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Book Title: Fata Morgana|
The size of the: 33.16 MB
Date of issue: 1977
ISBN 13: 9780091316303
The author of the book: William Kotzwinkle
Format files: PDF
Read full description of the books Fata Morgana:Magic carpets to the stars, noble suckers, magic carpets for all!
Fata Morgana is a mirage, a trick of the light, a sleight of hand from a skilled magician that cons the audience into believing for a moment in the presence of supernatural forces. Yet, after the show, you go back to the real world and shake your head in wonder at how you've been played. The novel succeeds in creating this special atmosphere and maintaining an air of secrecy and ambiguousness, but for me it was just a step too clever, too smug in its twist ending ((view spoiler)[ ... it was all a dream and Picard wakes back up, to repeat the same plot all over again (hide spoiler)]) to warrant a higher rating. Kotzwinkle has a lot of experience as a scriptwriter for Holywood in his resume, and I believe this is both a strength and a shortcoming for the present story. He favors a very visual style of writing, with opulent period costumes (a decadent Paris in around 1860 with loose morality and extravagant parties), roadtrips to posh location on the Continent (Vienna, Nurnberg, Budapest, the Hungarian puszta, the ''wild and sinister mountains of Transylvania') and exotic characters, both from the high society and from the criminal underworld. The reservations I had have mostly to do with the rambling plot, a succession of set pieces that are very atmospheric, but feel rushed and contrived. Add to this the shallowness of the characters and of their motivations. There's also a good quantity of more or less gratuitous sex scenes which I believe serves more to spice up the proceedings than advancing the story.
The lead character is Inspector Paul Picard of the Parisian Prefecture, a bulldog of a policeman, hardboiled, gourmande and lecherous, doggedly following the trail of the latest star of the Paris elite society. Ric Lazare has arrived from Vienna to dazzle and charm the jaded tastes of the aristocracy with a machine that predicts the future, with a Hindu guru that can read your mind and with Renee - his voluptuous, redheaded wife. Lazare has a magnetic personality, penetrating eyes and claims also visionary powers. Picard suspects him to be an impostor, setting up shop to blackmail his rich sycophants after he learns all their secrets. (view spoiler)[ Towards the end of the novel, it is suggested that Lazare is the reincarnation of Count Cagliostro, another famous Parisian charlatan. (hide spoiler)]
Picard carried the book to the table by the window and began reading about the fabulous Grand Cophat of the Masonic Order, Lord of the Egyptian Rite, a sinister and clever imposter who, a hundred years ago, had lied and bluffed his way into the richest salons in Europe. Sorcerer, soothsayer, magician, prophet, gold maker, his rooms at the Hotel St Claude had attracted all notable Parisians.
The policeman decides to investigate the secret past of the man, and a good portion of the novel takes us on a trip through Europe and to a gradual revelation about both the genius of Lazare and about the repeated scandals he has left behind. One scene stands out for me during the trip, about a winter night by a frozen lake in Bavaria, that starts with whimsical beauty and ends up in horror:
Picard walked on, suffused with that part of love given to those who watch from the sidelines, an ever-expanding feeling, the embrace of a lonely lover who embraces the whole night - its lamps, its skaters, its steaming wine.
The magic part of the novel is kept deliberately vague, dealing mostly with state of the art miniature automata - mechanical toys capable of intricate movements. There is also an insinuation that Monsieur Lazare may be an immortal traveler through history, but I will leave the other readers to draw their own conclusions. I mentioned mine in the first paragraph : good atmosphere, less convincing plot and characters. But I might read more novels from Kotzwinkle, as he demonstrates here that he has the imagination and the writing skills to do better. Last image I have bookmarked is again cinematic in its conception, a variant of the rundown knight (Picard) battling windmills (here a merry-go-round):
Picard felt suddenly and hopelessly lost, upon a wooden horse which could never overtake the golden coach ahead of it on the wheel. Inside the fairy coach, Ric and Renee Lazare, forever free, mocked and laughed at him, as he spurred his wooden horse in pursuit of them.
Read information about the authorWilliam Kotzwinkle is a two-time recipient of the National Magazine Award for Fiction, a winner of the World Fantasy Award, the Prix Litteraire des Bouquinistes des Quais de Paris, the PETA Award for Children's Books, and a Book Critics Circle award nominee. His work has been translated into dozens of languages.
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