cover image The Executor: A Comedy of Letters

The Executor: A Comedy of Letters

Michael Kruger, , trans. from the German by John Hargraves. . Harcourt, $23 (180pp) ISBN 978-0-15-101268-8

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.)