cover image INVENTING GOD


Nicholas Mosley, . . Dalkey Archive, $14.95 (296pp) ISBN 978-1-56478-291-5

Like the deus absconditus of Pascal, Maurice Rotblatt is more present in his absence: the TV personality, psychologist and mystic, whom "admirers occasionally described... as Christ-like" disappeared in the early '90s in Beirut. Rumors have reached Rotblatt's friend Richard Kahn, a lecturer in anthropology in Beirut, that Rotblatt was trying to find a genetic difference between believers of different faiths; this information has interested some unnamed Middle Eastern leaders, who would like to develop toxins that would kill only genetically tagged victims. It has also intrigued Carl Andros, a biologist and intelligence agent of some sort, located in London. Kahn's friend Hafiz, a graduate student geneticist, tries to find out whether such poisons are actually being tested; meanwhile, Hafiz's friend Joshua travels to London to interview Laura Simmons, Maurice's last mistress. Andros runs into Maisie, Laura's niece, and encourages her to go to Beirut. We watch as these characters intricately intersect: Maisie does get to Beirut and falls in love with Hafiz; Richard, in Jerusalem now, gains an intimation of Maurice's fate; Maisie's gay friend Dario becomes Laura's secretary; and Joshua and Andros move toward an erotic relationship. Mosley's characters have feverish, God-obsessed inner lives; their outer lives have a flickering, stylized unreality. Gnomic dialogues abound. A woman giving birth improbably asks her midwife, "Can you see its head, Gaby? Is it like the sun? Does it have two arm two legs and one in between? Surely God was not jealous.... Do you think one day we shall hear his song?" This is a complexly imagined novel of ideas, but some readers may find it a pallid effort from the Whitbread Award-winning author of Hopeful Monsters. (Aug. 10)