BORGES AND THE ETERNAL ORANGUTANS by Luis Fernando Verissimo
Kirkus Star

BORGES AND THE ETERNAL ORANGUTANS

KIRKUS REVIEW

Murder at an Edgar Allan Poe symposium pairs a modest, middle-aged scholar with his aging idol, in an exquisite feat of literary legerdemain by Brazil’s best-selling writer.

Vogelstein has always wanted to meet Jorge Luis Borges. Now, through a stroke of luck—or fate?—his dream may come true at the annual conclave of Poe specialists, to be held this year in Buenos Aries. Borges, whose own detective fiction advanced the genre into metaphysical realms, has agreed to attend. The other main event will be the inevitable showdown between three scholars whose vitriol concluded the previous year’s conference with charges of plagiarism and deceit. Shortly after the proceedings begin, one of the three is found murdered in a locked room with no means of escape. Local police detective Cuervo (translation: Raven) summons Vogelstein, the only witness to the murder scene before it was compromised, to tell all to Borges. Ensconced in the great writer’s library, the two scholars explore a labyrinth of clues, including the positioning of the body to form an “X,” three playing cards and a missing lecture. As ratiocination fails them, Borges and Vogelstein widen their mental search to examine the darker implications of a 16th-century mathematician’s theory: an orangutan, given enough ink, a sturdy quill and infinite space, would write not only Hamlet but all of world literature, including the Necronomicon, the fabled book of the dead, which secret societies from the Kabbalists to the Freemasons have worked to suppress. One scholar scheduled to speak at the symposium intended to present evidence that Poe encrypted the Necronomicon in his writings. . . and another vowed to stop him. That Verissimo (The Club of Angels, 2002, etc.) covers all this—and more—in one slim volume might suggest that he indulges in occult practices of his own. The other explanation, of course, is that he’s a writer worthy of international renown.

Think Dan Brown is the craftiest cryptographer in town? Nevermore.

Pub Date: May 31st, 2005
ISBN: 0-8112-1592-X
Page count: 144pp
Publisher: New Directions
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 2005




MORE BY MARGARET JULL COSTA

FictionTHE INFATUATIONS by Javier Marías
by Javier Marías
FictionSEVEN HOUSES IN FRANCE by Bernardo Atxaga
by Bernardo Atxaga
FictionCAIN by José Saramago
by José Saramago