What a stunning start: "Madera was heavy. I grabbed him by the armpits and went backwards down the stairs to the laboratory. His feet bounced from tread to tread in a staccato rhythm that matched my own unsteady descent, thumping and banging around the narrow stairwell. Our shadows danced on the walls. Blood was still flowing, all sticky, seeping from the soaking wet towel, rapidly forming drips on the silk lapels, then disappearing into the folds of the jacket, like the trails of slightly glinting snot ... I let him slump at the bottom of the stairs, right next to the laboratory door, and then went back up to fetch the razor and to mop up the bloodstains before Otto returned." (p 29 but it's the first paragraph).
Gaspard forges art works for Madera and Rufus; he has been their forger for twelve years. But this last commission, the Protrait of a Man, the Condottiere, has driven him to question what hhe has been doing. Can he stop being a fake, a creator of fakes, and find authenticity? In murder?
Some great lines:
- "Behind you are masks. In you there is nothing. A desire to carry on living. A wish to die." (p 51)
- "Everything you do has a price, you should know that. ... Everything has to be paid for and the cost is often high." (p 52)
- "Wasn't it the case that all he had done for years was to glide over the surface of things?" (p 55)
- "The bedazzlement of life." (p 60)
- "His wrinkled and calloused hands lay on the arm of the chair and sometimes shook a little." (p 74)
- "the appallingly slow agony of living a life that was no longer of any use." (p 75)
- "He had pushed his plate away with a gesture of great weariness." (p 76)
- "The life that for a moment he had thought he held in his hands, that compact, dense sum of collected memories, his quest, had shattered into a million pieces, into self-directing meteorites, each with its own life from now on, maybe still connected to his own but ruled by mysterious laws whose constants he did not know. Once again memories sharpened and then sometimes suddenly exploded and split up into a myriad impressions, into fragments of life it would have been fruitless to try to make sense of, give direction to, or separates from each other. Splinters and shreds. As if the landscape of his past life had just suffered a cataclysm. As if he no longer had the world in his arms. Did not yet have the world in his arms." (p 85)
- "This deep chaos was like the chords played by an orchestra before the conductor mounts the podium." (p 85)
- "In the half-light, to begin with, he had used each hand to put the glove on the other." (p 87)
- "Blood, black and warm, as alive as a snake or a squid, trickling between the chair legs." (p 88)
- "The tally was easy. Zero plus zero. That's all." (p 107)
Densely written beautiful prose. July 2017, 169 pages