Unpresidented – A Comedy of Errors by Paige Nick (first published in 2017 by Bookstorm)
About the book:
When ex-president J Muza is released from prison on medical parole for an ingrown toenail, his expectations of a triumphant return to power and admiration are cruelly dashed.
His once lavish Homestead is a rotting shell, his remaining wives have ganged up on him, the Guptas have blocked his number, and not even Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe will take his calls any more. And he just can't seem to get his plans for world domination off the ground.
Muza is banking on his memoirs full of fake news to pep up his profile, but his ghostwriter, a disgraced journalist, has problems and a tight deadline of his own.
What Muza's not banking on is a fat bill for outstanding rates on The Homestead, and a 30-day deadline to pay back the money, before the bailiffs arrive to evict him.
Is Muza a mastermind, or simply a puppet who fell into the wrong hands? Who is really playing who? What are his remaining wives up to, and will they stay or will they go? And how will he ever pay back the money? Can the ghostwriter make his deadline before he winds up dead? Or are both men destined to be homeless and loathed forever?
It is 2020 and ex president Muza (no guessing who this is) is an old man, sidelined by fame and at the mercy of his two wives: Refilwe and Bonang.
Paige Nick with her courage and enthusiasm has written a book called Unpresidented that many wouldn’t even think about undertaking.
The Zupta politics are so criminally offensive that few people in the world would believe it. And that is one problem; only South Africans will understand this book, and perhaps not even them.
Spoofs are notoriously uphill writing, brimmed with irresistible vignettes that are Bollinger to the writer. I vowed that if I came across the Zuma number difficulty, I would waste the book.
It came up on page 32. Next up was the showerhead. Baba as his wives call him is, as usual looking for a bit of easy funding. One of them suggests that he imports and sells showerheads. The other offers to show him how to use the interlocker machine, “You could learn to sew easily and I could give you R5 for every skirt.”
That set the pain level but I carried on reading because Nick has a fluid compulsive style that draws you along.
There were some clever scenes. Muza's wives looking for mates on Tinder was funny but fairly obvious to people who regularly write comedy. Throughout the book I did not laugh out loud once; it was the inevitability of the material.
What drew a half smile was the dilemma of the journalist writing a memoir on Muza; Nick is more than familiar with grind of putting words on paper and it is always 101ish to see the process dissected and spread on a plate like a deboned fish.
Considering the state of South African politics this was a book waiting to happen. It is cleverly conceived but South Africa is just too easy a subject and I fear it takes a more experienced writer to pull it off. The result is hack where every new line can be anticipated and originality struggles through buckets of clichés.
These spoofs might seem sent by a deity when you are searching for a subject but it needs a magical talent (which Nick has with the right subject) to rend a story from these sordid dictator morals and media trex.
The journalist Giles Foden who wrote The Last King of Scotland, a fictionalized account of Idi Amin understood and avoided the pitfalls of making an ex dictator look like a buffoon. Like Nick he interweaves fiction and historical fact but the result is not only unexpected, it has a thrilling reality.
Paige Nick has a compelling, wide-ranging style, she works hard, but this subject was quite simply beyond her – and possibly anyone else.
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