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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Mission London

Alek Popov

To purchase Mission London

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Title: Mission London
Author: Alek Popov
Genre: Novel
Written: 2001 (Eng. 2014)
Length: 278 pages
Original in: Bulgarian
Availability: Mission London - US
Mission London - UK
Mission London - Canada
Mission Londres - France
Mission: London - Deutschland
  • Bulgarian title: Мисия Лондон
  • Translated by Daniella and Charles Gill de Mayol de Lupe
  • Мисия Лондон was made into a film in 2010, Mission London, directed by Dimitar Mitovski

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Our Assessment:

B : entertaining enough, but fairly tame

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
NZZ A 18/11/2006 Ulrich M. Schmid

  From the Reviews:
  • "Alek Popovs Trick besteht darin, dass er seinen Helden als aufgeblasenen Poseur einführt. Der karrierebewusste Botschafter bewegt sich auf dem schmalen Grat zwischen gefährlichen und belanglosen Amtshandlungen, die er beide vermeiden will -- etwas Drittes existiert für ihn nicht. Was zählt, ist einzig und allein der Eindruck, den er in Sofia macht. (...) Alek Popov gelingt mit Mission: London ein fulminantes Romandébut: Er präsentiert mit viel Sprachwitz eine groteske Handlung, die aber in der karikaturhaften Übertreibung den Blick für das Wesentliche schärft." - Ulrich M. Schmid, Neue Zürcher Zeitung

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Мисия Лондон is set entirely in London, where the newly appointed Bulgarian ambassador, Varadin Dimitrow, shows up at the embassy a few days before he is expected, causing even more turmoil in what is already a fairly chaotic set-up. Alek Popov has some fun with post-Communist Bulgarians trying to adapt and embrace the ways of the West -- though, surprisingly, Мисия Лондон remains a fairly tame affair.
       Politics is the least of it: the new ambassador's wife (who opts for a better gig in the United Arab Emirates) does blackmail him with his former (Communist) party-membership booklet (the existence of which wouldn't do much for his career nowadays), but that's barely more than an aside. Most of the humorous situations could be right out of novels from the 1920s or 30s: there's the family who won't move out of the official residence, who feature as victims of government callousness in a tabloid story when the ambassador tries to force them out by cutting off their electricity, or the ridiculous crime the cook gets involved in, stashing a haul of ducks stolen from a local pond (for re-sale to Chinese restaurants). Of course, there are some modern touches: the ducks are equipped with microchips to keep track of them, making it possible to find them electronically, for example, with some humorous consequences.
       One sometime maid from the old country that the ambassador lusts after finds a better job than the after-hours club she works at for a while when someone recognizes how much she looks like Princess Di, and she finds employment at 'Famous Connections', where people pay to enjoy the company with those who could be taken for celebrities like Princess Di. It turns out the ambassador also has some connections to Famous Connections, sent to them by someone when he mentioned he was looking for a PR firm to burnish the image of Bulgaria and maybe get him in touch with the right people (meaning the famous and well-connected -- and, above all, the royals). The right people turn out to be fakes, but it's a while before he recognizes that -- by which time he has organized an event at the embassy promising the Queen herself will be in attendance.
       Add in some travelling art shows -- the world's oldest toilet, found in Bulgaria ! -- and a few other odd and ends, and it makes for a reasonably amusing set-up. But Popov shifts too quickly from one bit to the next, and the ambassador, especially, isn't nearly fleshed-out enough to make for the tragi-comic hero and example he is meant to be. Popov writes fluidly and well, and the ideas are funny enough, but he doesn't take them nearly far enough; this is incredibly safe satire.
       Good fun, but not nearly enough of it -- and not nearly rough and tumble enough.

- M.A.Orthofer, 23 October 2009

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Mission London: Reviews: Mission London - the movie Alek Popov: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Bulgarian author Alek Popov (Алек Попов) was born in 1966.

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© 2009-2014 the complete review

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