THE HOUSE ON MOON LAKE by Francesca Duranti
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A literary and commercial success in its native Italy, this elegant first novel shows how a translator's acclaimed discovery of a forgotten masterpiece becomes his nemesis. Fabrizio Garrone is a 38-year-old impoverished aristocrat who makes his living as a translator in Milan. He sees himself as a beleaguered loser, excluded from the literary world, so when he stumbles across a reference to a masterpiece by the obscure Viennese author Oberhofer, he decides to track it down and win, through his translation, the ""unassailable status"" of a Germanist. So fearful is he of the competition that he acts in stealth, revealing nothing to his best friend Marlo, a successful publisher, or even his loving girlfriend Fulvia, whom he has kept at bay for two years, terrified of taking ""the test of two."" The trip to Vienna begins badly for the super-cautious Fabrizio, but then luck guides him to the actual Moon Lake--and a copy of the book. In his impeccable translation, it is an overnight sensation; but fate is closing in. Fulvia, tired of his shilly-shallying, leaves him; and Fabrizio, writing the biography of Oberhofer that Marlo has commissioned, and unable to discover the identity of the woman who inspired the 1913 masterpiece, creates her out of whole cloth. His invention, the fabulous Maria Lettner, eclipses the novel, as Fabrizio, increasingly isolated from reality, drifts into delirium. A call from a Petra Ebner, who claims, as Maria's granddaughter, to possess her love letters, takes him back to Moon Lake and the house that supposedly once sheltered the lovers. Here, the exhausted Fabrizio succumbs to the vampiric Petra and his ""diabolical pact with the world of ghosts,"" as death waits in the wings. After a quiet start, the novel evolves from the benign comedy of a treasure hunt into a ghost story with Faustian echoes, and becomes a gripping read. Duranti has written a chilling cautionary tale: a reproof for the furtive heart.

Pub Date: Sept. 22nd, 1986
Publisher: Random House