cover image The Man in the Tower

The Man in the Tower

Michael Kruger. George Braziller, $19.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-8076-1297-2

Munich-based author and editor Kruger's first U.S.-published fiction, The End of the Novel , explored the exasperations of the writing life; his new novel probes the ordeal of a painter. The unnamed narrator is a German artist who is temporarily occupying a tower on an estate in rural southwestern France, where he is working on a series of canvases depicting the four seasons. As winter approaches and creative block freezes the project, the painter begins an illustrated edition of Dante's Divine Comedy . A chance encounter with two other Germans implicates him in the murder of a French policeman; then, after a period of intense isolation and literal bodily disintegration, he heads to Florence, only to learn--too late--of an emergency back at the tower. The skeletal, introspective narration highlights throughout the cycle of euphoria and despair that is every creator's lot, as well as the painter's concomitant love/hate relationship with his self-imposed exile and with the art world. Kruger uses simple language, especially the haunting repetition of ordinary words and phrases, to great effect in this contemporary depiction of creative angst, which asserts that the examined life is worth living, but not necessarily conducive to peace of mind. ( Mar. )