From Publishers Weekly
This, the late Polish author's (A World Apart, Volcano and Miracle) final work, is a collection of 13 disquieting short fictions set primarily in Italy, from the present to the ancient past. Elegantly translated by Bill Johnston, these tales are-in the words of one character-a "constant mediation on death...and the power of Evil." In the title story, a remote village is haunted by the decades-old mystery of an apparent murder-suicide by two unlikely lovers. Roman authorities are baffled by the regular spike in suicides that occurs every August 15 in "The Height of Summer." In "The Silver Coffer," an antique coffer contains the secret of a medieval monk's fratricide and supposed penance. An "atmosphere of mystery" pervades the collection, less of the supernatural than of the "mystery of every heart," which the author will not subject to what one character calls the "superficial observation" of "psychological analysis." Surfeited in literary allusion to 19th-century horror stories (notably the works of Poe and "The Turn of the Screw"), Herling's collection is more elegiac than macabre, a work of "mortal agony ending with a triumph over death."
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13 beautifully crafted, mysterious, often unsettling stories. -- Los Angeles Times, Jaroslaw Anders, 7 September 2003
A master of the forced unearthing, the sudden revelation of what had been so scrupulously, lovingly hidden. -- Bloomsbury Review, Reamy Jansen, September/October 2003
An accomplished writer of short fiction. -- Reuel K. Wilson, World Literature Today, Fall 2004
An art so quiet that there is little to match the volume of its cries. -- Dan Halpern, New Republic, 16 February 2004
Breathes the same rarified atmosphere as the novels of W.G. Sebald. -- New Criterion, Tess Lewis, November 2003
Brilliant work. How did the Nobel Committee manage to overlook Herling? -- Kirkus Reviews, 1 July 2003
Dispassionate yet intimate...the last word of a poetic sensibility whose legacy remains as affecting as it is convincing. -- Michael Pinker, Review of Contemporary Fiction, Spring 2004
Herling was one of the most important witnesses of the twentieth century, a heroic man and truly worthy writer. -- Czeslaw Milosz
These...stories contain a subtle question of morality and decency. -- Polish American Journal, Florence Clowes, December 2003
[Herling's] stories are marvelous, each a small gem opening onto a seemingly infinite complexity. -- Janet G. Tucker, The Sarmatian Review, 1 January 2004