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The Animal Gazer


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A hypnotic novel inspired by the strange and fascinating life of sculptor Rembrandt Bugatti, brother of the fabled automaker. With World War I closing in and the Belle Époque teetering to a close, Bugatti leaves his native Milan for Paris, where he encounters Rodin and casts his bronzes at the same foundry used by the French master. In Paris and then Antwerp, he obsessively observes and sculpts the baboons, giraffes, and panthers in the municipal zoos, finding empathy with their plight and identifying with their life in captivity. As the Germans drop bombs over the Belgian city, the zoo authorities are forced to make a heart-wrenching decision about the fate of the caged animals, and Bugatti is stricken with grief from which he'll never recover. Rembrandt Bugatti’s work, now being rediscovered after decades of neglect, is displayed in major art museums around the world and routinely fetches huge sums at auction. Edgardo Franzosini recreates the young artist's life with intense lyricism, passion, and sensitivity.

"Sparkling ... The tone is mellifluous throughout ... Multi-award-winning Italian author Franzosini's English-language debut is an irresistible, elegantly conceived example of biographical fiction."
Library Journal

"In this elegant and disquieting novel, Edgardo Franzosini gives us a memorable portrait not only of a famed yet ill-fated artist most at home in the zoo, but also of a Europe whose cruelties are infinitely more extreme than any form of animal behavior."
Michael Brenson, former New York Times art critic and author of a forthcoming biography of sculptor David Smith

"This poignant and emotional story ... is told with expressive and elegant prose, and it will appeal to readers of historical and literary fiction, as well as those interested in early twentieth century artists."
IndiePicks Magazine

"A moody, impressionistic, and strangely engaging work."
Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)

"The Animal Gazer takes you on a glorious journey into the heart of cosmopolitan Paris as you have never known it before. Through the life of Rembrandt Bugatti, a sculptor with the panache of his name, this lively, fast-paced narrative evokes an exceptional epoch in all its color and eccentric charm.”
Nicholas Fox Weber, author of Balthus: A BiographyLe Corbusier: A Life and Patron Saints: Five Rebels Who Opened America to a New Art

"An unusual story about a gifted but doomed young artist that grows in poignancy as it accelerates towards its tragic end."
Michael Peppiatt, author of Francis Bacon in Your Blood and In Giacometti's Studio