Art of darkness

<strong>Me and Kaminski</strong>

<em>Daniel Kehlmann</em>

Quercus, 208pp, £12.99

Sebastian Zollner is a journalist and art critic. He is not a likeable man. Belligerent, arrogant and impatient, he sets off to record the life and loves of the legendary (depending on whom he asks) painter Manuel Kaminski.

Zollner has few scruples, and shows little hesitation in bullying his way to “the truth”. He only hopes that Kaminski’s heart will last the duration (though it would be ideal if it gave up soon afterwards – death being the final ingredient for a bestseller).

And yet, despite his dishevelled appearance (“his skin was brown, creased like old leather, his cheeks sagged loosely, his hands seemed enormous, his hair a chaotic halo”), the old artist may be more astute and manipulative than at first he seems. His cryptic half-sentences hold more insight than Zollner would like to acknowledge.

The two men also have more in common than either of them thinks: one man’s experiences mirror the other’s and they share a sense of being lost, whether in life or down a mineshaft, as the case may be. Me and Kaminski is an accessible and humorous road trip into the worlds of art and journalism, satirising both. Although some may find it a little predictable, the novel makes some good philosophical points along the way. It is fun, fast and thoroughly enjoyable.

This article first appeared in the 01 December 2008 issue of the New Statesman, How safe is your job?