PFITZ by Andrew Crumey


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 Philosopher-novelist Crumey follows his prize-winning debut (Music, In a Foreign Language, 1996) with an equally pithy and pleasing tale of love and intrigue among the state-sponsored designers of a wholly imaginary city. In the 18th century, a dreamer of a prince decides that cities are far more interesting when they are completely fabricated, right down to the lives of their lowliest inhabitants, so he devotes his energy and the resources of his realm to the perfection of his ideal: a city that exists only on paper. The result, Rreinnstadt, is the creation of an army of specialized laborers, among them Cartographer Schenck and Biographer Estrella. Schenck is smitten when he first sets eyes on Estrella, and so to make her notice him he tells her of Pfitz, the servant of the mysterious Count Zelneck (whose biography Estrella has already prepared), a man whose name he found next to the count's on a map but about whom there is no official record. Presenting the story of the knave-savant Pfitz- -himself a devious yarnspinner--in installments constructed feverishly in all-night sessions after work gains the biographer's full attention, but it also draws Schenck deeper into a potentially deadly mystery. Another name is beneath that of Pfitz on the map, partially erased; by doing research on it, the Cartographer discovers a real madman and a real murder, as well as doubts that the fair Estrella is being completely honest with him. In the end, he'll have to decide whether the Schenck he has always been is who he wants to remain, or whether he must reinvent himself in order to gain what he most desires. Borrowing from Conan Doyle as much as from Wittgenstein, this is a heady concoction, deeply inventive, displaying an abundance of humor as well as a convincing celebration of the lusty enchantments of youth. A real treat.

Pub Date: Oct. 24th, 1997
ISBN: 0-312-16964-7
Page count: 176pp
Publisher: Picador
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1997


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