Reinhardt’s Garden

Coffee House. Oct. 2019. 168p. ISBN 9781566895620. pap. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9781566895705. F
Jacov Reinhardt, Croatian heir to a tobacco fortune, is obsessed to the point of insanity with the idea of melancholy as the deepest and most profound of human emotions. Driven by the trauma of his beloved twin sister’s death in childhood, he dedicates his life to a massive and, he hopes, world-changing revelation on the essence of melancholy. His years of study have led him to revere an obscure cleric, Emiliano Gomez Carrasquilla, whose writings he has inexplicably inverted into a coded treatise on melancholy. Carrasquilla is rumored to have sequestered himself deep in the South American jungle, so Jacov sets off with his loyal assistant (and the novel’s narrator) on an implausible and ill-equipped quest to find “the lost philosopher of melancholy.”
VERDICT Subverting the conventions of the late 19th–early 20th century novel of the obsessed European venturing into the jungle, Haber (Deathbed Conversions) has crafted a knowing (and perhaps at times too knowing) parody of the genre. Combine its brevity with its main character’s mania and almost religious elevation of melancholy, and the book might best be described as Heart of Darkness viewed in a fun house mirror.

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