A naked, burning man runs up a hill of rubble on the last day of the Second World War in Berlin. In one hand are fragments of a white flower and he whispers “Ich liebe Sie alle,” I love you all. He is saved by a young Irish-American colonel, Kells. Certain the man with no identity or memory will die, Kells gives him the name ‘Hyman Kaplan’ who Kells, as part of Operation Lucy, has been sent to kill because, absurdly, Hyman is part of Lucy, and Lucy kills her own to remain secure.
Pickering’s new novel is a sensationally readable tale of intrigue, sex, horrific killings, and sacrifice.
‘This is a hilarious, inventive black comedy that inverts all values and mocks the religious spy thriller set in exotic parts in the world of ‘cloak and stagger’ … The black comedy of the year.’ —Andrew Sinclair, The Times
‘Altogether, this is a smashing debut from a new comic novelist of terrific promise.’ —Valentine Cunningham, The Observer
‘Is it as good as Graham Greene? Yes, it is, and in some ways better.’ —Marghanita Laski, The Listener
‘Reminiscent of the early Waugh.’ —The Irish Times
‘Brilliantly exploits the fluently headlong manner of Evelyn Waugh’s early black farces.’ —The Sunday Times
‘Superior Literature.’ —The New York Times
‘Paul Pickering’s brilliant novel challenges our fondest preconceptions … genuinely subversive … all Pickering’s work is truly subversive.’ —J.G. Ballard.
‘The Leopard’s Wife can be highly recommended. Pickering takes on some of the biggest themes of all – love, war, art –with a boldness that puts most novelists to shame. The Africa he has drawn leaps four-square from the page, at once beautiful and terrifying.’ —Max Davidson, Mail on Sunday
‘Paul Pickering’s tragic novel about contemporary Afghanistan combines realistic detail with the kind of picturesque invention more usually associated with comedy … this is a heady work of unashamedly writerly fiction.’ —Phil Baker, Sunday Times
‘A tragi-comic portrait of Afghanistan. There is violence and kindness, fear and comfort, guns and explosions and mountain ranges and animals and children. At times, the novel is heartbreaking, at others ridiculous, and this mixture of gravity and absurdity is intoxicating and bewildering.’ —Kathy Watson, The Tablet
‘What Elephant provides to the reader is a gloriously absorbing story about storytelling, as rich in suspense and vitality as it is in incidents and imagery that dare you to disbelieve them. An ice-bound Russian lake is filled with the frozen bodies of neatly dressed office girls. A zeppelin appears above Wentworth Woodhouse, equipped with a harnessed undercarriage that can carry a fully-grown Indian elephant away from imminent danger. The central story – that of the boy and the possibly imaginary elephant – is a delight.’ —Miranda Seymour, Financial Times
‘At the centre of Pickering’s meticulously researched narrative is the gigantic female elephant, a metaphor for lost innocence and uncorrupted simplicity the fast-industrialising capitalist world feels apprehensive of. Alexei’s dream about ‘the river of dark fire’ is actually an echo of Schopenhauer’s account of ‘the anarchic, artistic Wille, the raw power behind creation’.’ —Bhaskar Roy, Outlook Magazine
‘I enjoyed Elephant hugely. Such an original and beguiling story. It is, like the best fiction, simultaneously so precise and particular, while yet resonating with so many contemporary universals … An intensely readable and stirring novel.’ —Stephen Fry