A Devil Comes to Town
A playful literary novel with the prodigious rhythm of a thriller
Wild rabies runs rampant through the woods. The foxes are gaining ground, boldly making their way into the village. In Dichtersruhe, an insular yet charming haven stifled by the Swiss mountains, these omens go unnoticed by all but the new parish priest. The residents have other things on their mind: Literature. Everyone’s a writer—the nights are alive with reworked manuscripts. So when the devil turns up in a black car claiming to be a hotshot publisher, unsatisfied authorial desires are unleashed and the village’s former harmony is shattered. Taut with foreboding and Gothic suspense, Paolo Maurensig gives us a refined and engaging literary parable on narcissism, vainglory, and our inextinguishable thirst for stories.
Paolo Maurensig was born in Gorizo, and lives in Udine, Italy. Now a bestselling author… Read more
Book Club Questions
- How does the form of the book reflect the themes of the story?
- Foxes recur frequently in the novel, what is the significance of this? What does the fox represent?
- Why do you think everybody in Dichtersruhe wants to write a book? What are they hoping to achieve? What is the message?
- How might you interpret the death of the priest at the end of the novel?
- Anonymity is a recurring theme in the novel: “the message in the bottle,” “the devil in the drawer,” “the death of the author,” “the unfinished manuscript.” What are your thoughts on this? Who owns a text once it has been written?
- What do you think the author is trying to say about narcissism? Do you agree?
- Why is the priest the only person to “see” the devil for what he is?
- What do you think is the importance of the character Marta, the “mentally retarded” daughter of the widow Bauer who wins the Goethe Prize?
- Goethe himself plays a significant role in the village: what meanings can be deduced from this?
- The more the villagers write, the more the village itself falls apart, “tourism languishes,” etc. What do you think Maurensig is trying to say about literature? Do you agree?
- In what ways were you able to identify with the characters? Was there one which stood out in this regard?
- Do you think this is a serious book, a comedy, a satire, a thriller, something else? Why?
- Did you come away from this book wanting to read more by this author or in this style?
- Which quotes or scenes that you liked best?
- How does Maurensig build suspense in the story? In what ways is this effective?
- How do you view the priest? Is he a good and innocent man? Why does he leave his own manuscript to be found?
A Devil Comes To Town Read Aloud
“Paolo Maurensig is an arresting talent among recent Italian writers.” —New York Times
“Maurensig gives us a masterfully constructed gothic horror story designed to keep aspiring writers up at night. A macabre little Alpine horror story elevated by masterful storytelling and language.” —Kirkus Reviews
“This nested narrative is an entertaining exploration of the manifold powers—creative, confessional, corrupting—of fiction.” —Publishers Weekly
“A Devil Comes to Town blew my mind—think Yorgos Lanthimos directing The Master and Margarita…it’s a bizarre slice of Alpine magic realism that deserves to be everywhere.” —The Observer
“A Devil Comes to Town is a brilliant form of torture, a perfect nugget of uranium: Maurensig leads us to the question, dangling it like bait, then reels in, packs his belongings, and just goes.” —The Literary Review
“A fabulous take-down of the literati, with a blending of fiction, reported rivalries, and real-world suspicion. A Devil Comes to Town is a captivating, clever, and deliciously teasing little tale.” —Never Imitate
“Biblical, oblique, and lying somewhere between thriller, fantasy, and legend, the new novel by Paolo Maurensig, A Devil Comes to Town, is a disturbing reflection in narrative form concerning the darker side of writing.” —Il Giornale
“Paolo Maurensig gives us a refined and engaging literary fable on narcissism and vainglory, and also on our inextinguishable thirst for stories.” —Q Libri
“Paolo Maurensig skillfully mixes bizarre narrative with great truths about the human soul.” —GraphoMania
Why You Should Read This Book
‘One day many years ago a publisher and his partner showed up at my door. I was asked to write a short biography for them on a famous 16th-century Venetian painter. The sum they offered me was reasonable and, as I had no other commitments at the time, I accepted the proposal. This strange couple began to frequent my house, and to win over more and more of my circle of friends. Until, soon enough, I realized that they were sowing discord.’
PAOLO MAURENSIG, the author
‘Translating this engaging tale about rabid foxes, a manuscript in a drawer, collective frenzy, and the devil posing as a publisher—all narrated by a would-be writer and a cleric with a shadowy past—was a thorough delight. Is there anyone who will not make a pact with the devil just to see his novel published? Maurensig delivers a polished apologue on narcissism and vanity, and it was great fun to bring his dry wit and amusing turns of phrases to life in English.’
ANNE MILANO APPEL, the translator
‘As a publisher I greatly enjoyed the humor with which the greed of publishers and the narcissism of aspiring writers are depicted in this refined and brooding literary fable. The claustrophobic intensity of the storytelling makes it read like a thriller. Paolo Maurensig is a fantastic Italian writer, and I am extremely happy and proud to be able to publish this dark gem of a novel.’
JUDITH UYTERLINDE, the publisher