Synopses & Reviews
The celebrated author Jasper Gwyn suddenly and publicly vows never to write another book. But as his life veers into isolation and emptiness, he decides to become a copyist,” holding 30-day sittings with clients as he writes their portraits. The rich access they grant the disaffected Gwyn to other people, particularly to his business manager, the fair-haired Rebecca, also poses a startling question: what might happen if a vacant heart were suddenly crowded with the complications of love?
The second novella, Three Times at Dawn, explores this question while leaving greater mysteries in its wake. A man and a woman the same couple in each case meet in a trio of hotels; first she is a seductress, he a traveling salesman; on another night she is young and pregnant, while he is old and haunted by his past; finally, she is middle-aged, and he is a child whose life is already marked by tragedy. As their third dawn together draws to a close, Baricco delivers one of modern fictions most powerful statements on the heart and the will, on kindness and the destiny that falls light as a shadow over every human life.
"The work is a blended balance of satisfying resolve and loose ends that wander off the borders of the page, and recommended to anyone interested in fresh similes, comforting strangeness, and the confusion that clouds the human heart." Booklist
"A tour de force of literary fiction." Kirkus (starred review)
[A] high-minded literary mystery novel.” Vanity Fair
"A cerebral mystery." Minneapolis Star Tribune
After celebrated author Jasper Gwyn suddenly and publicly announces that he will never write another book, he embarks on a strange new career path as a copyist,” holding thirty-day sittings in a meticulously appointed room and producing, at the end, brief but profoundly rich portraits in prose. The surprising, beautiful, and even frightening results are received with rapture by their subjects among them Gwyn's devoted assistant, Rebecca; a beautiful fabric importer; a landscape painter; Gwyn's own literary agent; two wealthy newlyweds; a tailor to the Queen; and a very dangerous nineteen-year-old.
Then Gwyn disappears, leaving behind only a short note to his assistant and the portraits. As Rebecca studies his words, she realizes that the mystery is larger than the simple fact of Gwyn's whereabouts, and she begins to unravel a lifetimes worth of clues left by a man who saw so much but said so little, a man whose solitude masked a heart as hungry as hers.
About the Author
Alessandro Baricco is an Italian writer, director, and performer. He has won the Prix Médicis Étranger in France and the Selezione Campiello, Viareggio, and Palazzo al Bosco prizes in Italy.
Ann Goldstein is an editor at The New Yorker. She has translated three novels by Elena Ferrante The Days of Abandonment, Troubling Love, The Lost Daughter Clash of Civilizations Over an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio, The Chill by Romano Bilenchi, The Father and the Stranger by Giancarlo de Cataldo, and The Worst Intentions by Alessandro Piperno. Her translation of Linda Ferri's Cecilia is forthcoming in May 2010. She received a PEN Renato Poggioli Translation Award and was a visiting scholar at the American Academy in Rome. She is currently editing the complete works of Primo Levi, for which she received a Guggenheim Translation fellowship. She lives in New York.