Friday, March 23, 2012

Book Review: "Voltaire's Calligrapher"

Pablo De Santis' Voltaire's Calligrapher (Harper Perennial, 2010) reminded me a bit of some of Voltaire's stories (which is, I hope, what De Santis intended). The title character, young Dalessius, tells the story of how he came to be employed by Voltaire - as calligrapher, but also charged with much graver tasks as the great philosophe faces off against the anti-Enlightenment forces strongly aligned against him.

De Santis' writing makes for good reading out loud, with its long, luscious descriptions of the calligrapher's craft, of bookstores and auctions, of strange characters who we may meet only briefly but whom I found myself thinking about long after I'd closed the book for the night. The plot meanders about, filled with twists and turns and dead ends, and the reader has no choice but to follow along, enjoying the journey.

A short book, at under 150 pages, but one which rewards a close, lingering read. There's a tremendous amount of material hidden in each careful word.