- Finalist for the 2007 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award
A feckless, comical narrator struggles against all odds to tell a story for which he is responsible, but which he neither controls nor understands. His characters multiply, repeat, and go astray; his employer pays no attention, asleep in a drunken stupor. The increasingly desperate narrator clambers over rooftops and through underground passages, watching helplessly as his characters reappear in different times and settings and start rival stories against his will. This brilliant, wryly humorous work tells of the sadness of the world and of the inadequate means that language and storytelling offer for describing and understanding it. Yet it does so in Tulli’s characteristically clear, concrete, gorgeous prose. This extraordinary work, unique in both form and message, shows a European master at the height of her powers and constitutes a major contribution to a new century of European literature. A wildly inventive page-turner.
Tulli's snapshot vignettes—of trains covered with 'bright zigzags of graffiti,' of 'a fur that gives off the oppressive smell of mothballs,' of a hobo who 'rakes cigarettes out of his hair'—can be read as lapidary, Cubist poetry or a word collage that's amorphously if resonatingly evocative.
— Kirkus Reviews
This is a ghosted book: event and object haunt the pages as grammar pulls and rejects pieces of the plot like a confused magnet hovering over the mother lode. Language glides toward the inhospitable future as it stumbles over the cluttered past, but grammar’s structures cannot hold back the forces of personal loss, war, and whatever it is that is known as ‘the human condition.’ The moving parts of time/verb/image/story/character shift below our feet, endlessly rearrangeable in a terrifyingly prolific machine. As Tulli demonstrates with a quick swish of the knives, ‘story’ can keep peeling off from itself and regenerating, like a snake with ever renewable skin.
— Eleni Sikelianos
Magdalena Tulli's taut novel follows a daring path through the maze of recent European history —from its whimsical postmodern opening to a far more complex inquiry into the enduring legacy of World War II and the nature of human destiny itself. A genuine tour de force that grows more fascinating with each surprising turn.
— Lynne Sharon Schwartz
Just when you fear fiction may have no more turns left to take, along comes Magdalena Tulli. Picking up on the experiments of Oulipo and Robbe-Grillet, she leads us into a dazzling maze out of which we emerge with our wonder and our delight retooled.
— Askold Melnyczuk
The originality of Tulli's writing is not lessened by representing a family tree that includes Michaud, Kafka, Calvino, and Saramago.
— W.S. Merwin