Wook Kim
November 03, 2006 AT 05:00 AM EST

Measuring the World

type
Book
Current Status
In Season
author
Daniel Kehlmann
publisher
Pantheon
genre
Fiction

We gave it an A-

In 1828, mathematician Carl Freidrich Gauss went to a conference in Berlin, as a guest of Alexander von Humboldt, naturalist and explorer. It is from this meeting — the two shared only their status as Enlightenment icons and an obsessive need to find order in chaos — that Daniel Kehlmann spins his elegant comic novel Measuring the World. Eschewing the oppressive morality that defines modern German literature (see: Grass, Gunther and Böll, Heinrich), the 31-year-old author forges a sly prose style shaped by the fire of human nature and the anvil of logic: It’s magic realism honed to a distinctly Teutonic level of precision.

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