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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Last Weynfeldt

Martin Suter

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To purchase The Last Weynfeldt

Title: The Last Weynfeldt
Author: Martin Suter
Genre: Novel
Written: 2008 (Eng. 2016)
Length: 302 pages
Original in: German
Availability: The Last Weynfeldt - US
The Last Weynfeldt - UK
The Last Weynfeldt - Canada
Le dernier des Weynfeldt - France
Der letzte Weynfeldt - Deutschland
L'ultimo dei Weynfeldt - Italia
El último Weynfeldt - España
  • German title: Der letzte Weynfeldt
  • Translated by Steph Morris

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Our Assessment:

B : enjoyable, skillfully fashioned

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
FAZ . 29/2/2008 Rose-Marie Gropp
NZZ . 10/1/2008 Roman Bucheli
Publishers Weekly . 7/12/2015 .

  From the Reviews:
  • "Stilistisch freilich ist Martin Suter eher ein Nachkomme von Georges Simenon und Erbe von dessen sorgfältig gewebten Mustern. Wo sich Plausibilität und überraschende Auflösung vermischen, ohne dass es knirscht im Getriebe, da hat Suter die Hand im Spiel. Darin ist sein jüngstes Buch womöglich noch überzeugender als die Psychopathologien früherer Erfolgsromane." - Rose-Marie Gropp, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

  • "Wie kaum ein anderer beherrscht Martin Suter sein Metier – und er kennt seine Pappenheimer, die Leser. In atemlos kurzen Kapiteln treibt er sie vor sich her; wiederholt unterbricht er den Plot mit Geschichten von Nebenschauplätzen, die zwar etwas Hintergrund, doch auch Nebelschwaden produzieren, deren einziger Zweck aber darin besteht, die Leser auf die Folter zu spannen, auf dass sie, um schneller zum Hauptgeschehen zurückzukommen, das Lesetempo noch einmal etwas erhöhen." - Roman Bucheli, Neue Zürcher Zeitung

  • "Suter is neither overtly experimental nor given to particularly gritty prose, but this is a refreshing book nonetheless, comfort food for readers who crave memorable characters, romance, and touching, drawn-from-life scenes." - Publishers Weekly

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The last Weynfeldt of the title is Adrian, an independently wealthy Swiss bachelor (hence looking like he's the last in the family-line) in his mid-fifties who works at an auction house. He is an art-lover, but realized early on he did not have the talent to produce it himself, and so he studied art history instead. Earning a spectacular income from the house(s) his parents left him, he doesn't need to work, but he enjoys it, and is an expert in his field. He also lives in great comfort and considerable style -- he's the kind of guy who: "owned fourteen pairs of pajamas, all tailored by his shirtmaker, all with monograms" --, and enjoys being a patron
       Adrian is a rather prim and proper man of routine, a bit of an odd man out in the modern world -- as evidenced by not only an unwillingness to obtain a cell phone, but his inability to even use the telephone answering machine he has at home (his housekeeper listens to the messages and passes them on). (He has no use or need for a computer, either; all his e-mail is handled via his assistant.)
       He has two sets of acquaintances: an older set who knew his parents (and who are slowly dying off), and a younger set -- basically artist-types that he generously -- but of course discreetly -- supports, mainly financially. He meets both circles of acquaintances regularly -- the younger ones at a weekly lunch (which he of course pays for).
       Romance -- and sex -- don't play much of a role in his life -- "ever since a particular episode -- or blow -- earlier in his life", we are told, with the blow, a love affair that came to an abrupt and then terrible end, only later revealed. But the novel begins with him trying to talk a barely dressed younger woman off the ledge -- Lorena (not that he even remembers her name at that point), in her later thirties, whom he had uncharacteristically picked up in a bar. Or vice versa.
       He is very taken by Lorena. Down on her luck Lorena -- attractive enough to still work as a model, but not seeing much of a future for herself -- is intrigued by Adrian -- and sees a bit of opportunity in him. She also thinks she has him sized up easily and completely:

     Weynfeldt wore a signet ring. So Lorena knew what she was getting into.
       Adrian has money, and shows he's willing and able to bail her out when need be -- and the occasion does arise. He also doesn't ask questions. Lorena realizes that Weynfeldt presents an opportunity -- she just isn't quite sure what kind, and the extent or manner to which she wants to take advantage of it.
       Among Adrian's aging acquaintances is Baier, who has been living beyond his means and needs funds to spend his limited remaining time in some comfort. So he's going to cash in the last of his great painting collection, Félix Vallotton's Femme nue devant une salamandre, and he asks Adrian to put it up for auction, where it should fetch a tidy sum
       Baier has already sold off most of his collection, but he always had reproductions made of the paintings, so the images weren't entirely lost to him. He's had the Vallotton copied too, by Strasser -- one of the young artists from Adrian's other circle -- and Strasser has done a very, very good job.
       Suter nicely introduces these very different actors and agendas, and with the two near-identical canvases there's good material to work with here, to address questions of authenticity and valuation -- what's real ? what's fake ? what matters ? And with Strasser feeling underappreciated for his work -- "A hundred and twenty hours work ! At sixty-six francs an hour. For an artist !" --, Baier having great trouble letting go, and Lorena (and a shady sometime partner) seeing opportunities for a big score the plot-potential is ample too.
       Who has Adrian's number ? Does love make even the art expert blind ? And will he ever figure out how to use a cell phone ?
       Suter delivers like the pro he is. The Last Weynfeldt detours -- rather than merely twists -- nicely about and is wrapped up in a perfectly satisfying way. Weynfeldt has the means to do more or less as he wishes, which makes life rather easy, and Suter makes it rather easy on himself too, in relying so on this character (as character and type). So this isn't a story that pushes many bounds, or explores the questions it could raise particularly profoundly -- but it is good, satisfying entertainment. And while Suter exaggerates some of Adrian's inability to deal with the modern age, on the whole the good fun he has in presenting the character -- the kind of man who, when he's displeased with the service he's gotten: "punished the man with a humiliatingly big tip" -- is good fun to read too.
       A nice little entertainment, and a good mix of the cultured/rarefied and the down to earth.

- M.A.Orthofer, 30 January 2016

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The Last Weynfeldt: Reviews: Other books by Martin Suter under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Swiss author Martin Suter was born in 1948.

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