First Fiction Friday: Landscape with the Fall of Icarus

June 11, 2020

This first fiction for author Zsolt Alapi is sure to spark the attention of anyone who loves art and literature. Landscape with the Fall of Icarus (DC Books) follows a first-person account of one mans obsession with the allegory of Pieter Bruegel’s painting of the same name and W.H. Auden’s interpretation of it in his famous poem, Musée des Beaux Arts. Darkly humorous, explicit, and full of word play, this book takes on the all-too-human plight of suffering and the search for meaning.

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The book:  Landscape with the Fall of Icarus (DC Books Canada)

The author:  Zsolt Alapi is a short story writer, editor, and critic whose work has appeared in Canada, the U.S., Great Britain, and France. He ran Siren Song Publishing, which featured edgy fiction that follows the path forged by the Beat and post-Beat writers of the latter part of the 20th century.

Why you need to read this now:Landscape with the Fall of Icarus establishes a unique genre of writing: a picaresque/confessional novel whose main theme is the value of art and literature in the world. Told through the first- person voice of Stephen, Landscape is the story of obsession, erotic desire, and redemption.  Stephen is obsessed with the allegory of Pieter Bruegel’s painting and W.H. Auden’s interpretation of it in his famous poem, Musée des Beaux Arts, a work that explores the issue of suffering and human apathy.  In his life as a teacher of literature and as a writer, Stephen searches for meaning and relevance, both in his life’s work and in his failed relationships, only to reach an existential crisis and to attempt suicide.

 

Pieter Bruegel de Oude - De val van Icarus

Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1558)

 

Following his recovery in a mental hospital and his subsequent follow-up with his psychiatrist with whom he has a comically adversarial relationship, Stephen takes an inner journey into his past, reflecting on his exile from his home in Eastern Europe to his immigration to Canada, his failed relationships, and his quest for meaning through what is paradoxically his greatest love and his greatest disappointment. Replete with literary allusions, sly humor, bitter irony, and explicitly rendered eroticism, Landscape with the Fall of Icarus takes the reader on an unforgettable journey through the streets of Montreal and through the labyrinth of the narrator’s psyche, revealing a complex individual whose search for love and meaning reflects an ageless human quest. 

This is a novel for readers who love art and literature, but it is simultaneously accessible to anyone who values the complexity of the immigrant experience, of broken relationships, and of the struggle to reclaim meaning in a world that dismisses value and matters of the spirit.  Written in a fast-paced, engaging style, the novel wrenches the reader through a gamut of emotions from darkly humorous absurdity to the profound wonder and value of language in telling our human stories. Reading Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, the reader will be left to ponder the larger questions of how to find meaning in everyday relationships, how to find value through love, and how to find compassion and meaning despite one’s failings. It is both a memorable journey through exile, failure, and despair, to a deep reflection on the value of art in our lives and how telling our life story is both a reckoning and an act of reclamation of our deepest spiritual yearnings.

 

X +Y=this book: Combining the dark humour and explicitness of Henry Miller and Charles Bukowski with the erudite word-play of Nabokov, Gaddis, and Pynchon, Landscape with the Fall of Icarus moves effortlessly from the poetic to the erotic and from the gritty to the heartbreaking, often in the space of a single paragraph.

 

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Thank you to DC Books and author Zsolt Alapi for sharing Landscape with the Fall of Icarus with us.

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