Night after night, a low-life denizen of the red light district visits an aging hooker in the run-down Palace Hotel. Among other things, he pays her to tell him a story. This is something she has a particular talent for – as does Charles Lewinsky.
This modern-day Scheherazade tells her client "Ten-and-One Stories". They deal with a failed suicide who is not at all grateful for being saved, as well as a man who is already dead but doesn't know it. She recounts the tale of a two-headed man who has bizarre conversations with himself, of a traveller who experiences a miracle during his holiday but doesn't benefit from it, and of the end of the world and the birth of a new saint. Just the sort of yarns you might spin to entertain a customer – particularly one you need to keep happy.
These parables and satires of real life are witty and mischievous, sardonic and sad by turns. Full of surprise twists, they are, in a word, brilliant. They all centre on the issue of identity: what constitutes a life? And why does fiction often seem more real than reality?
"With amazing economy of language, the author brings characters of rich diversity alive on the page; he writes wonderful dialogue, has a strong sense of narrative rhythm, employs the comedy of situations to full effect, and never lapses into mawkishness, even in the most emotionally-charged scenarios. This is precisely that blend you hope to get in a novel. A delightful read and a tough act to follow." (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung)