The Executor: A Comedy of Letters Hardcover – Jan 15 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
A meditation on literary friendship, the latest from Krüger (The Cello Player) opens out onto the mysteries and obfuscations endemic to art making. With the suicide of well-known novelist Rudolf, the nameless male narrator, a close friend of Rudolf's since college, arrives at Rudolf's university-owned palazzo in Turin, Italy, to sort out Rudolf's literary legacy. Ensconced in Rudolf's dusty, disorganized office; bullied by Rudolf's former assistant and probable lover, Marta; concerned for Rudolf's hospitalized widow; and worried by a menagerie of exotic animals Rudolf kept on the palazzo's terrace, the grieving, beleaguered narrator sifts through Rudolf's voluminous papers and correspondence, all the while wryly reflecting on how Rudolf and the narrator together formed their tastes, had their loves and did their work. Yet like all great friendships, this one turns out to have its secrets, and as the narrator attempts to piece together Rudolf's unfinished last work, the novel becomes a beguiling meditation on the nature of authorship and the limits of how much one artist can know another. Krüger, head of the German publishing house Hanser Verlag and editor of the journal Akzente, marshals a tone at once playful and elegiac, perfectly capturing the narrator's loss and his remaining love for life and for work. (Feb.)
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"Packed into this small, powerful novel is a dazzling array of well-chiseled, colorful characters, extracted from the grand tableau of history and the author’s imagination . . . The Cello Player [suggests] the writing of Milan Kundera or Vladimir Nabokov, both of whose romantic exposition and fine ironic touches resonate here." --The New York Times Book Review
"Kruger’s wryly delivered tale will tantalize your inner academic . . . and then win you over with its elegant storytelling." --Entertainment Weekly
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Rudolf was a cantankerous but brilliant writer, a man who was at odds with not only the literary and academic world, but equally out of sync with his personal life. Three women figured significantly in his time on earth: Elsa, his wife who wisely moved away for the sake of her own career; Marta, his secretary/confidant-bedmate; and Eva, his mistress from a distance. When Rudolf dies, the executor travels to Rudolf's Institute for Communications Research in Turin to gather all of Rudolf's writings and to search for the last great novel Rudolf left unfinished. The executor becomes at first fascinated with Rudolf's strange quarters (he lives on a rooftop terrace surrounded by strange plants and a menagerie of odd animals including his best 'friend', the old dog Caesar), with the bits of memorabilia that filled his study, and his encounters with Elsa (old and dying of cancer in the hospital), Marta (ready to take on the executor as lover), and Eva (whose writings are as strange and elusive as their author).
Over the course of the book the executor discovers many secrets about Rudolf and in attempting to piece together the life of an elusive literary genius, finds strange facts and turns and twists worthy of an Agatha Christie mystery: 'Once I had read his correspondence, I realized that Rudolf had been playing us all for fools. Put another way, he had betrayed all of us, and then, just in time, slipped away.' In the end it is the choice facing the executor as to whether or not to publish the strange magnum opus the executor discovers that brings this exhilarating novel to a surprising end.
Krüger is a sculptor of words and mixes philosophy with narrative story as well as any writer today. The references to literature tug at the mind to keep up with the thoughts and patterns of the friendship between Rudolf and the executor: moments of turning to the dictionary can slow the reading but enhance the appreciation of Krüger's writing. This is a novel that will appeal to lovers of fine writing, but it is also a very entertaining tale of a strange and fascinating friendship between two men of letters. Highly recommended. Grady Harp, April 08