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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Animal Gazer

Edgardo Franzosini

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To purchase The Animal Gazer

Title: The Animal Gazer
Author: Edgardo Franzosini
Genre: Novel
Written: 2015 (Eng. 2018)
Length: 124 pages
Original in: Italian
Availability: The Animal Gazer - US
The Animal Gazer - UK
The Animal Gazer - Canada
Questa vita tuttavia mi pesa molto - Italia
  • Italian title: Questa vita tuttavia mi pesa molto
  • Translated by Michael F. Moore
  • With eight illustrations

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Our Assessment:

B : enough to get a picture of the man/artist, but not sufficiently more

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Hudson Review . Fall/2018 Susan Balée
The NY Times Book Rev. . 20/5/2018 Joseph Luzzi
Publishers Weekly . 27/11/2017 .
TLS . 17/5/2019 Lucy Dallas

  From the Reviews:
  • "The Animal Gazer, by Edgardo Franzosini, didnít do much for me. (...) Although I learned a lot about the artist (heís the brother of the car manufacturer from Milan) and appreciated the photos of his most famous sculptures, I found this a pedestrian book. (...) Franzosini doesnít take many risks imagining the thoughts of Bugatti, and that may be why this novel doesnít succeed for me as fiction. Itís simply not imaginative enough." - Susan Balée, The Hudson Review

  • "In Mooreís expert translation, the rise and fall of a boot is as terrifying as the report of a gun in this act of cosmic violence masquerading as prudence. Itís difficult not to love the eccentric, fragile Rembrandt Bugatti and suffer alongside him." - Joseph Luzzi, The New York Times Book Review

  • "Franzosini does a solid job of depicting the artistís life in prewar Europe, but his Bugatti moves through its setting as something of a cipher whose inner life must be inferred from the reproductions of his work that decorate the book." - Publishers Weekly

  • "The Animal Gazer is a curious book, part biography, part novel, sometimes interested in Rembrandtís interiority, sometimes not. (...) Bugattiís sculptures, his deer, flamingoes and giraffes, stalk across the first page of every chapter, and the man himself is brought back, somewise, to life." - Lucy Dallas, Times Literary Supplement

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The Animal Gazer is based closely on the life (and death) of sculptor Rembrandt Bugatti, who specialized in bronzes of animals and was a suicide in 1916, at age 31. His name really was Rembrandt, and his older brother was Ettore -- the man behind the famous Bugatti-automobiles.
       The seven chapters of the slim novel give a good glimpse of the artist and his career, as well as touching on Ettore's automobile-obsession and, for example, Rembrandt working as a stretcher-bearer during the war. Drawn to animals, Rembrandt spent much of his time in zoos -- first in Paris and then especially in Antwerp. World War I upended everyday normality -- and, quickly, with the rapid advance of the Germans into Belgium, led to the horrific preëmptive slaughter of the Antwerp zoo animals, which was obviously especially devastating to Bugatti.
       Early on already, Franzosini suggests:

Rembrandt felt like himself only around animals, only in contact with that wordless community. The zoo is my consolation, he wrote one day to his brother.
       The slaughter of the animals at the Antwerp zoo is a horror beyond his imagining. The penultimate chapter, with Rembrandt back in Paris, has him turning to religion, and taking up a different, human subject for a sculpture -- an effective description of the obsessed and lost artist at work. The final chapter then describes his suicide and the aftermath.
       Franzosini presents all this quite well, with a light, neutral touch, aware that the events he presents are powerful enough in their own right and don't need to be emotionally embellished. The Animal Gazer's understated presentation has its appeal -- but also gives only a glimpse of the man and artist, and while the localized, specific scenes, especially of Rembrandt at work, are very good, Franzosini's wider-ranging efforts dilute the already slim whole; an even tighter focus, on the narrowest part of Rembrandt's life, might have been more effective.
       Close-up photographs of Rembrandt's sculptures between chapters are welcome complements to the text, not only in giving a good sense of his talents. They are also presented appropriately, the pictures cropped, none of the sculptures shown in their entirety, as also goes for Franzosini's scenes-from-Rembrandt's life.
       This is an appealing little novel, about a fascinating man and life, but ultimately doesn't feel substantial enough, about either his life or art.

- M.A.Orthofer, 24 January 2018

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The Animal Gazer: Reviews: Rembrandt Bugatti: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Italian autor Edgardo Franzosini was born in 1952.

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© 2018-2021 the complete review

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