From the internationally best-selling author Daniel Kehlmann, a provocative and wickedly funny novel about two unpredictable men-one an artist and the other a journalist, who together embark on an unexpected adventure with uproarious results.
Sebastian Zollner's failure as a journalist is matched only by his personal failures: his girlfriend is moving in a new lover before Sebastian even knows he's been dumped. Searching for the break that will redeem him in the eyes of his peers, he heads off on a wild goose chase into the mountains to interview the eccentric, legendary painter Manuel Kaminski, with the hope of writing his biography.
Kaminski is going blind and is living in seclusion with his daughter. He could be working on his next masterpiece or easing into his final days, and his inconsistent career raises the question of whether he has been a fraud or a genius. His artistic reputation hinges on any number of factors but most prominently on a definitive biography. Enter Zollner-who has no intention of writing a puff piece. He's out to dig dirt and to force Kaminski to confront the legacy of his work. But the secrets he uncovers will lead Kaminski, and Zollner himself, to places neither of them ever expected to go.
With edgy wit and intelligence, Daniel Kehlmann dives into the problems of what is "truth" in our celebrity-crazed times and embraces the energy and humanity that lie beneath the pretensions of the art and journalistic worlds. A firecracker of a novel.
German literary wunderkind Kehlmann follows up Measuring the World(2006) with this curious and lesser novel. Self-conscious and yet completely un-self-aware, journalist Sebastian Zollner attempts to outdo his art critic rival by writing the biography of reclusive painter Manuel Kaminski. Sebastian is amusingly sad, if one-note: he lives in denial that his live-in girlfriend broke up with him months ago; after an offhand comment by a transit worker, he becomes obsessed with his receding hairline; and he detests in others everything he so blithely ignores about himself. He weasels himself into Kaminski's household, snoops through the artist's private files, discovers a series of unfinished paintings and attempts to up the drama by reuniting Kaminski with his ex-wife, long thought dead. It quickly becomes clear, however, that Kaminski is manipulating pathetic Sebastian, and Sebastian's plans are thwarted in favor of the master's own. There are entertaining and lightly satirical moments, but for the most part the story feels rushed, with everyone except Sebastian getting short shrift. (Nov.)
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November 17, 2008
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