PUBLISHERS OF LITERARY FICTION SINCE 1983
Rreinnstadt is a place which exists nowhere - the conception of a 18th century prince who devotes his time, and that of his subjects, to laying down on paper the architecture and street-plans of this great, yet illusory city. Its inhabitants must also be devised: artists and authors, their fictional lives and works, all concocted by different departments. When Schenck, a worker in the Cartography Office, discovers the 'existence' of Pfitz, a manservant visiting Rreinnstadt, he sets about illicitly recreating Pfitz's life. Crumey is a daring writer: using the stuff of fairy tales, he ponders the difference between fact and fiction, weaving together philosophy and fantasy to create a magical, witty novel.
Pfitz is a surprisingly warm and likeable book, a combination of intellectual high-wire act and good traditional storytelling with a population of lovers and madmen we do care about, despite their advertised fictionality. Certainly Crumey’s narrative gymnastics have not affected his ability to create strong, fleshy characters, and none more fleshy, more fleshly, than Frau Luppen, Schenck’s middle-aged landlady, a great blown rose of a woman who express her affection for her lodger by feeding him bowls of inedible stew.
Built out of fantasy, Andrew Crumey's novel stands, like the monumental museum at the centre of its imaginary city, as an edifice of erudition.
... there is enchanting, provocative magic afoot in every layer of Crumey's world.
... elegant variations on the postmodern vogue for 18th-century philosophical fiction.
Pfitz manifests the same healthy disdain for realism that made his first novel, Music in a Foreign Language, such a pleasant surprise. His borrowings from Borges, Calvino and Pavic are here just as shameless. But at this rate Crumey may yet become a hero to fans of the postmodern Euro-novel who wonder why we Brits seldom produce a homegrown variety.
In the manner of Flann O'Brien's classic At-Swim-Two Birds, Pfitz is a hilariously mind-boggling story within a story within a story, all of whose characters eventually intrude on one another as plot lines converge. Sf fans will want to join the literati in laughing over former theoretical physicists Crumey's brainy romp.
Philosopher-novelist Crumey follows his prize-winning debut with an equally pithy and pleasing tale of love and intrigue among the state-sponsored designers of a wholly imaginary city. Borrowing from Conan Doyle as much as from Wittgenstein, this is a heady concoction, deeply inventive, displaying an abundance of humour as well as a convincing celebration of the lusty enchantments of youth. A real treat.
Andrew Crumey's novel is a clever, dazzling puzzle,intricately crafted...There are moments of real brilliance in this novel. The description of the layout of Rreinnnstadt's Museum and Library is an awesome piece of imagineering. The repugnant Frau Luppen, who lusts after Schenk and serves him up dinners of bristly pig flesh, is superb. and, as the action dances and plays towards its conclusion through the insubstantial realms of this imaginary world, the revelation of Pfitz's true identity is a glorious stroke of genius.
.. one of Scotland's most most original young writers.
.. one of Scotland's most most original young writers.
A cartographer falls in love with a biographer as they work on the details of an imaginary city in Crumey's splendidly fantastical story. Where is Pfitz, the servant of Count Zelneck? And if he cannot be found, can he be invented? Crumey turns the notion of invention on its head as he explores what makes an individual.
From the opening pages Pfitz asks questions about existence, creation and art, introducing a Prince who desires to create the ideal city of Rreinnstadt, one which will only ever exist on paper, and if that seems a strange concept we have only just begun. To realise his creation he needs not only cartographers, to map the city , but also biographers, to bring the subjects of Rreinnstadt to life, and it is in these people's lives, while they busy themselves creating other people's lives, that the intrigue begins.
What drives the novel is unrequited love, as a cartographer, Schenck, seeks to get close to and impress a biographer, Estrella, by professing to have discovered the lost story of Pfitz, a servant to Count Zelneck, which Schenck has written himself. His fiction uncovers mysteries and possibly murder in both worlds, and it is not only the reader who starts to question just what is real and what are mere stories.The novel it most resembles is Voltaire's satire on 18th century western society Candide as, like that text, it contemplates exactly what makes a society and the individuals who constitute it, but ‘Pfitz’ also touches on the philosophy of Thomas Hobbes, Immanuel Kant and David Hume. In fact, the city under construction reminds me of Hume’s Edinburgh, when the whole ‘personality’ of that city was being changed with the planning and construction of the New Town, something seen as modern and idyllic. If you ever wanted proof of how a city is changed by how it is built then look at Edinburgh before and after this time and you will find it.
As Schenck continues his deceit in pursuit of Estrella he discovers other inconsistencies and irregularities, as some biographers are found to have been living vicariously through their subjects, even becoming confused as to which life is which. And this is the big idea from which all the others arise from in ‘Pfitz’, namely “What does it mean to exist, and who determines our lives?' Or, as Edgar Allan Poe put it, 'Is all that we see or seem, but a dream within a dream?” Don’t expect any answers, but you’ll have great times thinking about it. This is not a novel to simply read, it demands not only your attention, but interaction.
Pfitz is an unapologetically clever novel of ideas, but it is also a love story, a murder/mystery, a fantasy and a comedy full of lust, revenge, treachery and dancing bees. Among the many theories it posits is that the reason any art is created is to ultimately impress someone who you desire, and that is one of those theories that is hard to disagree with, far more disprove.
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, 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.
No. of pages: 164
Publication date: 30.11.2013
978 1 909232 80 8
978 1 907650 38 3
Rights sold: US (Picador),
France (Calmann-Levy trade, Serpent a Plume pocket book and after rights reverted Editions de l'Arbre vengeur),
Portugal (Temas e Debate),
Italy (Ponte Alle Grazie),