Translated by Lisa Carter

This is the perfect Halloween read. It is smart, sharp and dry — like a fine cheese. It leaves you wanting more, but with the knowledge that it is perfect as it is.
The basic premise, without reveals the twists that make it so lovely, is that calligraphers, of the early 18th century as an occupation, are an endangered species. The widespread use of the printing press threatens to make them obsolete. A constantly shifting empire found these professionals dangling at the ends of nooses.

The narrator happens to be a calligrapher for the playwright Voltaire. Yet his adventures range further than escaping a hangman or sustaining employment. He uncovers a steampunk wonder, with a sinister twist.


Again, trying to preserve the magic of this novella, I refrain from revealing too many details.  So let me say this: if you like anything by Poe, Perfume by Patrick Suskind, Sherlock Holmes, Alexandre Dumas, Guy de Maupassant, or The Meaning of Night by Michael Cox.  Yes.  All of those.  And I’m sure more that I haven’t thought of.  But to put it more simply – read it.  It’s amazing, fun and has me looking forward to De Santis’ next work.

Many thanks to the folks at HarperCollins for the review copy.

Paperback: 149 pages
Publisher: Harper Perennial; Original edition (October 5, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0061479888
ISBN-13: 978-0061479885

3 thoughts on “REVIEW: Voltaire’s Calligrapher by Pablo De Santis”

  1. Thanks, Lisa! I truly did enjoy your translation, too. I am fascinated by how you must know both languages so deeply and walk a fine line between creativity and the author's intention.

  2. I *love* how you compare this novella to a fine cheese — it's a perfect description! I also wanted to thank you for remembering to include the translator's name (mine!) in your review. This happens far too rarely and is therefore particularly notable when it occurs.

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