Fata Morgana Hardcover – April 1, 1977
An Amazon Book with Buzz: "Sweet Sorrow" by David Nicholls
"With fully fleshed-out characters, terrific dialogue, bountiful humor, and genuinely affecting scenes, this is really the full package of a rewarding, romantic read."—Booklist Learn more
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Right in the middle of this phantasmagoria is Police Inspector Paul Picard who has a dangerous assignment that takes him down a winding road from Paris to Vienna, Nuremberg and Budapest. Picard is quite simply a piece of work with his top hat, cape and pistol-cane, his appetite for lemon tarts (“his gut was were his torso weakened, where all the lemon tarts had settled”), and his stronger appetite for women of several varieties. His trysts are described in quite erotic language. (In one encounter, Picard allows the woman to do most of the heavy lifting because of his weight: “This way he could lie like a magnificent pig”) And in one of my favorite passages that have to do with the good inspector’s lust, upon meeting the beautiful and busty Madame Lazare, “Picard felt velvet petals opening in his stomach as she glanced toward him.” That has to be as good a description of sexual attraction as you will ever read.
Some of the most fascinating passages in this novel that travels at the speed of a merry-go-round have to do with the dozens of miniature, exquisitely designed dolls and toys that Picard runs across: a miniature Noah’s ark, a lute player that can play a tune with his wooden fingers, a wind-up circus acrobat, an entire miniature animated city where the cows walk, the church bells ring at noon, the watchman makes his rounds at night and the drunkard staggers. Then there are a couple of x-rated toys as well: a toy man whose clothing is a barrel who is anatomically correct and a large Christmas ball with a tiny Father Christmas inside having sex with a naked lady.
A word about the title “Fata Morgana,” a mirage in the sky that gives us some of the most beautiful language in the entire novel: “Ahead in the sky was a herd of running horses, shimmering, fantastic, galloping through the blue dome of heaven. . . Some days you’ll see entire forests floating in the air. Lakes and valleys and hills all golden, with perhaps a cow sailing over the whole of it.” (So Chagallesque.)
Mr. Kotzwinkle is the ultimate illusionist for he deftly weaves a dark and sinister tale amid all this fairy-land and sets his novel, published in 1977, in Paris and other cities in Europe in 1861. You will forget that the book wasn’t written at that time if you are not careful. (The only other writer I can recall so good at doing this sleight of hand is Nathaniel Hawthorne who sets his novels in early America rather than in the mid nineteen century when he lived.)
A word to the wise: this novel is addictive.
I reread it after, what, 38 years and loved it as always. I will periodically bring it out and revel in a tale of witchcraft and handsome egomaniacs...
I also read it again from time to time. It is intricate enough to reveal new secrets with each reading.
Richly written; lush characters and a true twist and turn plot will keep you turning the pages all night! Kotzwinkle's work is true genius. In a word -- EXCELLENT!
Top international reviews
Awesome. Fantastic. Brilliant. Amazing. Didn't understand a word of it.
Kotzwinkles Roman spielt zur Zeit Kaiser Napoleons III., der Zeit von Offenbach und Haussmann, einer Zeit der Dekadenz und der Lebensfreude, des wissenschaftlichen Fortschritts und des Grössenwahns, unserer Zeit nicht so ganz unähnlich.