F by Daniel Kehlmann: ‘clever in all the right ways’

Toby Lichtig in The Telegraph:

Kehlmann_cover_3090337aWith Measuring the World (2006), Daniel Kehlmann established himself as one of the pre-eminent (and bestselling) German-language novelists, his blend of gravitas, humour and postmodernism winning him admirers across an enviably broad base.His latest book to be translated into English, F, is similarly intelligent, acerbic and quietly surreal, a tale of three brothers who have forked off in radically different directions, each imbued with a profound and self-negating faithlessness. Their combined interests comprise a kind of holy trinity of contemporary religion: money, art and – still just about hanging on – God. Martin is a doubting priest addicted to food and the Rubik’s Cube. He sits in his confessional munching chocolate, twisting the puzzle and contemplating the absurdities of transubstantiation: “You can’t believe any such thing, you'd have to be deranged. But you can believe that the priest believes it, and the priest in turn believes his congregation believes it.”

His twin brothers, from a separate mother, are different sorts of swindler. Eric is a mega-wealthy City trader with a film-star wife, a painting by Paul Klee (“I hate [it]… even I could have painted it”) and a dirty secret: his success is a mirage. He’s been embroiled in a Ponzi scheme and the pyramid is about to come crashing down. Ivan is an art dealer, similarly successful, similarly bogus – albeit more ideologically so. Having developed an aesthetics of “mediocrity”, he’s created a sensation out of a run-of-the-mill artist whose canvases he has learnt to forge. For Ivan, art “as a sacred principle… unfortunately doesn’t exist”. On an ordinary day, a sudden, violent incident draws the three brothers together.

More here.