The novel starts to acquire a deeply involving game-theoretical aspect, along with a flavour of Ben Elton’s ingenious and underrated novel Popcorn, which also explores how being televised can make a tricky situation much trickier. You get the sense that Vermes didn’t know quite how to tie it all up, but tie it up he does, and with whizz-bang energy and gleeful imaginative savagery. His achievement is to make this exodus, and the shaming hypocrisy of western reactions towards it, seem altogether plausible.
Calamity: The Many Lives of Calamity Jane
"as Karen Jones sets out dismayingly early in her book, the only things that the real-life ‘Calamity Jane’ can with confidence be said to have in common with her legend is that she wore trousers, swore like a navvy and was pissed all the time..."
— The Spectator
Vermes has also done his research — there are powerful insights into the lives and longings of refugees that make this something more than mere satire. It’s a book that engages deeply with both Cavafy’s poem Waiting for the Barbarians and the JM Coetzee novel that borrowed its title, as well with the false immigrant narratives of Trump’s America. Where Look Who’s Back felt insular, this novel works because German history is allowed to lend depth and resonance to the subject matter without the parallels being overplayed.