Book Review: A Devil Comes To Town by Paolo Maurensig (trans. by Anne Milano Appel)

A Devil Comes to townAbout the Book

A small village full of aspiring writers + The devil in the form of a hot-shot publisher = A refined and engaging literary fable on narcissism, vainglory and human weakness

Wild rabies runs rampant through the woods. The foxes are gaining ground, boldly making their way into the village. In Dichtersruhe, an insular yet charming haven stifled by the Swiss mountains, these omens go unnoticed by all but the new parish priest. The residents have other things on their mind: Literature. Everyone’s a writer—the nights are alive with reworked manuscripts. So when the devil turns up in a black car claiming to be a hot-shot publisher, unsatisfied authorial desires are unleashed and the village’s former harmony is shattered.

Format: Paperback (118 pp.)    Publisher: World Editions
Published: 9th May 2019    Genre: Literary Fiction

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My Review

This is a curious little novel. A story within a story within a story, it’s a satire on literary pretensions, literary prizes and the ends to which people will go to gain recognition of their (supposed) literary talents. Literary society is a ‘place where vainglory, fuelled by envy, grows immoderately, where even the most banal thoughts – as long as they are printed in type – are accepted as absolute truth’.

The Swiss village to which Father Cornelius is sent is a strange place. It’s isolated and the inhabitants are not well-disposed to outsiders. A macabre note is introduced by the presence of foxes infected with rabies in the forests surrounding the village. This coincides with the arrival of a curious personage, Bernard Fuchs, purporting to be a publisher from Lucerne. In a village where everyone believes themselves an author awaiting discovery, he is initially greeted like a hero and fawned over at every turn. However, Father Cornelius is firmly convinced that Fuchs is the devil in human form, although he struggles to persuade other villagers of this.

There’s playful humour about the process of writing, editing and submission. Employed to sift through piles of manuscripts, Father Cornelius imagines the response he’d really like to give: ‘Tear up the pages of your manuscript one by one…rewrite it ten times, eliminate at least a dozen adjectives on each page, take your wasted paper and toss it in the fire’.

Things turn nasty when rejection letters start to be delivered and secrets from the past seem set to be revealed. Does Father Cornelius defeat the devil? You wouldn’t expect a book about storytelling to end with everything neatly tied up and in A Devil Comes To Town it certainly doesn’t.

I received a review copy courtesy of publishers, World Editions.

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In three words: Quirky, playful, satire

Try something similar…The 7th Function of Language by Laurent Binet (read my review here)

Paolo MaurensigAbout the Author

Paolo Maurensig was born in Gorizo and lives in Udine, Italy.  Now a bestselling author, he debuted in 1993 with The Luneburg Variations, translated into twenty-five languages, and selling over 2 million copies in Italy. His novels include Canone Inverso, The Guardian of Dreams and The Archangel of Chess.  He plays the baroque flute, viola de gamba, and the cello. (Photo credit: Goodreads author page)

Connect with Paolo

Website  ǀ  Goodreads


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