Fame is a cleverly-written book by Austrian literary superstar Daniel Kehlmann. It weaves nine overlapping stories that examine fame, loss of identity, truth and deception.
It begins innocently enough when computer tech “Ebling” buys a cell phone. Unbeknownst to him, there’s been a mistake in the number assigned to his phone. It belongs to movie star Ralf Tanner. This sets off a darkly funny case of mistaken identity and engages the reader in questioning what should be done — assume the role of Ralf (by phone) and vicariously live the life of the rich and famous? Or tell the truth and end the charade before it is carried too far? Potentially, decisions could be made that would alter Ralf’s life.
In another of the nine stories we visit the phone executive who caused the problem and watch as he cracks under the pressures of his life that are capped by this huge mistake.
Another story with a view of fame follows volunteer Elizabeth, who is a member of Doctors without Borders. She is in a relationship with famed writer Leo Richter but keeps details of her volunteer work a secret from him. She does so with good reason, since he uses every minute detail of her life experiences as material for his books.
Each of the nine stories has a link to another story, either direct or remote, and readers are kept on their toes to separate fact from fantasy.
Fame is thought-provoking, to be sure. It is also a fun and satirical look at the lives of those in the spotlight and of the ordinary people who either seek fame for themselves, or shun its potential for disaster and unhappiness.