PUBLISHERS OF LITERARY FICTION SINCE 1983
Cover illustration: Willi Gray
Aside from his tragic demise of his entire family in an earthquake, Daniel seems like a regular guy. His decision not to talk much to his work colleagues, ' because you couldn't really trust any of them', is a little eccentric, but on the surface, all is normal enough. However, it is not long before Daniel is being dragged into the police cells for questioning over the disappearance of his wife, and the story shoots off into a bizarre narrative of elusive meaning.
In this strange world, Daniel's boss Mr Ferrer owes his promotion to the earthquake that wiped out his previous boss, and uses his new-found status to persecute Daniel. It doesn't take Daniel long to develop an all-consuming hatred of the coldly obnoxious Ferrer and he jacks in his job to wander aimlessly round the streets trailed by a mysterious long-coated stranger. Victor, Daniel's stalker, is the living doppelganger of the man he follows so assiduously. The eery duo turn out to be trapped in a police state where neighbours are told 'to report the things they hear and the things they see.'
It then transpires that Daniel's parents did not die under the rubble, but were spirited off in the night after he blurted out their plans to flee the country in the back of a meat truck. Alter ego Victor, who bites his tongue off accidentally when a circus tent pole falls on him, cannot condemn or defend and is thrown away like unwanted junk, useless in a world where poisonous gossip has the status of hard currency.
Cleverly binding together a string of endless question marks, Caldera's tale combines political polemic and a disintegrating moral framework with a series of quirky coincidences. Like the repercussions of the earthquake, the ideas in this intriguing novel resonate long after the end has been reached.
...the same blend of sinister bureaucracy and inexplicable creepiness as the works of Kafka, or Gogol's The Double.
Caldera's writing is reminiscent of The Outsider by Albert Camus:imprecise in terms of place and time, and characterised by a deliberate reticent about the confessional hero's inner life. While appearing to disclose everything about his personal history, Glick retreats into a private world of memory and fantasy. It is thoughtful and well written.
The Double Life of Daniel Glick recalls Kafka, and Caldera's tale is a mix of naivety and viciousness: always engaging and occasionally staggeringly shocking. It's hard to know quite what to conclude on turning its final page, but that, presumably, is the point.
Following an earthquake in an unnamed city, a young man's life begins to unravel. His grandfather is lost, presumed crushed in the rubble, his wife leaves him under mysterious circumstances; and he loses his job as an office clerk. To make matters worse, both, both parents are also missing, possibly arrested by the police, who also suspect Daniel Glick of murdering his spouse.A Kafkaesque tale.
Dedalus, the adventurous independent publisher, last week set a new record for sales of its books at a launch event when more than 100 people turned up at the London Review Bookshop to meet Maurice Caldera, author of The Double Life of Daniel Glick. They bought 105 copies of the novel, beating by one the mark set two years ago at the Arnolfini Bookshop in Bristol when Dedalus launched Jack Allen's novel When the Whistle Blows. Caldera has an Italian father and a Spanish mother, but has been living in the the UK for the past 26 years; he has written 'the best first novel Dedalus has published in the last 10 years', m.d. Eric Lane says.
Set amid the bureaucracy of a totalitarian regime The Double Life of Daniel Glick is a wholly original and thoroughly gripping take on the classic doppelganger scenario. Through a narration by its protagonist in a stilted, almost child-like grammar of hanging clauses and jarring repetitions, Caldera creates a world of Beckettian characters and grim architecture. Decrepit, elderly couples creep endlessly up and down apartment-block stairs; foul-mouthed postroom workers smoke copiously in windowless basements; obtuse barmen and philosophical barbers, petty office-workers and gossiping neighbours create an atmosphere thick with paranoia and dark eccentricity. In the midst of it all, Daniel finds himself wandering among the rubble left by a recent earthquake and stumbling across a series of unnerving events: not least, the man who looks just like him and follows him wherever he goes. Caldera's master-stroke is to ease the reader into the mind of a man who is far more sinister than he first appears.
Daniel Glick survives the earthquake that strikes his city, but his wife disappears. Whether she's under the rubble or Daniel's floorboards, nobody can tell, least of all the police. Meanwhile, Daniel knows that the clocks, which stopped when the earthquake struck, will start ticking again when the next one is due. Others think he's talking rubbish. Maurice Caldera has an unusual style, ostensibly very simple, his prose has you laughing out loud one minute, and gulping in horror the next. The plot of his debut is somewhat surreal, but easy to follow. That's the story of the story, in fact. Deceptively simple. It's only when you finish Daniel Glick, that you realise you've found a startlingly original writer. Outstanding.
The eponymous narrator of Maurice Caldera's darkly atmospheric The Double Life of Daniel Glick also tells stories (other characters call them lies)– although unlike Robbie's, Daniel's are consciously self-serving. Daniel is often mistaken for other men. He lives in a city prone to earthquakes, in an unnamed (possibly Central European, certainly totalitarian)state. One of these earthquakes -Daniel claims - rendered him an orphan at the age of twelve. In his early twenties he sits in a bar watching his wife Marina emptying their apartment of all her possessions before she disappears. Accused of her murder, Daniel is beaten up by the police, and then vents his anger on a vagrant who has been pursuing him relentlessly across the city, and who is also his doppelganger. Caldera has written a curiously compelling piece. Beneath the conventional narrative surface rumbles a crazy world of topsy-turviness: women look like children or dolls;men speak in high women's voices; and like the clowns Daniel sees at the circus, people wear clothes which are either too big for them or too small. As the spectre of another earthquake hangs over the city, Caldera looks at the destructive power of anger.
Strange synchronicities begin to crop up in the life of Daniel Glick, who lives in an imaginary totalitarian state with a Mittel-European feel (a nod to Kafka, whose spirit infuses the novel). Caldera's debut is a beguiling combination of paranoid fantasy and tragi-comedy, Glick apparently being an unprepossessing sort of a man who is obsessed by the earthquake that ravaged his city and emotionally outflanked by his wife, Marina. Thrillingly disturbing.
Caldera's idiom of dressdown macabre achieves some striking images.