The first appearance in English translation for Gafla’s first novel (2004), and it’s a weird and effective blend of adventure/fantasy, whodunit and romance.
Ben Mendelssohn styles himself an epilogist—he writes endings to stories for people who are unable to. After the death of his beloved wife, Marian, under “bizarre aeronautical circumstances,” inconsolable Ben struggles through another 18 months of existence before putting a bullet through his brain. With thousands of others who died in the same instant, he wakes in the Other World (“We wish you a happy and satisfying death”), an orderly, secular and surpassingly strange realm where sleep and climate can be personally programmed; clothing, money and profit are unknown; and the no-longer-dead are housed in vast cities ordered by the year of the person’s death. Charlatans, people who never lived on Earth, tend forests of family trees and other matters. But of his Marian, there is no sign. Baffled, Ben turns to Samuel Sutton, aka The Mad Hop, a wacky afterlife investigator, for help in locating her. But as Samuel soon, and Ben eventually, grasps, the search is ineluctably interwoven with characters and actions in the world of the living. Born of their mutual fascination with the works of Salman Rushdie, a certain Ormus conducts an electronic romance with Vina. Samuel persuades irascible artist Raphael to paint Marian’s portrait, even though he, Raphael, isn’t dead yet. Ann “Anntipathy,” a nurse who hates people and urges her patients to die, finds herself the recipient of oral sex from Adam, a pedophile and video games designer, whose brother, Shahar, a famous actor, is also a murderer. A talking photograph inserts itself into the plot.
Simultaneously heartwarming and heartbreaking, handled with sublime assurance, astonishingly inventive, funny and totally fascinating.