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The Architect of Ruins Paperback – September, 1992

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Paperback, September, 1992
--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Editorial Reviews


"This is a book of paradoxes to shake you out of your complacent preconceptions about time, narrative order and the experience of reading." -- Lucasta Miller, The Times

"Herbert Rosendorfer is a German writer. Despite that he has a sense of humor." -- Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

"Amazing web of interlinked stories, with lots of musical references." -- Malcolm Smith in Booklist --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Herbert Rosendorfer was born in Germany in 1934. His first novel Der Ruinenbaumeister (1969) was a critical and commercial success, and is regarded by many critics as one of the masterpieces of German twentieth-century fiction. It was published in English by Dedalus in 1992 as The Architect of Ruins. This was followed by Stephanie in 1995, which was shortlisted for the Shlegel-Tieck Translation Prize. Letters Back to Ancient China is the most commercially successful of his novels. Mike Mitchell's translation was awarded the Schlegel-Tieck Translation Prize in 1997.

For many years an academic with a special interest in Austrian literature and culture, Mike Mitchell has been a freelance literary translator since 1995.He has published over fifty translations from German and French, including Gustav Meyrink's five novels and The Dedalus Book of Austrian Fantasy. His translation of Rosendorfer's Letters Back to Ancient China won the 1998 Schlegel-Tieck Translation Prize after he had been shortlisted in previous years for his translations of Stephanie by Herbert Rosendorfer and The Golem by Gustav Meyrink. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Hippocrene Books (September 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0781800013
  • ISBN-13: 978-0781800013
  • Product Dimensions: 0.1 x 5 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #10,231,284 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 24, 1998
Format: Paperback
The author integrates the fantastical and historical in a dream on dream - layer on layer of a book. The character may have a dream - and in the dream a character will tell a story and in that story you encounter a mystery that envolves another dream - etc. etc. And you think that you will never find the thread to lead you home - yet all is kept meticulously on track from Faust to Alice in Wonderland - this book is engrossing and bewitching - I can honestly say that I have never encountered a more startlingly original book. It deserves the Daedalys Award it received. If you like David Foster Wallace, Madeline L'Engel, Lewis Carroll - you are assured of a satisfying and brilliant read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By monica on October 15, 2012
Format: Paperback
In the grounds of a country estate the main character encounters a few other people. One is an architect who's overseen the partly-finished project that will serve as refuge when the world is ending, where he and the others can meet the end whilst playing a Schubert string quartet and so die in a state of exultation. Suddenly signs of the end appear, and the narrator is whisked away to that shelter.

The construction and the events happening there are engrossing--the magic show, the attacks from outside, the sacrifices that weaken the enemy, all within a House-of-Leaves sort of place. But most of the book is stories, stories of a startling range of times and places told by many narrators. Some are within each other, some within dreams, and some refer to elements in other stories.

All these are absorbing, but what makes the book nearly superb is Rosendorfer's playfulness, a sly playfulness that creeps up on the reader rather than shouting Boom Boom! There are digs at a fellow writer, musical and literary references, and delightful pastiches: A story placed in England has all the silly names, presposterous situations, and rapid-fire plot complications of a certain strain of British comic (or, to me, 'comic') novel. A fairly disturbing horror story contains of course a castle, packs of wolves, an evil genius and a naive young victim. The same spirit of fun seems to underlie the self-referential passages and comments: A man is killed whilst reading a book and, asks a story-teller, 'Do you think it was mere chance that it [the book] was the Sargasso Manuscript?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Simone Oltolina on April 9, 2012
Format: Paperback
Once more, kudos to Dedalus Books for putting in print yet another gem of foreign literature.

Dedalus is a British independent publisher which focuses on translating works of (mostly) fiction that lack mass-market appeal. Strange novels, obscure novellas, great works from little-known authors, this is the backbone of Dedalus' extensive catalogue.

Usually they have hideous covers but count that as part of the publisher's charm, well proven by the fact that over the years I've come to own tens of different titles (for those who may care, Robert Irwin's `The Arabian Nightmare' is a personal favourite).

Herbert Rosendorfer's `The Architect of Ruins' is another good example of Dedalus excelling at its game. Originally published in 1969, all the pre-requisite adjectives apply: `whimsical', `dreamlike', `surreal', etc.

The novel is about a nameless narrator boarding a train that carries 600 nuns to Lourdes (this, in itself, sets the tone nicely in terms of strangeness). After a brief encounter with a pick-pocket, he falls asleep or, rather, it seems likely that he does so.

The plot - or should we say the dream? - then unfolds by employing the story-within-story tecnique well-known among Arab storytellers. At the heart you have an `Architect of Ruins' whou builds a shelter to save humanity from the coming apocalypse. The Architect and its close circle of connections begin to tell stories, in order to amuse themselves while the shelter suffers from attacks by a mysterious enemy.
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By Florian J. on February 16, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A great story, very convoluted and laden with history and music, Italy and opera, romance and dragons and devils!

Translated from great if meandering German into a very agreeable English version that preserves all the linguistic quirks which made the original so dear to me.
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