The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios
By Yann Martel
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Hardcover, 9780151010905, 224pp.)
Publication Date: December 1, 2004
List Price: $22.00*
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Here are four unforgettable stories by the author of Life of Pi. In the exquisite title novella, a very young man dying of AIDS joins his friend in fashioning a story of the Roccamatio family of Helsinki, set against the yearly march of the twentieth century whose horrors and miracles their story echoes. In "The Time I Heard the Private Donald J. Rankin String Concerto with One Discordant Violin, by the American composer John Morton," a Canadian university student visits Washington, D.C., and experiences the Vietnam War and its aftermath through an intense musical encounter. In "Manners of Dying," variations of a warden's letter to the mother of a son he has just executed reveal how each life is contained in its end. The final story, "The Mirror Machine", is about a young man who discovers an antique mirror-making machine in his grandmother's attic. The man's fascination with the object is juxtaposed with the longwinded reminiscences it evokes from his grandmother.
Written earlier in Martel's career, these tales are as moving as they are thought-provoking, as inventive in form as they are timeless in content. They display that startling mix of dazzle and depth that have made Yann Martel an international phenomenon.
Yann Martel was born in Spain in 1963 of Canadian parents. After studying philosophy at university, he worked at odd jobs—tree-planter, dishwasher, security guard--and traveled widely before turning to writing at the age of twenty-six. He is the author of a collection of short stories; three novels, including the internationally acclaimed 2002 Man Booker Prize–winning novel Life of Pi, which spent fifty-seven weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, and Beatrice and Virgil; and a collection of letters to the Prime Minister of Canada, What is Stephen Harper Reading?. Yann Martel lives in Saskatchewan, Canada.