SALAMANDER, by Thomas Wharton
Short-listed for the Governor-General’s Literary Award and the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize
“Within every book there lies concealed a book of nothing. Don’t you sense it when you read a page brimming with words? The vast gulf of emptiness beneath the frail net of letters. The ghostliness of the letters themselves. Giving a semblance of life to things and people who are really nothing. Nothing at all. No, it was the reading that mattered, I eventually understood, not whether the pages were blank or printed. The Mohammedans say that an hour of reading is one stolen from Paradise.”
I’d be hard-pressed to choose my very favourite novel, but Salamander is right up in the top 5 for sure. It’s a lucid and poetic tale that meanders through time, interweaving the fine art of typography with the nature of books, seafaring adventure, clockwork automatons, the quest for immortality and a doomed love story. I’ve read this odd book at least a half dozen times, and for days after I’ve come to the last words on the page, I find myself puzzling over the metaphors layered into this utterly spellbinding story.