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   A Closed Book

A Closed Book
by Gilbert Adair

Category: Fiction / General
258 pages; ISBN: 0 571 20081 8

Rating: 9/10  (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: South African Book Review


I first came across Gilbert Adair when I read a book called A Void that he had translated from French to English. This may not sound like much of a feat, except that the original was written without a single `e` and when translated the English edition also had not a single `e` in the entire book. At the time I wasn`t sure who was more talented - the author or the translator! I then tracked down more of his books and he became one of my favorite authors; writing novels, prose (an excellent full length verse parody on the Pope) and non-fiction.

However I digress, when A CLOSED BOOK landed on my desk I waited until I knew I`d have an uninterrupted day and then eagerly jumped in with both eyes. Well, Gilbert Adair has done it again - another awesome novel. It`s a simple enough story about a prize winning author who lost both his eyes in a car crash some years ago and has now employed an assistant to help him write a new book (entitled A CLOSED BOOK!). The story has a twist at the end that Agatha Christie would be proud of, however, what blew me away is that the entire novel is dialogue (except for maybe 6 short descriptive paragraphs)!

Now for me, dialogue is the pinnacle of excellence. Too often authors use dialogue as a link between meandering adjectives bound together by some common theme (such as a beautiful landscape). But how much more challenging to describe the same scene using dialogue alone? This is a challenge that Gilbert Adair rises to, meets and ultimately surpasses. The book is unputdownable as you are drawn into the real life of the two characters. In one instance, where sharp words are thrown out to offend and then instantly regretted, the dialogue indicates the regret, not some string of adjectives! The book reads easily (which far too often dialogue doesn`t) and leaves you at the end sure that you`ve witnessed a genius at work.

Buy it, read it and buy copies for friends, gems like this don`t come along that often.

Simon Pateman Brown - SABR


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