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Pfitz: A Novel Hardcover – September 15, 1997


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; 1st edition (September 15, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312169647
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312169640
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.8 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,041,363 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

This novel begins two centuries ago in a country whose prince directs the theoretical creation of the city Rreinnstadt, the prince's subjects having planned every element of a true-to-life city. Meanwhile, a cartographer named Schenck works to capture the heart of the beautiful?and possibly mad?biographer Estrella by writing the story of the eponymous Pfitz's travels in Rreinnstadt. As Schenck becomes closer to Estrella and searches for the story of Pfitz and Spontini (a created writer and Rreinnstadt inhabitant), he is warned by one of Spontini's creators of life-threatening danger: he must distinguish the sane from the insane, the psychopathic lie from the truth, and his loving-dream creation from sorrowful reality. Crumey, author of Music in a Foreign Language (LJ 10/1/96), a Saltire Best First Book Prize winner, is a captivating storyteller who innovatively weaves together several plotlines with philosophical attention to the writer-reader relationship. Recommended for literary collections.?Myah Evers, "Library Journal"
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

Philosopher-novelist Crumey follows his prize-winning debut (Music, In a Foreign Language, 1996) with an equally pithy and pleasing tale of love and intrigue among the state-sponsored designers of a wholly imaginary city. In the 18th century, a dreamer of a prince decides that cities are far more interesting when they are completely fabricated, right down to the lives of their lowliest inhabitants, so he devotes his energy and the resources of his realm to the perfection of his ideal: a city that exists only on paper. The result, Rreinnstadt, is the creation of an army of specialized laborers, among them Cartographer Schenck and Biographer Estrella. Schenck is smitten when he first sets eyes on Estrella, and so to make her notice him he tells her of Pfitz, the servant of the mysterious Count Zelneck (whose biography Estrella has already prepared), a man whose name he found next to the count's on a map but about whom there is no official record. Presenting the story of the knave-savant Pfitz- -himself a devious yarnspinner--in installments constructed feverishly in all-night sessions after work gains the biographer's full attention, but it also draws Schenck deeper into a potentially deadly mystery. Another name is beneath that of Pfitz on the map, partially erased; by doing research on it, the Cartographer discovers a real madman and a real murder, as well as doubts that the fair Estrella is being completely honest with him. In the end, he'll have to decide whether the Schenck he has always been is who he wants to remain, or whether he must reinvent himself in order to gain what he most desires. Borrowing from Conan Doyle as much as from Wittgenstein, this is a heady concoction, deeply inventive, displaying an abundance of humor as well as a convincing celebration of the lusty enchantments of youth. A real treat. -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By "scottish_lawyer" on May 30, 2000
Format: Paperback
Andrew Crumey is a young Scottish novelist more interested in inheriting the mantel of Barthelme, Borges and Calvino than the arid workaday mentality of most British and American novelists.
This novel bristles with ideas, the inhabitants of a kingdom set to work populating a fictitious city. The work on the city is based on a model from Diderot and Dalambert's Encyclopaedia and is divided into Memory, Reason, and Imagination.
There are interlinking storylines and the novel is part love story, part thriller, part comedy, part philosophical investigation.
As you can see from the other reviews this novel will polarise opinion. This is a novel that requires you to think. The reader has to play a role in the story. You can not let this novel wash over you, although its length and the beauty of the writing style give you a novel that can be eaten quickly, but you should digest at leisure. To say that this novel encourages you to think may give a misleading impression. It is not an arid dry purely philosophical work.
This novel, indeed all of Crumey's fiction, bears comparison with writers such as Borges, Calvino, Tadeusz Konwicki, and Galli. It is as playful as the works of each of these writers, as stimulating, and as enjoyable.
It is a work in the modern European style, and harks back to the European novel writing of the eighteenth century.
Enjoy...
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By MPS on July 6, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I don't know, I really liked this book for a while. It presented some fantastically challenging ideas and concepts. The thought of an entire group of people living for an imaginary world, the disintegration of the town as a result, the characters merging real and definitely not real...all of it was very intriguing.
But this book lost me at the end, which I really felt was a let-down. It was as if Crumey's ideas were even too much for him...the ending simply dissolves away, solving little and not truly melding the two realities together. As an author, what can you really do with characters who decide that composing non-existent places is more important than their actual lives? How much can a reader really sympathize with a man who falls in love with a woman, when neither of them have any emotions at all concerning the absurd nature of their lives? And, the absurdity is never really treated as "absurdity" because of consistency problems. Certain characters even point out that the other world isn't real but it's never followed up.
Near the end of _Pfitz_, I found myself wondering why the characters were struggling at all if they really only cared about the imaginary world. Why try to find love? Why kill? Why steal? Why worry about rent? Why do anything except work on the other world? If the true fascination of the book sits within this kingdom's fascination with things that are completely invented, why should we be interested in the -real- things that happen to them. Once I reached this thought, the book was no longer compelling. I just didn't see the point, and reading to the end gave me no reason to change my mind. Crumey never really answers these questions.
Sure, the book is an easy read. It's very short and sweet.
Read more ›
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 1, 1999
Format: Paperback
This book cleverly captures the spirit of the 18th century while being very modern in concept. In part it's an update of Jacques The Fatalist by Denis Diderot, which I read for a French Lit course. Like Diderot's book, Pfitz is about a master and servant, full of philosophy and erudite humour. But Crumey's book is no pastiche - he subverts Diderot's idea, adding hints of ETA Hoffman, Goethe and heaven knows what else. An amazing achievement to pack so much into a short and ver funny book. Borgesian? This is nothing like him. It's a highly original book and recommended reading for people who like to have their imagination stretched a little - actually, quite a bit.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 25, 1997
Format: Hardcover
I work in a bookstore and I was lucky enough to get an advanced copy of this book to read. This book was an amazing look at the construction of a fictional city with inhabitants and maps, etc. All the people in a real life kingdom have been chraged by their prince to create the city of Rreinstadt. The kingdom is divided up into departments. Certain people are in charge of creating the people (the Biography department), the city (the Cartography department), and the writing created if any of the "inhabitants" turn out to be writers (the Authorship department). The book centers around a "person" who suddenly appears on a map, but the Biography department has no record of him. As a cartographer starts to look deeper into this unknown creation, he starts to realize that someone in the real world doesn't want him finding out the truth. This amazingly intricate and compelling book was a joy to read
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By "deecb" on January 15, 2000
Format: Hardcover
What a joy to read a book that's truly unusual in concept. The author blurs the lines between reality and fiction until the reader forgets where the lines were drawn. Fascinating, interesting, and fun.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 24, 1999
Format: Paperback
The other reviews sum it up: Pfitz is a book you either love or you hate. A novel as original and imaginative as this will not appeal to those with, let us say, more mainstream tastes. But if you like Flann O'Brien, Kafka or Poe then give it a try.
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