The BookWorld Remade

And that was when the doorbell rang. This was unusual, as random events rarely occurred in the mostly predetermined BookWorld. I opened the door to find three Dostoyevskivites staring at me from within a dense cloud of moral relativism.
‘May we come in?’ asked the first, who had the look of someone weighed down heavily with the burden of conscience. ‘We were on our way home from a redemption-through-suffering training course. Something big’s going down at Text Grand Central and everyone’s been grounded until further notice.’
A grounding was rare, but not unheard of. In an emergency, all citizens of the BookWorld were expected to offer hospitality to those stranded outside their books. I might have minded, but these guys were from Crime and Punishment and, better still, celebrities. We hadn’t seen a celebrity this end of Fantasy since Pamela from Pamela stopped outside with a flat tyre. She could have been gone in an hour, but insisted on using an epistolary breakdown service, and we had to put her up in the spare room while a complex series of letters went backwards and forwards.
‘Welcome to my home, Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov.’
‘Oh!’ said Raskolnikov, impressed that I knew who he was. ‘How did you know it was me? Could it have been the subtle way in which I project the dubious moral notion that murder might somehow be rationalised, or the way in which I move from denying my guilt to eventually coming to terms with an absoluite sense of justice and submitting myself to the rule of law?’
‘Neither,’ I said. ‘It’s because you’re holding an axe covered in blood and human hair.’
‘Yes, it is a bit of a giveaway,’ he admitted, staring at the axe, ‘but how rude am I? Allow me to introduce Arkady Ivanovich Svidrigaïlov.’
‘Actually,’ said the second man, leaning over to shake my hand, ‘I’m Dmitri Prokofich Razumikhin, Raskolnikov’s loyal friend.’
‘You are?’ said Raskolnikov in surprise. ‘Then what happened to Svidrigaïlov?’
‘He’s busy chatting up your sister.’
He narrowed his eyes.
‘My sister? That’s Pulkheria Alexandrovna Raskolnikova, right?’
‘No,’ said Razumikhin in the tone of a long-suffering best friend, ‘that’s your mother. Avdotya Romanovna Raskolnikova is your sister.’
‘I always get those two mixed up. So who’s Marfa Petrovna Svidrigaïlova?’
Razumikhin frowned and thought for a moment.
‘You’ve got me there.’
He turned to the third Russian.
‘Tell me, Pyotr Petrovich Luzhin: who, precisely, is Marfa Petrovna Svidrigaïlova?’
‘I’m sorry,’ said the third Russian, who had been staring at her shoes absently, ‘but I think there has been some kind of mistake. I’m not Pyotr Petrovich Luzhin, but Alyona Ivanovna.’
Razumikhin turned to Raskolnikov and lowered his voice.
‘Is that your landlady’s servant, the one who decides to marry down to secure her future or the one who turns to prostitution in order to stop her family descending into penury?’
Raskolnikov shrugged.
‘Listen,’ he said, ‘I’ve been in this book for over a hundred and thirty years, and even I can’t figure it out.’
‘It’s very simple,’ said the third Russian, indicating who did what on her fingers, ‘Nastasya Petrovna is Raskolnikov’s landlady’s servant, Avdotya Romanovna Raskolnikova is your sister who threatens to marry down, Sofia Semyonovna Marmeladova is the one who becomes a prostitute, and Marfa Petrovna Svidrigaïlova – the one you were first asking about – is Arkady Svidrigaïlov’s murdered first wife.’
‘I knew that,’ said Raskolnikov in the manner of someone who didn’t, ‘so … who are you again?’
‘I’m Alyona Ivanovna,’ said the third Russian with a trace of annoyance, ‘the rapacious old pawnbroker whose apparent greed and wealth lead you to murder.’
‘Are you sure you’re Ivanovna?’ asked Raskolnikov in a worried tone.
‘Absolutely.’
‘And you’re still alive?’
‘So it seems.’
He stared at the bloody axe.
‘Then who did I just kill?’
And they all looked at each other in confusion.

Da: Jasper Fforde, One of Our Thursdays Is Missing, Hodder & Stoughton, London 2011. 388 pagine.

Practical Magic

Of the fifteen sorcerers, movers, soothsayers, shifters, weathermongers and carpeteers at Kazam, Lady Mawgon was certainly the oldest, and probably the most powerful. Like everyone else she had seen her powers fade dramatically over the past three decades or so, but unlike everyone else, she’d not really come to terms with the failure of the Mystical Arts to be relevant in everyone’s lives. In her defence, she had fallen farther than the rest of them, but this wasn’t really an excuse: the Sisters Karamazov could also claim once-royal patronage, and they were nice as apricot pie. Mad as a kettle of onions the pair of them, but pleasant nonetheless.
I might have felt more sorry for Mawgon if she hadn’t been so difficult all the time. She had an intimidating manner that made me feel small and ill at ease, and she rarely if ever missed an opportunity to put me in my place.  Since Mr Zambini’s disappearance, she’d got worse, not better.
‘Quark,’ said the Qaurkbeast.
‘Did we have to bring the beast?’ asked Full Price, who had never really got along with it.
‘It jumped in the car when I opened the door.’
The Quarkbeast yawned, revealing several rows of razor-sharp fangs. Despite his placid nature, you never argued with a Quarkbeast, just in case.

From: Jasper Fforde, The Last Dragonslayer, Hodder & Stoughton, London 2010. 281 pages, 12 £.

The Eyre Affair

The Eyre AffairJasper Fforde, The Eyre Affair, Hodder, London 2001. 373 pagine.

La saga di Thursday Next mi incuriosiva da tanto, perché è per amanti dei libri, perché tutti ne parlano bene, perché è tradotta da Marcos Y Marcos che pare non sbagliarne una. Così finalmente ho letto questo primo capitolo della saga che ne conta ormai cinque, con il sesto in uscita in Inghilterra entro l’anno. Inoltre, avevo trascurato la lettura in inglese per troppo tempo ed è stata una vera goduria.

Così come è stata una goduria il romanzo: ingegnoso, ben scritto, divertente, pieno di trovate interessanti, di citazioni, di giochi di parole.

Immaginate un mondo in cui la lettura è l’attività principale, praticata a tutti con grande entusiasmo. Tanto che proprio intorno alla lettura e ai libri si viene a creare una serie di attità criminose, come ad esempio tutto un mercato sommerso di false prime edizioni, spacciate ovviamente per vere. Così che si è reso necessario un apposito reparto dello “Special Operations Network”, denominato SO-27 e costituito da detective letterari. Una di questi è appunto Thursday Next che, dopo essersi trovata alle prese con il “rapimento” del manoscritto originale di Martin Chuzzlewit, avrà infine a che fare addirittura con il rapimento di Jane Eyre, protagonista del romanzo omonimo. Romanzo che, purtroppo, io non ho letto, perdendo così un po’ del gusto della storia. Inutile svelare cosa acde perché ne succedono davvero di tutti i colori. Basti accennare a una guerra fra Inghilterra e Crimea che va avanti da più di cento anni senza alcuna speranza di terminare a breve; a un Galles indipendente, tirannizzato e fieramente gaelico; al padre di Thursday che va avanti e indietro nel tempo a suo piacimento…

Il libro è a tratti cupissimo, a tratti divertentissimo, a tratti futuristico. È stato detto che si può parlare di un incrocio tra i Monty Python e l’Orwell di 1984 e, per quanto possa essere difficile da immaginare, è una definizione piuttosto aderente al vero, salvo essere molto riduttiva. Perché The Eyre Affair è anche Philip K. Dick, Shakespeare, Harry Potter, Charlotte Brontë (ovviamente) e chi più ne ha più ne metta, scommetto che non si finirebbe più di trovare rimandi.

Una lettura piacevolissima, per chi non ha paura di andare oltre la letteratura “seria”.

In italiano è tradotto da Marcos Y Marcos con il titolo Il caso Jane Eyre e sono disponibili tre degli altri quattro capitoli della saga: Persi in un buon libro, Il pozzo delle trame perdute e C’è del marcio.

Qui c’è la pagina dedicata al libro sul sito della casa editrice italiana.
* Qui invece il sito dell’autore.

[Grazie a Lizzyblack per il ring.]