For nearly five years I have wanted to write something about the surrealist painter Emil Bafdescu: about his paintings, one of which hangs in a little restaurant in Melbourne, and about his disappearance, which is still a mystery. But this is probably not going to be the book I imagined. Nothing has quite worked out the way I planned.
With the small inheritance he received upon his father's death, Miles has come to Europe on the trail of the Romanian surrealist, who disappeared into a forest in 1967. But in trying to unravel the mystery of Bafdescu's secret life, Miles must also reckon with his own.
Faced with a language and a landscape that remain stubbornly out of reach, and condemned to wait for someone who may never arrive, Miles is haunted by thoughts of his ex-girlfriend, Alice, and the trip they took to Venice that ended their relationship.
Uncanny, occasionally absurd, and utterly original, Fever of Animals is a beautifully written meditation on art and grief.
©2015 Miles Allinson (P)2015 Bolinda Publishing Pty Ltd
"As this fever-dream of a novel veers between the quotidian and the nightmarish, it asks vital and difficult questions about the role of art, politics, madness, identity and intimacy...[a] deeply impressive debut." (Books + Publishing)
"This is an exquisite, painterly novel, and Allinson is a writer destined for a cult following." (Emily Bitto, award-winning author of The Strays)
This was very well written, and very well read by Tom Hoskins, which saved it from becoming too self-indulgent, heavy or pretentious, a major risk given the introspection of the narrator and the themes of death, relationships, art, surrealism and travelling.
I give it four stars rather than five because I felt there was a flatness to the narrator's relationship with Alice, a lack of depth to the depiction of Alice herself, and something missed in conveying what happened in Venice. These stood out for me, in a book which was otherwise very successful in maintaining interest and belief in a main character who I didn't always have sympathy for, through a brooding and rather claustrophobic narrative.
I'm interested in art, especially surrealism, and I went to the London exhibitions referenced in the book around 2005/2006. The book expounds at length about various artists, about art in general and about surrealism in particular, I don't know what it would be like to read it with no special interest. It's quite explanatory, so perhaps that wouldn't be an issue and might even give an extra dimension to the book. I don't know.
It's an unusual book and I think it was done well. There's a question in the Audible review prompts which asks, "Would you recommend this book to a friend"? I've chosen not to answer that, because I wouldn't actually recommend it. I have no idea if other people would like it as much as I did. But I would mention it, and if the friend decided for themselves to read it I would be very interested in what they thought. I suppose I would say that I very much recommend this to anyone who is willing to take a chance, read something different, and make up their own mind.
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