Imagine being famous. Being recognized on the street, adored by people who have never even met you, known the world over. Wouldn’t that be great?
But what if, one day, you got stuck in a country where celebrity means nothing, where no one spoke your language and you didn’t speak theirs, where no one knew your face (no book jackets, no TV) and you had no way of calling home? How would your fame help you then?
What if someone got hold of your cell phone? What if they spoke to your girlfriends, your agent, your director, and started making decisions for you? And worse, what if no one believed you were you anymore? When you saw a look-alike acting your roles for you, what would you do?
And what if one day you realized your magnum opus, like everything else you’d ever written, was a total waste of time, empty nonsense? What would you do next? Would your audience of seven million people keep you going? Or would you lose the capacity to keep on doing it?
Fame and facelessness, truth and deception, spin their way through all nine episodes of this captivating, wickedly funny, and perpetually surprising novel as paths cross and plots thicken, as characters become real people and real people morph into characters. The result is a dazzling tour de force by one of Europe’s finest young writers.
In this brilliant study of the fragility and interconnectedness of life, Kehlmann (Measuring the World) probes issues of identity in nine overlapping narratives, with each pivoting on a moment where a commonplace event becomes a crack and then a flood gate for existential horror. It begins as computer technician Ebling buys a cellphone, only to discover the number he is assigned belongs to movie star Ralf Tanner; at first resistant, Ebling is soon making decisions that alter Ralf's life. Later, after his phone has abruptly stopped ringing, Ralf finds his life taken over by an impersonator. Meanwhile, the telecommunications executive whose negligence led to the phone number switch cracks from the pressures of having an affair. In a parallel plot, Elisabeth, a volunteer for Doctors Without Borders, keeps her work secret from her famous boyfriend, the writer Leo Richter, out of fear he will steal her experiences for future adventures of his most popular character. Layers of connection, irony, despair, and humor distinguish this masterful work and announce Kehlman as a worthy heir to Bowles and Camus.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Very entertaining collect of short stories from a gifted author. I bought this book in Vienna a few days ago. Can not stop reading it. A must read from a Central European Author.