The Architect of Ruins by
Herbert Rosendorfer / ISBN 9781903517796 / Another long-time favorite whose title I once used for a post on But Does it Float. / 368-page paperback from Dedalus Books (UK)
"This is a book of paradoxes to shake you out of your complacent preconceptions about time, narrative order and the experience of reading." --Lucasta Miller, The Times
The Architect of Ruins is considered one of the masterpieces of 20th century German fiction. An archetypal Dedalus novel with its literary game-playing and story-within-a-story technique. It has the labyrinthine brilliance of Robert Irwin's The Arabian Nightmare and Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose.
Four men led by the Architect of Ruins construct an Armagedon shelter, in the shape of a giant cigar, so that when the end of the world comes they can enter eternity in the right mood, whilst playing a Schubert string quartet. They amuse themselves by telling stories, which take on a life of their own, with walk on parts for Faust, Don Juan, da Ponte, and G.K. Chesterton etc as the narrative flashes back and forth between the Dark Ages and the Modern Day, like a literary Mobius strip.
Although for European readers it will call to mind Jan Potocki's The Saragossa Manuscript, for English readers the wit and humour of The Architect of Ruins will make it read like a 20th century sequel to Laurence Sterne's Tristram Shandy.
Herbert Rosendorfer was born in Germany in 1934. His first novel Der Ruinenbaumeister (1969) was a critical and commercial success, and is regarded by many critics as one of the masterpieces of German twentieth-century fiction. It was published in English by Dedalus in 1992 as The Architect of Ruins.