Most of the action in Paolo Maurensig's "Canone Inverso" takes place in pre-War Vienna, or maybe that's just where it's imagined since the reader is constantly left wondering if he is reading fact, dream or hallucination.
The atmosphere is dark and claustrophobic, shot through with menace and the smell of death. The characters are dark, tortured souls chased by demons. Music is everywhere, violin music mostly which, far from lightening the mood of the novel, drains all colour from the lives of the characters and presents the reader with a black and white picture that shies away from in-depth scrutiny, yet makes it impossible not to be drawn in, but only on the novel's terms.
Paolo Maurensig has been hailed as the new Primo Levi of Italian literature which of course he is not. He is Paolo Maurensig and has his own voice and vision, although producing work as dark and tormented as this it will come as no surprise if, like Levi, he commits suicide.
Maurensig plays around with reality, time, death, music, identity and other grand themes that ride along with majestic terror on the story that carries them with shocking grace. The storyline itself twists and turns, and each time the reader thinks he knows where the writer is taking him he changes course, especially towards the end.
With music as a dominant motif in the story the reader is challenged to imagine the music that should accompany the book if it is ever to have the stuffing knocked out of it by some insensitive, money-driven movie director looking for the next big thing. For me it would have to be Leonard Cohen's "Take this Waltz" from his "I'm your man" album.