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F is for family. F is for fortune. F is for fraud. F is for fate.
From the internationally acclaimed author of Measuring the World, here is a dazzling tragicomedy about three brothers whose father takes on the occult and both wins and loses.
Arthur is a dilettante, a wannabe writer who decides to fill an afternoon by taking his three young sons to a performance by the Great Lindemann, Master of Hypnosis. While allowing one of them to be called onto the stage and made a spectacle of, Arthur declares himself to be immune to hypnosis and a disbeliever in all magic. But the Great Lindemann knows better. He gets Arthur to tell him his deepest secrets and then tells him to make them real. That night, Arthur empties the family bank account, takes his passport, and vanishes. He’s going to become a world-famous author, a master of the mystical. (F is for fake.)
But what of the boys? Martin, painfully shy, grows up to be a Catholic priest without a vocation. (F is for faith, and lack of it.) Eric becomes a financier (F is for fraud), losing touch with reality as he faces ruin, while Ivan, destined for glory as a painter, instead becomes a forger. (F is for forgery, too.) They’ve settled into their life choices, but when the summer of the global financial crisis dawns they’re thrown together again with cataclysmic results.
Wildly funny, heartbreaking, tragic, Daniel Kehlmann’s novel about truth, family, and the terrible power of fortune is a fictional triumph.
About the Author
Daniel Kehlmann was born in Munich in 1975 and lives in Berlin and New York. His works have won the Candide Prize, the Doderer Prize, the Kleist Prize, the Welt Literature Prize, and the Thomas Mann Prize. Measuring the World was translated into more than forty languages and is one of the greatest successes in postwar German literature.
Praise for F…
A New York Times Notable Book, an NPR Best Book of 2014, and a New Yorker Favorite Book of 2014
"Daniel Kehlmann’s strange and endlessly provoking novel, F (Pantheon, translated by Carol Brown Janeway), is several things at once: it is a mutilated family saga (a dubious father and three hopeless sons); a comic novel about faith and the absence of God (and, lest that not seem remarkable enough, I’ll add that it is a comic German novel about the absence of God); and a not merely clever meditation on what a fictional self is. Not merely clever but suggestive and powerful, because, like Jose Saramago, Kehlmann is interested in using metafictional questions to ask metaphysical questions. For him, the question “What is a fictional self?” leads to the question “What is this self we choose to call real?” In certain lights, F can seem a conventional tale of family woes, shaped around the life stories of the three failed Friedland brothers, Ivan, Eric, and Martin. Each, in different ways, is a fake or a fraud (one of the things “F” stands for in the book, along with “faith,” “family,” and “Friedland”). And there is pleasure to be had from reading the book in this way: these individual stories are full of detail and vitality. But the deepest delights—delights that offer consolation in a faithless or fake world—are to be found in the novel’s beautiful and cunning construction, and in its brilliantly self-interrogating form." —James Wood, The New Yorker (Favorite Books of 2014)
“As with Thomas Pynchon’s ‘V,’ or Tom McCarthy’s ‘C,’ in Daniel Kehlmann’s subtly yet masterly constructed puzzle cube of a new novel, readers and characters alike exist for a time in that hazy uncertain land, where there is not only the desire but the need to solve for x—or, in Kehlmann’s case, ‘F’ . . . translated deftly from the German by Carol Brown Janeway . . . ambitious . . . elegant.” —Joseph Salvatore, New York Times Book Review
“Kehlmann’s prose is sophisticated and often dense, his musings on religion, art and life are intellectually rigorous, and his plotting masterful in the linking of the story’s separate narratives with overlaps that, when revealed, surprise and shock the reader. . . . Kehlmann’s rendering of life’s mysteries. . . allow the reader a window to another world. . . as if looking (and listening) through clear, highly polished glass).”—NPR, All Things Considered
“F is Daniel Kehlmann’s most technically accomplished novel yet.” —Anthony Cummins, The New Statesman
“A comic tour de force, a biting satire on the hypnotised world of artificial wants and needs that Huxley predicted, a moving study of brotherhood and family failure, F is an astonishing book, a work of deeply satisfying (and never merely clever) complexity that reveals yet another side of a prolifically inventive writer who never does the same thing twice. That one of its central motifs is the Rubik’s Cube is highly apt. . . . Yet F is also much more than an intricate puzzle: it is a novel of astonishing beauty, psychological insight and, finally, compassion, a book that, in a world of fakes and manufactured objects of desire, is the real article, a bona-fide, inimitable masterpiece.”—The Times Literary Supplement
“Each son’s tale reads like a satisfying novella, and the three eventually dovetail in a way that surprises without feeling overdetermined. . . . [Kehlmann] shows off many talents in F. He’s adept at aphorism, brainy humor and dreamlike sequences. And he keeps the pages lightly turning while musing deeply. . .’”—The New York Times
“[A] lollapalooza of a family comedy, diabolically intricate in its layering of concurrent narratives and dryly hilarious at every mazelike turn. . . . F is splashed with vivacious, hilarious characters and incidents that, with distance and time, transmogrify into something quite sinister indeed.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“The hallmarks of [Kehlmann’s] style are speed, wit and a nuanced appreciation of the absurd. He often writes about geniuses and fools and the thin line between them. He’s a specialist in the kind of irony that tells us more about a character, and ourselves, than sincerity ever could.”—Guernicamag.com
“A testament to the fact that conceptual novels need not be devoid of people and that family novels need not be devoid of ideas and that some darkly funny, smart absurdity is always a good idea. Well worth a read.” —Flavorwire.com
“F gets an A.” —Harold Brubaker, Philadelphia Inquirer
“A tightly constructed exploration of filial tension and adult struggle. . . . a novel about ordinary people’s self-discoveries. . . as Kehlmann’s characters lay bare their troubled souls, we get a view that is comic and affecting”—Minneapolis Star-Tribune
“Kehlmann is a writer of great craft and imagination.” —Adam Lively, The Sunday Times
“With the wizardry of a puzzle master Daniel Kehlmann permutes the narrative pieces of this Rubik's Cube of a story—involving a lost father and his three sons—into a solution that clicks into position with a deep thrill of narrative and emotional satisfaction. Kehlmann is one of the brightest, most pleasure-giving writers at work today, and he manages all this while exploring matters of deep philosophical and intellectual import. He deserves to have more readers in the United States.” —Jeffrey Eugenides
“F is an intricate, beautiful novel in multiple disguises: a family saga, a fable, and a high-speed farce. But then, what else would you expect? Daniel Kehlmann is one of the great novelists for making giant themes seem light.” —Adam Thirlwell