Bacon’s Eclipse
Bacons Finsternis

bacons finsternis wilfried steiner
June 2010 / 288pp
Fiction

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review

Not only is Steiner’s new crime novel a thoroughly original and engaging read in its own right, it also serves as a fascinating introduction to the life and works of the artist, Francis Bacon.

Our narrator-protagonist is Arthur, the owner of an antiquarian bookshop in Vienna, whose emotional life as a reluctant divorcee is bleak, and who soon develops an obsession with the disturbing works of Irish-born painter Francis Bacon.

For weeks after his wife leaves him, Arthur leads a reclusive life, having little contact with anyone besides his business partner, Maia. Later he attends a Bacon exhibition and is transfixed by a sequence entitled Triptych, May-June 1973, depicting a man’s death. This is the first of the novel’s many outstanding descriptions of Bacon’s works, which are captivating both for the gruesome voyeuristic detail of what they describe and for the way in which they reflect the emotional and psychological state of the novel’s central character. Arthur becomes absorbed in researching Bacon’s life and work but finds that seeing the original paintings provides the only relief for the loss of his wife. This prompts him to travel to Bacon exhibitions across Europe. In London’s Tate Gallery Arthur is shocked to see his ex-wife, with another man whom he recognises as a customer of his bookshop. He overhears a fragment of their conversation which leads him to suspect they may be planning to steal one of Bacon’s works.

The plot twists and turns as Arthur and Maia penetrate further into the murky criminal underworld of art dealing. Their mission is driven by Arthur’s jealousy and his continued desire to win his wife back, and their burgeoning friendship provides a further dimension to the plot as details of Maia’s carefully guarded personal life and early artistic career are gradually revealed.

The climax of the novel occurs with Arthur’s discovery of a long-lost portrait – not the picture he was originally seeking, but the object of a high profile investigation following its theft in 1988 and much sought after by artists, art collectors and detectives alike. Alongside its thrilling and suspenseful plot, Bacon’s Eclipse provides a fascinating perspective on the British art scene in the twentieth century. A fast-paced, exciting and thoroughly rewarding novel.

about the author

Wilfried Steiner was born in Linz, Austria in 1960. He studied German, English and American Studies in Salzburg and then combined working in various Austrian cultural centres, such as the Salzburg Literature Cafe, with his own writing. He has been publishing since 1985, and since 1999 has been Artistic Director at the Posthof, an arts centre in Linz, Austria. Steiner is the recipient of numerous prizes.

Previous works include:
Der Weg nach Xanadu (2003); Sieben Jahre Glück (1997); Gelbfieber (1992)

rights information

Deuticke Verlag
Prinz-Eugen-Strasse 30
1040 Vienna, Austria
Tel: +43 1 505766112
Email: annette.lechner@zsolnay.at
Contact: Annette Lechner 
www.zsolnay.at 

Deuticke Verlag, along with Paul Zsolnay Verlag, has been part of Carl Hanser Verlag in Munich since 2004. Deuticke was founded in 1878 in Vienna. Initially the firm focused on non-fiction (including Sigmund Freud’s book on dreams in 1900 and much later, in 2001, the international bestseller Blackbook on Brand Companies). In recent years Deuticke has established itself as a publisher of fiction by internationally renowned and contemporary authors, among them Iris Murdoch and Lily Brett, and Austrian writers such as Paulus Hochgatterer, Daniel Glattauer and Michael Köhlmeier.

translation assistance

This book is outside of the five year window for guaranteed assistance with English language translation. We suggest approaching the relevant funding body for an informal conversation on the possibility of support. Please refer to to our recommendations page for books that can be funded.

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All recommendations from Autumn 2010