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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction



The Invisible Player

by
Giuseppe Pontiggia


general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

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Title: The Invisible Player
Author: Giuseppe Pontiggia
Genre: Novel
Written: 1978 (Eng. 1988)
Length: 259 pages
Original in: Italian
Availability: The Invisible Player - US
The Invisible Player - UK
The Invisible Player - Canada
Le Joueur invisible - France
  • Italian title: Il giocatore invisibile
  • Translated by Annapaola Cancogni

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Our Assessment:

B+ : elegantly twisted and presented

See our review for fuller assessment.




Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
American Book Rev. . 5-6/1990 Lois E. Nesbitt
The NY Times Book Rev. . 26/2/1989 Judith Baumel

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The complete review's Review:

       The Invisible Player has an academic setting. The central character is a professor of philology, the action set in motion by an anonymous letter to the editor in the journal, The Voice of Antiquity, attacking him. The professor takes it very personally, and becomes obsessed with finding out who is behind it -- and, though he tries to be discreet in his hunt, his reaction only makes him more of a subject for gossip. (Early on he berates his curious assistant: "Why look for the author ? Then the whole thing will snowball, assume gigantic dimensions" -- but he can't take his own advice.)
       The professor is married to a younger -- and very attractive -- woman, and he's also concerned about what she might be doing behind his back. Her relationship with Daverio -- a former rival for her affections -- certainly seems a bit close for comfort ..... The professor nevertheless also has his own extramarital ambitions -- though his ruthless criticism of one aspiring poet's work probably don't help his long-term plans with her.
       The professor can't keep himself from confronting those he suspects of being behind the letter. he tries to approach them in a roundabout way, but he's pretty transparent (and most admit that they're candidates). Desperation leads him to even break into the offices of the journal and rifle through the letters to the editor - but finding a name and address only gets him so far: the person behind the letter has done a good job of covering his tracks.
       The professor is also a chess player, and the book is also a chess game, a clever back and forth of attacks and feints and sacrifices. Much of the book is made up of the head-to-head confrontations (though they almost all appear very civil) between pairs of characters (few scenes find more than two people together); dialogue-heavy, there is occasionally a sense of artifice here, but generally Pontiggia presents these confrontations and exchanges -- these games -- very nicely.
       The book turns fairly quickly in its resolution, the professor's world falling apart a bit faster than he can keep track of. Elegantly tied together, the end has that double-edged satisfaction of real life, where victories can come at great cost, a petty battle won at the cost of something much greater and what appears, for a moment, to be clear is quickly obscured.
       Pontiggia has a nice touch and paints an affectionate picture of a tortured academic world, with characters like Liveranti who roams "through the bare rooms" of the immense apartment he bought but could not afford to furnish, or various specialists, obsessed with the limited part of the world that they are experts in. Some of the conversations and encounters drag on a bit, and some seem superfluous, but the larger game Pontiggia is playing is well-concealed, his presentation much more subtle and elegant than one usually finds in such Borgesian fictions.
       The Invisible Player is perhaps a bit slow and too deliberate for some, but it's a nice piece of work.

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Links:

Giuseppe Pontiggia: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Italian literature at the complete review

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About the Author:

       Italian author Giuseppe Pontiggia lived 1934 to 2003.

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© 2005-2008 the complete review

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