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Voltaire's Calligrapher Paperback – 30 Sep 2010

2.5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (30 Sept. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007269056
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007269051
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.3 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,980,860 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

‘While the prose is richly reminiscent of Umberto Eco, the headlong pace of this dark fantasy—combining elements of mystery, historical fiction, horror and the splinter genre clockpunk—will let readers swallow the entrancing story in a single gulp’ Kirkus Reviews

‘A novel not to overlook … It's hard not to make this novel sound cryptic, because it is, but in a wonderful way. It is packed with illusions (words are real, women not always), allusions and puns, all of which make sense when you're firmly in the grip of the story's thrilling denouement’ St. Petersburg Times

‘It's hard not to make this novel sound cryptic because it is, but in a wonderful way. The book is packed with illusions (words are real, women not always), allusions (if you're up on Enlightenment philosophy) and puns (if you love language), all of which make sense when you're firmly in the grip of the story's thrilling dénouement’ Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Praise for The Paris Enigma:

‘It had me purring with pleasure’ Daily Telegraph

‘A beguiling historical whodunit’ New York Times

‘Murder and mayhem… colourful characters and cases create a hazy atmosphere of intelligent escapism’ Washington Post

About the Author

Pablo De Santis was born in Buenos Aires, studied Literature at the Universidad de Buenos Aires and subsequently worked as a journalist and comic-strip creator, becoming Editor-in-Chief of one of Argentina’s leading comics magazines, Fierro. De Santis is also the author of a number of books for young adults. He lives in Buenos Aires.

Customer Reviews

2.5 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is the story of Dalessius, an orphan who trains as a calligrapher and who, at the age of 20 and after inadvertently using disappearing ink on a death sentence and being put in prison himself, ends up working for Voltaire. He is chosen, although it's not clear why Voltaire would pick such a young bungler for such a task, to investigate what appears to be a case of judicial murder in Toulouse.

After a series of surreal adventures involving a retired executioner, an automaton, an automaton maker and his beautiful (but cataleptic) daughter and women who have messages written on their bodies, Dalessius uncovers a plot by the White Penitents. With Voltaire directing operations from afar the authorities are alerted, but the ending is not that happy.

The story is written in a limpid style (which was helped by the smooth translation), with the action moving along at a fast pace. However there is also very clever use of language and metaphor. For example, "It was obvious that certain pieces fit together like parts of a sentence, but...I couldn't imagine the grammar that regulated their construction."

The characters were idiosyncratic, and well observed, and I particularly liked Kolm, the helpful, former executioner. However they didn't seem to have much of an inner life, particularly the main protagonist, Dalessius. Consequently, although this was a very enjoyable read, and one that I would certainly recommend, it didn't draw me into Dalessius's world, instead it felt more like being an interested bystander as events unfolded. For me, this was a diversion (and that's not necessarily a bad thing) rather than a deep or realistic novel.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It has less than two hundred pages,larger than average print, big spaces between the lines, lots of blank bits and ludicrously short chapters each with their own title (a common, but peculiar, characteristic of many contemporary novels). But it still took me ages to finish reading this book.It's like a collection of good narrative ideas, historical revelations and eighteenth century atmospheric anecdotes sealed in an airtight bag with a yellow lit-hazard sticker that reads 'warning: contains multiple spoilers.' There is not enough narrative pace, suspense or sharp characterisation to stitch all the ideas together and make it an enthralling read. Which is a shame because the historical setting has rich potential. It's like a comedian who starts all their gags with the punchline. I'm going to show you horror, weirdness and intrigue the book says; and then it shows you horror, weirdness and intrigue. Good title, though.
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Format: Paperback
This novel can only best be described via a verbatim copy of the text on page 120.

"At the time it was common for loose pages, found in the bookstores of Paris, to be gathered up and kept in wooden boxes until, at some point, their rightful place was found. It had recently become popular to bind these lost pages, to create a book that jumped from one topic to another."

The one slight difference is that in "Voltaire's Calligrapher" it's not the pages that have been bound together but, individual paragraphs that appear to have been 'copied and pasted' at random.

This explains the surreal nature of the content and has a deleterious effect on the narrative - which is not only very poor but is bizarre in the extreme.

I will add the comment that it is translated to English from the original Spanish but, I venture that the result would still be the same regardless.

Definitely a novel to avoid.
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Format: Paperback
I was given this book as a joke by a friend of mine who handed it over with a smile on his face advising me it was one of the best books I could read. I could see in his eyes he was having a laugh, and he admitted it later that day.
I got the book home and laughed at the giant print and tiny chapters. It has the feeling of being a childs book. A book you would give a 12 year old that doesn't read as an ice breaker. A kind of book you might see left over on an office book shelf. A crappy little thing that no adult should ever read, a crappy book that I suppose is slightly amusing to hold as you can point at it with your free hand and laugh at it.

I read some of the book but it was so s*** and so unintentionally funny that I gave up. I no longer have the book, I opened my back door and threw it out in the garden. Sometimes I pull back the curtain and I can see it laying there, and I point and laugh at it.
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