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F (2013)

by Daniel Kehlmann

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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3081885,490 (3.65)7
Having a profound experience on a hypnotist's stage in spite of not believing in magic, Arthur abruptly abandons his family in the middle of the night and becomes a famous author while his sons grow into men shaped by loss and doubt.

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English (6)  German (6)  Italian (2)  Danish (1)  Swedish (1)  Norwegian (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (18)
Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
Ok, now I have re-read the first two chapters. Reading more slowly this time around to savour the language and to follow those marvelously tangled threads. Wow! So enjoyable! One question though: a couple of biblical references seem wrong to me. Saul was on the road to Damascus, not Gethsemane; it was Joshua's long day, not Jeremiah's. Are those errors done on purpose? Does anyone know?
  audrey0510 | Aug 26, 2021 |
A complicated, postmodern sort of novel, dipping into philosophical questions about who we are and who we pretend to be, whether our identities are imposed on us by genetics, environment or God, or are freely chosen in some way, what art is, whether what you see might really be what you get, and so on.

Arthur is drifting through life doing nothing in particular until an encounter with a stage hypnotist leads him to the decision to abandon both his families and go off to write a bestseller. One of Arthur's sons, Martin, becomes a (non-believing) Catholic priest when his dream of a career as a Rubik's-Cube-solver evaporates; one of Martin's twin half-brothers becomes a crooked financial adviser who is only saved from exposure and disgrace by the 2008 crash; the other twin uses his knowledge of the art market to manipulate critics into declaring his mediocre-but-contented partner a genius.

And in between all this we get the traces of two of Arthur's successful stories, one of which hits the headlines by apparently driving a wave of suicides among its readers, and the other of which creates an entirely mythical family history of Arthur's ancestors (because the past, after all, is simply what we say it is...), including a sinister messenger-of-death who then apparently turns up in the actual story, if not quite in the right places in it.

Fun, and cleverly done, but I think I enjoy Kehlmann more in his role as a historical novelist. ( )
  thorold | Jan 16, 2019 |

Read all my reviews on http://urlphantomhive.booklikes.com

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review, thank you!

Original Title: F (German)

I'd like to start with a little comment on the cover. I think it's one of the worst covers I've seen in quite some time. This is not the cover that made me decide I wanted to read this book either, but somehow between requesting and reading it had changed into this. It used to be a lot better with a Rubik's cube (that would have made sense if you read the book).

Arthur Friedland takes his sons Martin and the twins Eric and Ivan to a hypnosis show in theatre. Although he firmly states it's all nonsense, he dumps his children on the street right after the show and disappears. The book follows the lives of the sons, now grown-up and unhappy in their own ways.

The style, sometimes, is quite philosophical, pondering on questions of existentialism and the meaning of life. Mostly through discussion of Arthur's book My Name Is No One (that caused a number of suicides).

The story has it's moments. I liked Martin's for one, the obese priest who's secretly an atheist. But that part ended in a less interesting list of all family members before him, and that's the part in this book where I kind of lost interest. The stories about Eric -the evil business man- and Ivan - the troubled artist- were not quite as interesting to me. I did like the fact that the stories are interwoven in a number of ways though. And it was definitely worth a read but you don't always have to like it... ( )
  Floratina | May 26, 2016 |
A humorously harrowing story about three brothers struggling to find their places in the world, as well as in each other's lives. After growing up without the presence and counsel of their eccentric father, Martin, Ivan, and Eric embark on their personal journeys to cultivate careers, relationships, and self-discovery. Meanwhile, Arthur, their estranged dad, has unexpectedly become a literary success much to the dismay of his three sons, who all fail to achieve any semblance of success in their respective work in religion, art, and business. A bizarrely comical and real speculation on the roles of fate and faith in human life, "F" explores some dark themes in a wonderfully readable fashion. ( )
  auroragoryalice | Dec 25, 2015 |
F is one of those novels that a reader picks up because the premise is interesting—something that will either be brilliant or disastrous. Arthur, a father who doesn’t believe in hypnotism, abandons his family after being told by a hypnotist that he must seriously pursue his dream of being a writer. He becomes a famous author; his sons spend their lives responding to his abandonment in different ways. Martin becomes a priest who doesn’t believe in God. Eric become an investment adviser, juggling accounts like Bernie Madoff while over-medicating himself. Ivan, a painter, finds himself unable to produce his own artwork.

Bottom line: brilliant. This book is brilliant. Each of the chapters has a different perspective. The story of the hypnosis is told in omniscient, third person style. The next three chapters are each presented in first person, each narrated by one of the three sons. Imbedded among these chapters is one of the stories Arthur writes after abandoning his family. The book ends in third-person again, this time focusing on Arthur’s granddaughter (Eric’s daughter) Marie.

While the first ten or twenty pages went slowly, after that I found myself reading at breakneck speed, fascinated by the different distortions in each son’s adult identity. But having read at such a pace, I already find myself wanting to go back to reread, to reconsider details, to think about new ways of piecing together this fragmented story.

F offers a unique reading experience—experiences, really. It’s a book most readers will carry with themselves long after reading it. ( )
  Sarah-Hope | Dec 20, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kehlmann, Danielprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Meijerink, GerdaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Years later, long since fully grown and each of them enmeshed in his own partiular form of unhappiness, none of Arthur Friedland's sons could recall whose idea it had actually been to go to the hypnotist that afternoon.
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Having a profound experience on a hypnotist's stage in spite of not believing in magic, Arthur abruptly abandons his family in the middle of the night and becomes a famous author while his sons grow into men shaped by loss and doubt.

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