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A Devil Comes to Town

Paolo Maurensig, Anne Milano Appel (Translator)


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"A Devil Comes to Town is a brilliant form of torture...a huge amount of fun."--Lisa Grgas for The Literary Review

A small Swiss village full of aspiring writers + The devil in the form of a hot-shot publisher = An international bestseller by the author of the Italian literary sensation The Luneburg Variation

Wild rabies runs rampant through the woods. The foxes are gaining ground, boldly making their way into the village. In Dichtersruhe, an insular yet charming haven stifled by the Swiss mountains, these omens go unnoticed by all but the new parish priest. The residents have other things on their mind: Literature. Everyone's a writer--the nights are alive with reworked manuscripts. So when the devil turns up in a black car claiming to be a hot-shot publisher, unsatisfied authorial desires are unleashed and the village's former harmony is shattered. Taut with foreboding and Gothic suspense, Paolo Maurensig gives us a refined and engaging literary parable on narcissism, vainglory, and our inextinguishable thirst for stories.

Paolo Maurensig is one of Italy's bestselling authors. He debuted in 1993 with The L neburg Variation, translated into twenty-five languages, and selling over 2 million copies in Italy. His novels include Canone Inverso, The Guardian of Dreams, and The Archangel of Chess. For his novel Theory of Shadows, published by FSG in the US in January 2018, he won the Bagutta Prize. A Devil Comes to Town is his latest novel and received rave reviews in the European press.

World Editions, 9781642860139, 120pp.

Publication Date: May 7, 2019

Conversation Starters from

1. How does the form of the book reflect the themes of the story?

2. Foxes recur frequently in the novel, what is the significance of this? What does the fox represent?

3. Why do you think everybody in Dichtersruhe wants to write a book? What are they hoping to achieve? What is the message?

4. How might you interpret the death of the priest at the end of the novel?

5. Anonymity is a recurring theme in the novel: “the message in the bottle,” “the devil in the drawer,” “the death of the author,” “the unfinished manuscript.” What are your thoughts on this? Who owns a text once it has been written?

6. What do you think the author is trying to say about narcissism? Do you agree?

7. Why is the priest the only person to “see” the devil for what he is?

8. What do you think is the importance of the character Marta, the “mentally retarded” daughter of the widow Bauer who wins the Goethe Prize?

9. Goethe himself plays a significant role in the village: what meanings can be deduced from this?

10. The more the villagers write, the more the village itself falls apart, “tourism languishes,” etc. What do you think Maurensig is trying to say about literature? Do you agree?

11. In what ways were you able to identify with the characters? Was there one which stood out in this regard?

12. Do you think this is a serious book, a comedy, a satire, a thriller, something else? Why?

13. Did you come away from this book wanting to read more by this author or in this style?

14. How does Maurensig build suspense in the story? In what ways is this effective?

15. How do you view the priest? Is he a good and innocent man? Why does he leave his own manuscript to be found?