Fast, funny and packed with sly political references, Unpresidented by Paige Nick is a welcome distraction to the enduring farce that is the South African news cycle.
Essentially, it is the story of a delusional, disgraced former president who tries to manipulate an (almost) equally disgraced former journalist to present the false account of his life as an autobiography. Obviously, there are a whole bunch of mishaps and gaffes along the way as both parties struggle with their version of 'the truth.'
While this is meant to be a 'light' read (I don't use this term lightly - it takes a lot of effort and intelligence to write something a reader finds easy to read) it brought up some deeper issues for me. First of all, the premise is not that outlandish at all. We are living in a political climate where our local leaders brazenly manipulate the truth and sing their own praises. I've earned money on the side for a while ghost writing for various public figures and companies - some were causes I believed in, others went against the very core of my being. This made me really identify with the lead character. Paige captures the conflict and frustration that arises from having to deny day after day that the Emperor is, in fact, wearing no clothes. Her novel is an undeniably topical story about the stories we tell ourselves.
In South Africa, we self-soothe with satire. Our Twitter game is the sharpest in the world - we can transform any situation into a meme (usually cross referencing other memes) in a few minutes. For this reason, Unpresidented is a long-hand version of a coping mechanism we use every day. At least in her story, the president of the future has seen some form of justice in the form of imprisonment and financial ruin. It allows us to imagine another future, an alternative fact if you will.
The only reason you may be put off by Paige's new book would be a general fatigue with South African politics, but don't let that deter you. This is the kind of laugh-out-loud read you'll find yourself reaching for after a long day, glass of wine in hand. You can find Unpresidented at all great South African bookstores.