In the tradition of A.J.A. Symons’s Quest for Corvo, a brilliant tale of witty and sophisticated fun. Long established as a...


First English translation of a 1978 novel by the eminent Greek author (of Z, 1968, among others), this time an account of a biographer setting out to piece together a coherent study of a celebrated and mysterious writer.

Biographers have a hard time keeping their own lives from intruding on their subjects’, and our unnamed narrator is having a harder time than most. He has been commissioned to write a biography of Greek writer Glafkos Thrassakis by the cultural affairs department of the Common Market—mainly at the behest of a Danish countess who had an affair with Glafkos many years ago (and tried to seduce the biographer, too, at their first meeting). He is happy to take on the assignment, since Glafkos is an important figure in modern Greek literature and politics alike, but there are many difficulties. First, Glafkos (who was eaten by cannibals in New Guinea) left all his papers and archives under seal for 25 years. Second, the writer lived mainly in exile, so most of his friends and colleagues are spread out across the globe. Then, too, in the course of his research, the biographer discovers that much of the official story of Glafkos’s life is plainly false. For one thing, it appears he wasn’t eaten by cannibals at all but murdered by political extremists in West Berlin. More questions arise: Why did an anti-American leftist like Glafkos send his archives to an American university? What was his real reason for leaving Greece? Why did he never return? The more deeply the biographer probes, the murkier the evidence—and the more he despairs of ever finding out who Glafkos really was, if he even existed at all. Even more frightening, he begins to wonder if he is Glafkos. And, if he is, has he invented Glafkos—or has Glafkos destroyed him?

In the tradition of A.J.A. Symons’s Quest for Corvo, a brilliant tale of witty and sophisticated fun. Long established as a classic of contemporary Greek fiction, it deserves a wide audience here, too.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2002

ISBN: 1-58322-527-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Seven Stories

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2002

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A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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