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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A young Austrian metafictionist
'Fame' is Carol Brown Janeway's fluent translation of Daniel Kehlmann's 2008 novel 'Ruhm'. Kehlmann is probably the best-known young Austrian novelist.

Subtitled 'A novel in Nine Episodes', 'Fame' is short (175 pages in this translation, not 304 as stated: about 45-50,000 words, which in my eyes makes it novella length) and clearly written, which would make for...
Published on 20 May 2011 by Paul Bowes

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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Sad
From other reviews I had expected a book with interesting philosophical development like Borges or Coelho. Perhaps it is because of my Anglo-Saxon, rather than Teutonic, background but, with the exception of the woman who went to the Swiss clinic, I found the characters dull and unsympathetic. There were some possible tentative links in the stories via mobile phones and...
Published on 25 April 2012 by Mrs R A S Plumley


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A young Austrian metafictionist, 20 May 2011
By 
Paul Bowes (Wales, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
'Fame' is Carol Brown Janeway's fluent translation of Daniel Kehlmann's 2008 novel 'Ruhm'. Kehlmann is probably the best-known young Austrian novelist.

Subtitled 'A novel in Nine Episodes', 'Fame' is short (175 pages in this translation, not 304 as stated: about 45-50,000 words, which in my eyes makes it novella length) and clearly written, which would make for a rapid read if one were inclined to skim.

Arguments about whether the book is really a novel or a series of linked short stories seem pointless: it's a postmodern fiction, owing something in its form to the likes of Calvino. Kehlmann structures his tale around recurring characters, in such a way that it isn't clear who is supposed to be at the centre of the story. This is completely in line with the book's central preoccupation, which is human identity, the extent to which it depends on the attention that we can command from others, and how this instability has been deepened in our own time by the electronic mediation and presentation of personality

Kehlmann's training in philosophy has obviously left its mark on his fiction, but he has a light touch. Much of the book involves a series of metafictional games in which the identity and ontological status of his characters is repeatedly called into question, sometimes in amusing ways but ultimately with a darker edge. Several of the characters are writers: but others may be characters, not just within Kehlmann's own fiction but within the fictions of these other, subordinate authorial figures. The reader is held off balance, not knowing where to invest.

This sort of thing is easy to mock, and readers who have little patience with metafiction will probably find the book annoying. I enjoyed it. Although I didn't think that Kehlmann was doing anything particularly novel, there is a complexity and seriousness here that emerges slowly as the 'episodes' prove to be linked in both obvious and more subtle ways. In the end, whatever one calls it, it's clearly one story: the resonance of the whole is more than that of any of the parts.

Recommended to anyone who wants to explore modern European fiction.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant book - but no novel, 31 Dec 2010
This carefully constructed book is in fact a collection of 9 short stories cleverly linked together. As long as you are not expecting a single novel as advertised in the title, you will not be disappointed. I came across this book in the German version so am unable to comment on the quality of the translation. Daniel Kehlmann deserves to be better known to an English speaking audience and to become as popular here as he is in Germany. There are characters in this book you will never forget - in fact contributing to a blog will always remind you of Mollwitt the awkward character unable to relate to people in real life, but totally at home on the Internet. And if I tell you I read my copy on the train between London and Edinburgh, you will know what I mean once you have read this great book. Clever, full of subtle humour, easy to read but thought provoking.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Baby, Remember My Name, 10 Jun 2012
By 
Quicksilver (UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Fame: A Novel in Nine Episodes (Paperback)
Kehlman's previous novel Measuring the World was straightforward historical fiction. It's a pared down affair, that follows the lives of two of Germany's greatest scientists. A masterclass in characterisation and ideas, it's a brilliant read. So, it was with great excitement that I picked up 'Fame'. Reading new books written by favourite authors is not without its pitfalls. Fame's pit has a rather large spike in it. It's not a novel.

OK, you could argue all year about what exactly constitutes a novel, but I would say Fame is a series of interlinking short stories. Amazon gives it the subtitle, 'A novel in nine episodes', which curiously the book itself does not. So if, like me, you were expecting a straightforward narrative, as found in Measuring the World, you need to adjust your expectations. I'm not saying I didn't enjoy the book, because I did, but reading interconnected stories is a wholly different experience to reading a more traditional narrative. The blurb on the back cover was particularly misleading (at least it misled me). It implies that all the events outlined happen to the same character, as part of a single narrative, but this is not the case. It took me a while to realise that this was a novel without a beginning, middle and end. As a result, I had to alter my expectations part-way through reading, which I think adversely affected my enjoyment of the book.

Fame does share some common ground with 'Measuring the World'. Both books are concerned with the way we view the world. Here the stories are more concerned with instant communication and our interconnected world; the fact that it is rare to be completely alone. They are all set in the twenty-first century. The opening story follows a man who has a new mobile phone. Somehow he has been given the phone number of a famous film star. At first he is annoyed by this, but then gradually he realises, the film star IS only a voice on the phone to some of the people ringing. He starts to impersonate the star, with consequences for both men. Later stories feature the film star, who likes the room to manoeuvre his phone doppelgänger has given him, and an employee of the phone company responsible for the error.

The structure of Fame reminded me of David Mitchell's Ghostwritten. Kehlman examines how our lives run parallel to one another, and how a small incidental interaction in one life, may have far reaching consequences for another. The true impact of an individual's decision may never be truly felt for many years afterwards. In this way it reminded me of Jennifer Egan's prizewinning A Visit From the Goon Squad.

Many of Fame's episodes are about writers. All of the stories feature books by a famous (fictional) South American self-help author. The self-help author himself is given one of the book's funniest chapters, in which Kehlman skewers the fallacy of spiritual enlightenment books. There is also a neurotic novelist, who can't stand his fans, who may be modelled on Kehlman himself. We see his personal life, but in one story he interacts directly with his characters. Since these fictional characters touch on lives of characters in the other stories, the exact location of the boundary between fiction and the real-world becomes blurred. This idea of nested realities is similarly explored by David Mitchell in Cloud Atlas.

My favourite story involves a female crime fiction writer, who goes on a cultural exchange to an unnamed Central Asian country. She becomes separated from the rest of the party, and with a sketchy mobile phone signal, finds herself alone and unknown. It raises questions about personality; is it an external or internal concept? If nobody knows your story, are you still the same person? Kehlman's tales give credence to Mike Carey's assertion (in his incomparable 'Unwritten' stories) that 'nothing matters more than the stories we tell ourselves.' To a greater or lesser extent, the persona we present to the world is a fiction, and none more so than those who are famous.

'Fame' is short and easy to read. Its nine episodes won't be to everybody's taste; there is very little descriptive meat on the bones of each story. They each form part of philosophical framework that questions what personality means in the age of social media. Each story is enjoyable. They are all thought-provoking and often funny, but overall I felt 'Fame' lacked any unifying coherence. This is an interesting and diverting read, recommended for fans of reality bending self-referencing short stories, but it doesn't feel complete. Though I enjoyed reading Fame, and would recommend it, if you haven't read the other titles I mention in this review, I wouldn't hesitate to suggest you read those first.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a very fun experimental and philosophical novel, 22 Jun 2011
By 
rob crawford "Rob Crawford" (Balmette Talloires, France) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
It is a long time since I have read cutting-edge fiction, and this certainly fits the bill. In the form of inter-connected stories, this novel moves between fact, the creation of fictions (as art but also as artifice and subterfuge), and the muddled perceptions somewhere in between. Rather than a linear narrative, it is more like a network of incidents, causes and forces - to suggest a metaphor, it is like Kehlman is describing the particles in an electron cloud, interacting with each other while anchored to a nucleus that is unseen yet definitely there. These stories would not be possible if it weren't for new communications technology, of course, so it is truly modern in that respect and within the DNA of the plot.

There are several plot lines advancing simultaneously. One of them is a mobile-phone mistake, which enables a nobody to meddle in the life of someone famous though he doesn't even know who it is. This not only impacts the victim's life by fitting into his crumbling sense of identity - though he doesn't even understand what really happened - but also those within the company responsible for the mistake by their own inattention and the chaos in their own lives. Another is the relationship between a writer (a protean thinker and provocateur) and his new lover, a quintessential doer and fixer who works for Doctors Without Borders in war zones. In-between, there are misperceptions, switched identities, and bringing fictional characters to life, often in the form of stories, complete with the characters dialoguing with the writer about their fates or even intervening in real life to the surprise of the novel's "real" people. It questions the notion of living, the preoccupations of celebrities, and the mistakes that ordinary people make as they seek a moment of satisfaction in their over-crowded, over-informed lives.

Beyond the convoluted connections, what carries the book forward is the irony and black humor. The writer desperately needs his fans, yet despises their questions like he does their minds and yet he entertains them wit sincere devotion. He seems to know nothing of "real life", but is a lodestar for those who want to make sense of their lives. At the same time, an actor appears in a cheap club as an imitator of his real self, for pay, and by the end of the story the reader is uncertain if he is real or delusional. The doctor is afraid her boyfriend will use her as the basis for a character, then is displaced by the appearance of a fictional version of herself, who happens to be more real to a technician in another chapter than his dismal life.

The elusive nucleus to the whole thing might be the technologies that enable all of these interactions, warping the characters' perceptions of themselves and their partners, but it is also about human yearnings and needs for recognition, for love, for sex, for a solid identity in a capitalist world that more often than not comes up short, at least when measured against expectations.

A review cannot encapsulate the author's accomplishment or even express his intent. To get it, you have to read it, to experience the flow of events and causes. It is chaotic yet ordered and at its best quite awe-inspiring. When I finished it, I had to skim my way back though it, to better connect the names that pop up - are they real or not? - to sift fact from fiction and fantasy, to connect actions to consequences. This experience struck me as truly new.

If I have any criticism, it is that the stories are often somewhat flat and strange, with a new vocabulary that I do not know, though their banality may be part of the author's technique. As such, I couldn't sink my teeth into it as deeply as I would have liked. Indeed, the most moving story - of an older woman who decides to hasten her death to avoid a painful decline by terminal illness - holds odd surprises that purposefully ruin its pathos, particularly at the end. And maybe I am being an old fogey, as I don't care for much of this "new media".

Recommended with enthusiasm. There are many levels at which you can read this. It is a quick and amusing read that is also philosophically deep.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Clever and Entertaining, 4 Mar 2012
This review is from: Fame: A Novel in Nine Episodes (Paperback)
A very enjoyable and intriguing read, and very well translated from the German.

Each episode seems to be separate and different, but like a good detective story, it is fun making the links between them. The same character will pop up in a story about someone else. There are stories within stories, and pastiches of different narrative styles. The computer geek style in particular is great fun.

The theme is fame and its effects,and what happens to your sense of identity when you become famous, but also the impact of modern technology,and what happens when it goes wrong or is suddenly absent.

Highly recommended.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, 19 Jan 2011
Loved this book,which is a novel in the form of short stories. About fame, the need for recognition, and the strange ways in which people's lives intersect. I bought after enjoying Me and Kaminski, also well worth reading. But I found Fame richer and more complex.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Sad, 25 April 2012
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This review is from: Fame: A Novel in Nine Episodes (Paperback)
From other reviews I had expected a book with interesting philosophical development like Borges or Coelho. Perhaps it is because of my Anglo-Saxon, rather than Teutonic, background but, with the exception of the woman who went to the Swiss clinic, I found the characters dull and unsympathetic. There were some possible tentative links in the stories via mobile phones and social networks. In fact the first story seemed to open up promising possibilities. There was also the overarching question as to whether the characters were experiencing real life or artificial life as decided by the author. The 'philosophy' came in the form of self-obssession and self-analysis - not very appealing in characters you don't care about. I think this is an idea with potential in the future.
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Fame: A Novel in Nine Episodes
Fame: A Novel in Nine Episodes by Daniel Kehlmann (Paperback - 1 Sep 2011)
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