The Long Silence of Mario Salviati by Etienne van Heerden
A Novel

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Synopsis

"This is what's always kept us together," said Jonty quietly. "It's the dream and the possibility that give meaning to Yearsonend. . . . For years now it hasn't been about gold . . . it's been about much more than that. . . . Take Mario Salviati, for instance: once the gold is found, the general will let him go. We'd be able to leave the past where it belongs. . . ."

Secrets abound in the South African Karoo -- a remote landscape of mountains and desert, where legend weaves its way into daily life. A fabulous merman sculpture miraculously appears one morning in the yard of eccentric artist Jonty Jack, and Ingi Friedlander, a young art curator for the National Gallery at Cape Town, comes to Yearsonend to buy the masterpiece. When Jonty refuses her offer, Ingi resolves to stay and win him over.

Intrigued by hints of the town's unusual history, Ingi persistently questions its inhabitants, who reveal that a mythical trove of gold is buried nearby. For several centuries gold fever has gripped the town and sent ripples of suspicion through those who live there. Tracing the roots of Yearsonend's violent and magical history of feuding families, troubled love, and corrosive greed, the narrative shuttles between the past and the present, linking two patriarchs with shadowy pasts, an earthy angel, a woman without a face, a ragtag band of soldiers, and a host of other colorful characters. As Ingi delves deeper into the mysteries of Yearsonend, she is inexplicably drawn to Mario Salviati, a deaf, dumb, and blind Italian stonecutter who holds the key to many of the town's secrets.

A spectacular climax sheds light on many unanswered questions, and Ingi and the Yearsonenders learn that they are searching not only for their past, but also for the promise of the future. With extraordinary imagination and lyricism, Etienne van Heerden captures the essence of a land steeped in myth, and of a culturally diverse people, for whom storytelling and history are inextricably linked. In the rich magic-realism tradition of One Hundred Years of Solitude, The Long Silence of Mario Salviati is an unforgettable journey toward understanding and inspiration.

 

About Etienne van Heerden

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Etienne van Heerden is an award-winning Afrikaans writer. A former advertising executive and attorney, he spent time in the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa and teaches at the University of Cape Town. He has been honored with every major South African prize for fiction, and his work has been translated into eleven languages. He lives in Stellenbosch, South Africa, with his wife and daughters.
 
Published January 1, 2002 by ReganBooks. 350 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Long Silence of Mario Salviati

Kirkus Reviews

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But first she watches the town’s gold mania reach fever pitch as Jonty blasts open a mountain cave where he believes father’s body lies and where the villagers believe the gold is hidden: a cathartic action that finally cuts the crippling ties to the past.

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The Guardian

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The Long Silence of Mario Salviati Etienne van Heerden trans Catherine Knox 440pp, Sceptre, £16.99 If you can imagine an African novel that mixes Under Milk Wood with Prester John , you will have some idea of this extraordinary concoction.

Jun 15 2002 | Read Full Review of The Long Silence of Mario Sal...

Publishers Weekly

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Van Heerden applies the palette of magic realism to a remote South African village in the Great Karoo, where a beautiful South African art curator undertakes a quest to procure a mystical statue.

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