Fame, By Daniel Kehlmann

 

This "novel in nine episodes" from the Austrian maestro takes us deep into that new space where networked gadgetry reconfigures private souls and public roles.

In deftly interlinked stories of technology, celebrity and mortality, clever metafictional games coincide with unironic reflections on loneliness, and ageing. Kehlmann plays his modish material for laughs, but also packs a punch.

Smart, comic but moving, the stories (translated by Carol Brown Janeway) shift from chat-room geek-speak to the touching melancholia of a sick woman at a suicide clinic, and the terminal fantasies of a Paolo Coelho-style New Age guru.

For all its tricks and ruses, Fame emits a steady signal of compassion for bewildered humans caught in the grip of the modern machine.

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