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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Bacons Finsternis

Wilfried Steiner

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To purchase Bacons Finsternis

Title: Bacons Finsternis
Author: Wilfried Steiner
Genre: Novel
Written: 2010
Length: 286 pages
Original in: German
Availability: Bacons Finsternis - Deutschland
  • Bacons Finsternis has not yet been translated into English

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Our Assessment:

B : breezy read with an appealing mix of art, passion, and suspense, but remains just a bit too flat

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Der Standard . 21-22/8/2010 Alexander Kluy
Die Welt . 18/9/2010 .

  From the Reviews:
  • "So überaus suggestiv Bacons Gemälde von Steiner nachgeschrieben werden, so überinstrumentiert erscheint manch anderes. Vor allem die literarischen Anspielungen, Eng- und Parallelführungen summieren sich am Ende zu einer etwas verdrießlichen, da arg papierenen Aufdringlichkeit." - Alexander Kluy, Der Standard

  • "Wilfried Steiners kriminalistische Energie überzeugt in diesem Setting genauso wie sein Kommentar zum Werk von Francis Bacon. Keine Gefahr also, sich unter seinem Niveau zu unterhalten." - Die Welt

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:

       Bacons Finsternis ('Bacon's Darkness') is narrated by Arthur Valentin, and it opens with him on vacation with his wife Isabel -- and her suddenly announcing that, when they get back home to Vienna, they should separate. Arthur is so clueless that their relationship has run out of steam that he can't imagine her statement being anything but a joke, but she is serious, and she follows through.
       Arthur owns and runs an antiquarian bookstore (called Maldoror) together with Maia -- he handling the literary side (where he is reluctant to let go of the first editions ...), while Maia deals with the much more successful art-book side of business. He's devastated by Isabel abandoning him, and he can't get over it. Visiting a Francis Bacon retrospective he finds himself drawn to the artist's dark and tortured takes -- and is especially struck by the triptych Three Studies for Head of Isabel Rawsthorne (in part because of the name, of course). He becomes Bacon obsessed -- "'Nichts strahlt heller', sagte Maia, 'als Bacons Finsternis.'" ("'Nothing shines brighter,' Maia said, 'than Bacon's darkness'"), and it is that which Arthur is drawn to --, and even travels to see other Bacon paintings; when he goes to London he sees his Isabel and the new -- and dubious -- man in her life at the Tate -- and overhears what he thinks is a plan for an art-theft.
       Together with the more art- and art-scene-knowledgeable Maia, Arthur goes on the trail of Isabel's new beau (discovering his shady past) and various missing or endangered Bacon (and Lucian Freud) paintings. Part art-primer, part heist-thriller, part relationship novel, Bacons Finsternis' isn't quite sure what to focus on. Steiner moves Arthur easily enough through his different (and in some cases rather unlikely) paces -- including some breaking and entering -- and there's some suspense her, but the book doesn't manage to reach the necessary highpoints -- regarding either the art or the relationships -- along the way, remaining somewhat flat. Steiner has an agreeable, easy-going style (flailing only with some of the dialogue, where he relies on clichéd exchanges a bit too often) that makes Bacons Finsternis a smooth and entertaining read, but too much of plot (and the characters' actions) seems contrived -- and contrived specifically so that Steiner can riff on Bacon's life and style.
       The Bacon-commentary, on both art and man, is quite good, and while Arthur is a bit too much of a sad-sack protagonist Steiner does make him a more intriguing character by allowing him to muse on Bacon as well as some of his other interests -- from the underappreciated Hans Henry Jahnn to Hermann Broch's The Death of Virgil --, as well as contrasting Arthur's likes with Isabel's fascination with horror/thriller films. On less sure ground when Arthur has to interact with others -- and the closer the relationship, the more strained Steiner's scenes become -- Bacons Finsternis isn't entirely satisfying; still, even if rather too mixed up it's an enjoyable mix of a book.

- M.A.Orthofer, 20 November 2010

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Bacons Finsternis: Reviews: Francis Bacon: Other books by Wilfried Steiner under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of German literature

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About the Author:

       Austrian author Wilfried Steiner was born in 1960.

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