cover image Personal Effects

Personal Effects

Francesca Duranti. Random House (NY), $19 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-679-41104-8

The Italian author of Happy Ending maintains an almost classical sense of balance between the absurdly true and the truly absurd in this elegant and witty satire. Valentina has spent 10 years dutifully translating the writings of the Church Fathers, the subjects of her glib husband's bestselling biographies. When he leaves her for a more independent woman, she's at loose ends--until she spots a copy of an Eastern European novel called The Answer . She decides to track down its author, Milos Jarco, and interview him for a glossy magazine. While Valentina hopes that her talent for Slavic languages will help her dislodge rather more than the standard story of his life, her journey to Jarco's never-named native city yields revelations even greater than she could have imagined. Duranti contains her expansive comedy by allowing Valentina to deliver a deadpan narration. Her dry observations counterbalance the farcical elements of the story, luring the reader into her fictional world with confidence and consummate charm. (Mar.)