Monday, June 1, 2015

F, by Daniel Kehlmann

F is a strange little novel by German author Daniel Kehlmann.  After a hypnotist suggests/convinces/coerces Arthur Friedland to pursue his dream of writing, he leaves his family, disappearing.  His three sons don't hear from him for years.  One grows up to be a priest who is an atheist.  One has an investment firm specializing in pyramid schemes.  One is an art dealer who builds a mediocre artist's reputation on forgery and manipulation.  Their three stories intersect and blend, while their father, now a famous writer, lurks in and out of their lives.

I enjoyed their stories on a certain level, for the questions pondered by Kehlmann.  To what extent can a priest effectively minister if he himself does not believe in God?  Is there ever a point at which pleasing one's customer takes precedence over strict adherence to bookkeeping and market regulations?  Who are the arbiters of beauty and the determinants of value in the art world?  In a sense, the questions are easy, and the three brothers are all scoundrels.  But Kehlmann gives them each enough complexity and sympathy that the questions are at least interesting.

I didn't find anything to hate in F, but I didn't find much to love.  In spite of the somewhat interesting lives of the three brothers, and the way Kehlmann interwove their days, there wasn't enough her for me to really like the novel.  F will appeal to a certain sort of reader, but I'm not really one of them.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!

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