Villa of Delirium

Adrien Goetz, trans. from the French by Natasha Lehrer. New Vessel, $26.95 (324p) ISBN 978-1-939931-80-1
A young man comes of age in the artistic and intellectual milieu of belle époque France in Goetz’s lushly detailed English-language debut. Scholar Theodore Reinach hires teenage Achilles, son of servants employed by Gustave Eiffel, to make sketches for Kerylos, his new seaside villa in the Côte d’Azur. Despite the anti-Semitism directed at the Reinachs over their support of Alfred Dreyfus, the house is acknowledged as a creative marvel upon completion. Achilles soon comes to live at Kerylos, where he studies Greek, becomes Theodore’s protégé, and grows closer to the Reinach circle: Theodore’s erudite brothers, Joseph and Salomon; Theodore’s wife, Fanny; and Joseph’s son, Adolphe, who becomes Achilles’s best friend. Goetz’s tale spans both world wars, which bring tragedy and destruction to the Côte d’Azur, and neither Achilles nor the deeply patriotic Reinach family escape unscathed. The elderly Achilles returns to the house to seek a treasured relic of his past, and while the nominally suspenseful premise of Achilles’s hunt falls slack amid extended digressions into the past, Goetz pulls off an impassioned portrait of Kerylos as “a place that makes you want to travel, do somersaults and stretches, drink champagne in evening dress, read, think.” Goetz’s deeply felt novel has an equally intoxicating effect. (May)
Reviewed on : 02/13/2020
Release date: 05/01/2020
Genre: Fiction
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