Thursday, December 18, 2008

Berlin-Michael Mirolla

Michael Mirolla
Leapfrog, Jan 2009, $14.95
ISBN 9780981514819

In a Montreal psychiatric ward, former stationary engineer and wannabe circus mime patient Giulio Chiavetta abruptly seems alert after two years in a constant fog that the staff assumes is related to his belief he killed his wife and child though no proof was found that either existed. He read in today’s newspaper that the Berlin Wall crumbled and informs his psychiatrist Dr. Wilhelm Ryle that he must return there. Ryle is stunned as this is the first full sentence uttered by his patient in the two years he has resided at the clinic.

Chiavetta walks away from the clinic shocking Ryle further as the man was a notch above comatose until the article. Ryle looks at what his patient left behind for clues and finds a document titled Berlin on Chiavetta’s computer. The full title turns out to be Berlin: A Novel in Three Parts in which Professor Antonio Serratura is in West Berlin attending a conference as President Reagan demands Gorbachev tear down the wall. What Ryle finds makes no sense as Chiavetta was mostly incoherent while here and does not match up with what is known about the missing mental patient; yet there is a weird ring of truth underneath the words as Giulio begins an adventure in a convergence of the future and the past.

This is a well written but weird character study that turns transcendental philosophy upside down as Michael Mirolla pays homage to Kant and Kafka. Not easy to read, fans and Ryle are hooked trying to understand who Chiavetta is; why the Wall falling down awakened him and sent him on his odyssey; and what he needs to accomplish in the seedier parts of West Berlin. Eerie yet fascinating, readers who relish something entirely different will want to travel to the underbelly of West Berlin circa 1989 with on a magical mystery tour guided by an escape mental patient.

Harriet Klausner

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