Daniel Kehlmann has a knack for making light work of monumental themes. In 2005 he made a name for himself with his unlikely bestseller Measuring the World, a fictionalised account of the lives of two 19th-century German scientists. It’s a novel that tackles some weighty – potentially leaden – subjects, from the pursuit of knowledge to the building of nations. And yet in Kehlmann’s hands, these issues become a rich source of levity and wit.
Kehlmann’s latest work, now translated into English by Ross Benjamin, is no less ambitious in what it sets out to do, and is equally entertaining: it’s a challenge not to end up reading it in a single sitting. It takes the form of a novella that follows a screenwriter working