Fabrizio’s Return

Publisher: Vintage Canada
A brilliant novel packed with delights: grand romance, alchemical potions, violins to make you weep, commedia dell’arte theatre, reappearing comets, rambling skeletons and cracks in time.

It is 1682 in Cremona, Italy. With his manservant, an insolent dwarf named Omero, Fabrizio Cambiati, a priest, climbs the town clocktower to await the return of a comet that is said to reappear in the skies every 76 years. He has a new invention called a telescope with which to scour the night. As they await the comet, he scopes the town below and sees the commedia dell’arte players setting up in the town square and a Jesuit arriving in a carriage. We later learn that the Jesuit is Michele Archenti, a Devil’s Advocate sent from Rome to investigate the candidacy for sainthood of this same Fabrizio Cambiati – 76 years later!

The novel then begins again, this time in 1758 when Archenti settles himself in the town to assume his investigations. It is his job to find the flaws in Fabrizio’s character. In this attempt, he interviews a number of citizens, including an old duchess who holds a secret about Fabrizio’s life that would ruin the reputation of this priest, who was both a hidden alchemist and healer. The play held in the town square connects the two time periods by reflecting the goings-on in the wider world. We meet the players, as well as the duke, his beautiful daughter, a happy madman roaming the countryside with a skeleton on his back, and a hunchback who lives with his mastiff in a labyrinthine palace that is, like imagination itself, continually mutating.

With enormous assurance and a wonderful affection for his characters, Mark Frutkin has woven a miraculous tale that explores the ambiguous nature of reality and on every page packs joy into the reading.

From the Hardcover edition.



the ­tower

26 August 1682 / Cremona, ­Italy

“Omero, awake!”

Towards the east, Mercury, Saturn, Jupiter and Mars climbed one by one from the horizon, forming a straight line across the sky. The moon was not yet half full and Orion the Hunter...
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“Frutkin writes like a fresco sprung to life. You can feel the warmth of the sirocco, the wind that carries fine sand from the Sahara; smell the musty parchment of Cambiati’s secret library; and taste the bitter elixirs peddled by the traveling troupe in the town’s piazza.”
TIME (Canada)

“Mark Frutkin takes us into a world of comets and miracles and soars above the ordinary with poetic, daring storytelling.”
The Gazette (Montreal)

“With enough colour and outrage in the characters to please Boccaccio, and enough love, venom and splendour in the proceedings to please Dante, Frutkin’s Fabrizio’s Return is a grand entertainment that will streak across the reader’s imagination, well, like a comet.”
—Yann Martel

“Woven into the threads of Fabrizio’s universe, where time and space fold with the ease and beauty of a passing storm, is the quest to find one’s true self, and to glimpse the life eternal. Mark Frutkin is a wonderful and generous writer.”
—Madeleine Thien

Fabrizio’s Return is a virtuoso performance of music, drama, faith, temptation and love that dazzlingly subverts the boundaries of time, while binding itself to humanity through the streak of a recurring comet.”
—Joan Barfoot

“Mark Frutkin still hasn’t heard that novels rarely enchant any longer, or that the form can’t match the seductions of the screen. Fabrizio’s Return compliments all the usual Frutkin dares – the stylistic bravura and erudition, the imaginative occupation of distant times and places – with a wit and charm that makes this story his most delightful, and slyly serious, to date.”
—Charles Foran

Fabrizio’s Return is a grand novel full of ossuaries and telescopes, gargoyles and magic potions, apocalyptic paintings, angels, comets, violins, of murmurations of starlings, and characters – such characters! – to make you fall in love.”
–Alan Cumyn

Praise for Mark Frutkin:

“Frutkin is a master of visual imagery.”
The Globe and Mail

“Alchemy exists in his ability to open our eyes to the commonplace.”
Toronto Star

“Frutkin is one of the most amusing authors writing in English in the world today.”
Ottawa Citizen