Martin felt as if his existence had split in two. He was sitting here, but he was also lying on the asphalt, crumpled and still. His fate seemed as yet undecided, both outcomes were still possible, and for a moment he too had a twin – one there outside, slowly fading away.
F is a strange, delightful, slightly sinister novel. Arthur, a father to twin boys by one mother and another son by another mother, disappears after a hypnotist urges him to be successful, whatever it takes. The three sons grow up wondering whatever happened to his father, and each in their own way develop and absence in their lives. Martin is the priest without faith, Eric is the financier who is broke, Ivan is not a painter, but makes a tidy living from forgery. The absence is a real thing, a presence and ultimately one of the three is consumed by it.
Kehlmann’s prose is striking. Real, insightful and a little disturbing. His psychological insight is breathtaking, his narrative tricks make this a dense, complicated and satisfying work. One quibble though, I felt some of the translations rang a little false. A wrong word here and there is no big deal – perhaps it made more sense in Kehlmann’s native German, but it drew me out of the story slightly. I still recommend this one for anyone who likes postmodern, psychological fiction.
F, Daniel Kehlmann: four stars.
Read it to: lose your mind, ever so slightly.