From Publishers Weekly
German literary wunderkind Kehlmann follows up Measuring the World
(2006) with this curious and lesser novel. Self-conscious and yet completely un–self-aware, journalist Sebastian Zollner attempts to outdo his art critic rival by writing the biography of reclusive painter Manuel Kaminski. Sebastian is amusingly sad, if one-note: he lives in denial that his live-in girlfriend broke up with him months ago; after an offhand comment by a transit worker, he becomes obsessed with his receding hairline; and he detests in others everything he so blithely ignores about himself. He weasels himself into Kaminski's household, snoops through the artist's private files, discovers a series of unfinished paintings and attempts to up the drama by reuniting Kaminski with his ex-wife, long thought dead. It quickly becomes clear, however, that Kaminski is manipulating pathetic Sebastian, and Sebastian's plans are thwarted in favor of the master's own. There are entertaining and lightly satirical moments, but for the most part the story feels rushed, with everyone except Sebastian getting short shrift. (Nov.)
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The best-selling author of Measuring the World (2006) returns with this road novel, featuring a pair of unlikely buddies in self-absorbed journalist Sebastian Zollner and reclusive painter Manuel Kaminski. Sebastian believes that his proposed biography of the legendary blind painter will save both his career and his deteriorating relationship with his girlfriend. Convinced that the only way to bring his work alive is to spend time with the ailing artist, he makes the arduous trek to Kaminski’s remote mountain retreat, insinuates himself into the household, rifles through the artist’s personal possessions, and, finally, spirits Kaminski out of the house and into a car for an antic road trip to find the great love of the painter’s life, a woman he has long believed to be dead. As the painter systematically disabuses Sebastian of his ill-informed opinions on art and tricks him into paying for the entire trip, Sebastian gradually begins to let go of his life’s ambition and to appreciate the old painter’s blunt wisdom. In this delightfully comic novel, Kehlmann wittily poses questions about the nature of celebrity and the value of art. --Joanne Wilkinson