Juan Bonilla, a Spanish Journalist and author of a book for children, has written a novel entitled The Nubian Prince. It is about a sex-slave scout. It is very funny.
Moises Froissard Calderon is your typical misdirected, recently-graduated liberal arts major who, not knowing what to do with his degree, attempts to save the world by joining a nonprofit circus operating in a Brazilian landfill for the edification (and education) of orphaned scavenger-children. Unfortunately, he’s unable to stomach either the juggling acts or the ominous odors, and retreats under a cloud of spiritual disgust. He might have stewed in his ideological juices forever, had not a chance encounter with an employee of Club Olympus suggest another way to help humanity’s disenfranchised souls – by employing them as sexual “machines” in a high-end, multinational sexual parlor. As Calderon scouts “pieces” from refugee camps and war zones, we learn that Club Olympus, which might sound like Les Miserables, is really more like modern Las Vegas: that is, a systematized, highly bureaucratized establishment. And Calderon’s ambition, to his own surprise, chrysalises into a reflection of any company man: he strives to be promoted out of his down-and-dirty position as a scout, and to an office job as a branch manager.
His meal ticket arrives in the form of a blurry photograph of a man – the Nubian Prince – whose beauty is undeniable, but whose presence is elusive. It sends Calderon scampering off to the southern coast of Spain. There he weaves through the immigrant underworld, finally uncovering an ultimate fighting circuit where The Prince enjoys an undefeated record as a fighter (apparently spurred to victory after victory by recollecting a village legend in which his grandfather was captured by white hunters, and displayed in a zoo).
There’s a curious secrecy surrounding the respective “professional” manifestations of eros and thanatos – it’s hard not to see their compartmentalization as a reflection of global capitalism at large. Calderon, though certainly aware that life in the Club is nowhere near as cushy as he makes it sound, feels sincerely that he’s “helping” these gorgeous refugees obtain a better life. And the words he uses to “pitch” potential pieces sound eerily (or hilariously) similar to the reasons that justify many a corporate career: play the game for a few years, save up some money, then quit and help your family. Small wonder, then, that he finds his sex drive begin to atrophy, and gradually becomes obsessed with a budding love relationship between the Prince and another of the “pieces” he’s scouted – a fascination that ends, inevitably, in disaster.
Read incorrectly, The Nubian Prince might feel like a creative exposé of global capitalism’s exploitation of marginalized cultures, and its ongoing denial of macroscopic responsibility by offering fringe tidbits to the privileged few. Should Calderon ever be promoted to that air-conditioned office, he would wield a responsibility that risked more serious interpretation. But the proportions and terminology of this novel are just too outlandish to be taken with a straight face; and Calderon’s position as a “middleman” of both body and soul leads him bumbling from one compromising adventure to the next, reinforcing his status as a comedic archetype. When, at the end of the novel, the Prince calls him a “scumbag,” his reaction, after some deliberation, is to grin and shuffle away. Scumbag: it’s an easy insult, but could just as easily be the job title on a business card. Why not enjoy it for what it is? I suspect you will, too.
About the author:
Miles Clark used to volunteer at McSweeney’s, The Believer, Zoetrope: All-Story, and Opium. He currently reviews for www.newpages.com, and edits No Record Press (www.no-record.com). His first novel has just been published. He lives in Brooklyn.