Tony's Reviews > The Fabric of Night

The Fabric of Night by Christoph Peters
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May 07, 11

bookshelves: read-for-bookclub, novels, translated-fiction
Read in January, 2011

This is one of those books that if you start trying to explain what happens in it to someone else, it sounds kind of interesting and possibly enjoyable. An artist couple from Germany who are vacationing in Istanbul in a last-ditch effort to save their unhealthy relationship when the man (a 28-year-old sculptor) witnesses the apparent murder of an American businessman in an adjacent hotel. However, when he runs over to sound the alarm, the desk clerk insists that no one of that description is staying at the hotel, and thus the sculptor starts sleuthing. Sounds like a classic Hitchcock story, doesn't it?

However, the sculptor is an alcoholic, somewhat manic, an entirely unreliable narrator, and his voice occupies every other chapter, often in rambling stream of consciousness gobbledygook. Meanwhile, the other half of the chapters revolve around a group of German art students who are exploring the city with their professor and end up linking up with the sculptor and his girlfriend. Their perspective is narrated by one of the students, who is recounting the trip's events much later. The result of all this is a story that is constantly shifting underfoot and very hard to settle down with. When done right, that kind of approach can be very enjoyable, however, here it just feels annoying.

The author appears to be toying around with notions of illusion vs. reality, but that theme has been bludgeoned to death in the last ten years of fiction and film, often in far more entertaining and illuminating fashion. In an interview, he also claimed to be making some kind of statement about how the West views Turkey (all the Turkish characters are portrayed as exotic Eastern "types" such as the haggling rug merchant, the crafty and dangerous gypsies, the inscrutable and possibly cunning hotel clerk, etc.) However, it's hard to understand what the point of such games are in the context of an already chaotic story. But the biggest problem is that there is no one to connect to, even peripherally. The sculptor is a self-destructive menace, and the students are generally interchangeable ciphers. Unless you're really interested in unreliable narrators in fiction, this book has little to offer.
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