The Anatomist's Dream
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In a small salt-mining town, Philbert is born with a ‘taupe’, a disfiguring inflammation of the skull. Abandoned by both parents and with only a pet pig for company, he eventually finds refuge and companionship in a travelling carnival, Maulwerf’s Fair of Wonders, as it makes its annual migration across Germany bringing entertainment to a people beset by famine, repression and revolutionary ferment.
Philbert soon finds a caring family in Hermann the Fish Man, Lita, the Dancing Dwarf, Frau Fettleheim, the Fattest Woman in the World and an assortment of ‘freak show’ artists, magicians and entertainers.
But then Philbert meets Kwert, ‘Tospirologist and Teller of Signs’, and when he persuades the boy to undergo examination by the renowned physician and craniometrist, Dr Ullendorf, both Kwert and Philbert embark on an altogether darker and more perilous journey that will have far-reaching consequences for a whole nation.
would take some doing for any of them to melt back into the lives from which they’d come, returning a little richer, a lot crueller, more than ready to do it all again, if only someone would pay the price. The moment they’d passed by the castle and gone off up the trail into the woods Philbert and Oort emerged from their hiding place. The fires the men had set were burning brightly, the greasy light and smoke twisting through the lazy swirl of snowflakes that had precipitated the men’s departure
either side wild and leggy. Despite this general overview of decay he could see a dim light in one of the downstairs windows, and the wooden door was stout and strong, though no longer looked so huge as it had once done. The brass globe still hung from its dangling rope and he grasped it without hesitation and swung, the bell ringing deep inside the house. His mouth went dry when he heard a few steps in the hallway that lay beyond the door, his palms �prickling, the hairs on the nape of his neck
too the man’s face, flat as an iron, though not grotesquely so, and he had such a gentle smile and green eyes that were bright, almost phosphorescent, alive with fire-flies that twinkled in the dim light of the room. A man to be trusted, whoever he was, and Philbert relaxed. ‘Well, Kwert,’ Maulwerf spoke. ‘If you agree, I think we must let the doctor have his way. Not that I hold much with this new-fangled head-holing. I’m not one for peering inside other people’s bits and pieces, for Lord
prayer and soon he clapped his hands and broke the bell-jar of silence. ‘My friends, let us eat, let us drink, let us thank the Good God that Kwert is among us still, and let us laugh at our misfortunes when they come, in the full knowledge that God will see us right in the end. Corti, let the music begin!’ Corti raised his short arms high as they would go and let crash a cymbal as they fell; his foot started tapping and everyone drew in their breath as the show began. There was an almighty
Philbert. They’d told him the broad outline of their misfortunes before the island, but none of them comprehended the true consequences of what had happened to Ackersmann and his men. He’d only just learned it himself from Jaspis. He’d meant to broach the subject this �evening, but it had all been so peaceful, and Philbert had left the Abbey only for a half hour or so, so where had been the harm? He grimaced, then filled them in. ‘Brother Jaspis told me that the soldiers took some of the