since 1980. I think Updike would cut a wholly different figure if this book came to be widely read. Luckily it was a huge bestseller and a Book-of-the-Month Club selection, so almost any decent used bookseller will have a green-jacketed hardback copy.

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