F: a novel by Daniel Kehlmann


F is for finesse. F is for fake. F is for father who’s absent. F is for frantically running from the life you’ve made and F is for fraudulent. For nobody in this book is who he pretends to be.

Arthur is the father, who wants to be a writer, and suddenly leaves his three young sons after taking them to a hypnotist one evening. He claims hypnotism has no effect on him, but it seems to be one of the many lies the characters wrap themselves up within.

Martin, the eldest, becomes a fat priest who doesn’t believe God exists. He spends his time perfecting his skills with a Rubiks Cube as if the championship ahead is the most worthy goal of his life.

Ivan becomes an art forger with his lover, Heinrich.

And Eric, Ivan’s twin, becomes a financial consultant who completely mismanages the enormous funds of extremely wealthy clients. He lies to his clients, he lies to his wife, he lies to his daughter, his girlfriend and most significantly to himself. He cannot face what is his fault.

Their lives are a parody of what it means to be successful, which is something they each search for but cannot attain.

“Truth,” he (Ivan) said, “that’s all well and good. But sometimes none of it gets you anywhere. Always ask what people are expecting of you. Say what people say, do what people do. Ask yourself who exactly you’d like to be. Then ask yourself what that person you’d like to be would do. Then do it.”

This is wisdom for “getting somewhere”? It would be funny if it wasn’t so sad.

Finally, F is for fate. F is for the future. And perhaps for some of us, F is for faith.


Daniel KehlmannDaniel Kehlmann was born in Munich in 1975 and lives in Berlin and New York. His works have won the Candide prize, the Doderer prize, the Kleist Prize, the Welt Literature Prize, and the Thomas Mann Prize. Measuring the World was translated into more than forty languages and is one of the greatest successes in postwar German literature.



F a novel, is the second book I’ve read for the IFFP long list. Find other reviews from the Shadow Jury at 1stReading’s Blog, David’s Book World, Messengers Booker, and roughghosts.

18 thoughts on “F: a novel by Daniel Kehlmann”

    1. The short answer? No. I liked pieces of it. I liked the chapter which told of Eric’s desperately paced day as he tried to keep up wih all the lies and facades he’d built up around himself. But overall, this was not one of my favorite books, nor do I think it will win the IFFP.


    1. I don’t think it’s as “gimmicky” as my post may make it seem. The writing is clever and the plot is interwoven quite skillfully. It’s just that the plot was rather meaningless to me; I’ve already discovered quite a few “fakes” in my life. 🙂


    1. Visit the links to the others’ reviews; they are fantastic, and I mean that quite literally. They made me appreciate the book more than I did, which still doesn’t mean I was terribly fond of it. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.


  1. I remember reading a review of this months ago and thinking that the F stood for fatherless based on what the blogger had posted. This book sounds so good. I need to get it for my TBR pile. I love reading your posts for the books on the IFFP long list 🙂


    1. Yes, as you can see I agree that it stands for fatherless, but also so much more. I hope that my posts do these books justice, for I’m certainly not shrouding my opinion as I go through them. Still, reading for the IFFP continues to be the best reading I do all year. These books are wonderful, if for their insight into another culture alone.


  2. I liked the book but it didn’t quite live up to my expectations and I ended up feeling vaguely unsatisfied with it and I still can’t say why exactly.


    1. Exactly! The more I think about it, the less I realize I liked it. There were only momentary tastes of goodness, and those quicky evaporated in the tongue for me.


  3. I love flawed characters, but I’m not a huge fan of shallow ones, which this sounds like it’s full of. I don’t think this is a book I would really be able to enjoy, regardless of how well it’s written.


    1. Maybe Kehlmann’s making a point about the futility of life…for those who make foolish choices, anyway. This novel is full of characters who dwell in foolishness, and to me, that is always more of a choice than fate.


  4. Hi, just found the write up, it was on my list since Measuring the World read earlier on in the year, my classification under German writers, Aurtur’s leaving his young sons reminds me of the relationship, or lack of, developed by Kehlmann for Gauss, gives me more interest thanks


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