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Daniel Kehlmann, trans. from the German by Carol Brown Janeway. Pantheon, $25.95 (272p) ISBN 978-0-307-91181-0

Three brothers struggle to find their place in the world in this novel from German author Kehlmann (Fame). Middling writer Arthur Friedland spends his days penning novels no publisher would print and his off-hours devising ways to entertain his three sons: identical twins Ivan and Eric, and an older son, Martin, from a previous marriage. One afternoon, the foursome go to see “The Great Lindemann,” a hypnotist whose words of advice prompt Arthur to go home, empty his bank account, and vanish, emerging years later as a successful, if eccentric, author. Meanwhile, Martin, Ivan, and Eric spend the next few decades dealing with their feelings of abandonment. Martin has become a shiftless priest who doesn’t believe in God; painter Ivan feels disillusioned with the very concept of art; and money manager Eric is losing both his mind and his Ponzi scheme of a business. Together, the hapless trio face their existential crises. Kehlmann sometimes presents the same scene from different brothers’ perspectives, thereby illuminating their skewed experiences of the world. The novel that emerges is both bizarre and bleakly humorous, a slim manifesto on the divide between people’s dreams and their destinies. (Aug.)