cover image Voltaire's Calligrapher

Voltaire's Calligrapher

Pablo De Santis, trans. from the Spanish by Lisa Carter, Harper Perennial, $14.99 paper (160p) ISBN 978-0-06-147988-5

Set in 18th-century France, this brief, rambling novel from Argentine author De Santis will disappoint those expecting another sparkler like his 2008 mystery, The Paris Enigma. At age 20, Dalessius, who's trained as a calligrapher, travels to Ferney, near the Swiss border, where the philosopher Voltaire hires him as a file clerk. The job is a second chance for the young man, who substituted a blank page for the verdict sheet in a capital case, a stunt that prevented a murderer's execution. Voltaire dispatches Dalessius to Toulouse to prepare documents needed for the execution of a man convicted of the crime of hanging his son, who was on the verge of converting from Calvinism to Catholicism. While the author provides social insights into Enlightenment-era France, the murky plot developments make for a less than gripping read. (Oct.)