Another arcane exercise from the Polish author of Moving Parts (2005).
A tailor plies his needle. A maid bustles around her employers’ kitchen. A radical student wakes up with a hangover. A lawyer and a newsboy both find their fortunes ruined. And a far-off catastrophe sets off a wave of discord as refugees pore into the tiny square of an unnamed town. But we should not suppose that this is a real town square, one connected to the real world. No, the far-from-omniscient narrator informs us, this is nothing but a flimsy set, a shabby façade constructed by a shiftless, unreliable crew—workers who submit multiple invoices for the same job and sell stolen materials to other stories. This idea that the author is not a creator-god but a hapless architect relying on dishonest contractors is funny at first, and it seems like it might even be interesting. But the more Tulli belabors the conceit, the less amusing and interesting it becomes. It’s hard not to wonder if this sort of novel—one that isn’t so much a novel as it is a critical dissection of the novel—has not also reached a similar point of diminishing returns. Aficionados of European metafiction may find this book exciting—or they may not—but it’s hard to imagine it finding a receptive audience outside that rarefied circle.
Not for the average reader—or even, maybe, for the above-average reader.