cover image Pfitz


Andrew Crumey. Picador USA, $20 (176pp) ISBN 978-0-312-16964-0

After his postmodern Orwellian debut (Music, in a Foreign Language), Crumey moves into the fabulist territory of Italo Calvino and Dino Buzzati with a short novel of literary inspiration and obsession in the fictional city of Rreinnstadt. The city is the Borgesian creation of an unnamed European prince, a city that exists purely on paper, employing innumerable bureaucrats. One of these, the minor cartographer Schenck, finds himself in a boy-meets-girl story when Estrella, a biographer, comes looking for information on a certain mysterious Count Zelneck. In his eagerness to assist her, Schenck slips into fabrication, unaware that fiction is the prerogative of committees of Rreinnstadt's Literature Division. The subsequent tale-within-a-tale-within-a-tale gets arch indeed when an imaginary reader addresses the off-page author about the fictional author Pfitz, but Pfitz himself is a diverting raconteur, whether he's telling shaggy dog stories about his father or a fable about the man who fell in love with a shadow. And if Crumey takes authorial self-consciousness further than most readers will readily go, he provides plenty of suspense and amusement along the way. (Oct.)