great American city is destroyed under mysterious circumstances. A lone
survivor wanders through its ruins. Out of a wind-tossed wreckage of language
appear images of a young, half-orphaned boy, of a perplexed, yet idealistic,
student, of a disillusioned, bitter middle-aged man dreaming of lives
he might have led, had he chosen differently in early manhood; and of
a comatose old man in a hospital ICU, lonely, paralyzed, and dying –
and half-seen visions of an adolescent girl, a young woman, an old woman,
alone, lost, and abandoned, longing, in an ever-renewed and frustrated
search for love.
The “debut novel” of the year, and the introduction to a national
audience of its author, until now one of America’s best-kept literary
secrets, A Spy in the Ruins portrays life in a society in turmoil, at
war, divided and afraid, a world driven from its moorings, in quest of
significance in a chaotic time – a world like our own, inhabited
by people finding what purposes they can, in the creation of meaning out
of the chaos of experience.
Christopher Bernard’s novel, awaited by a small coterie of loyal
readers for more than eight years, represents the climax of a literary
career spanning three decades, in which his previous work in fiction,
poetry, philosophy, and drama (produced in obscurity and known only to
a small but ever-growing number of aficionados), finds its vindication
in a book of enormous breadth, high passion, deep humanity, triumphant
intellectual ambition, and dazzling linguistic invention.
Working in the tradition of Joyce, Pynchon, Beckett, the “New Novel,”
Juan Goytisolo, and other important modernist and postmodernist innovators,
Bernard has fashioned a unique blend of powerful storytelling, linguistic
mastery, and profound moral and spiritual insight, a wild journey into
the heart of darkness of the madness of our times.
Described by the author as an “antinovel, a novel turned inside
out, like a sock,” “a story of the discovery of identity causing
its immediate dissolution” and “a coming-of-age story in which
there is no coming of age,” A Spy in the Ruins is a permanent addition
to the literature of challenge and subversion, a book for the twenty-first
Christopher Bernard is a poet, essayist, and playwright as well as fiction
writer, author of The Dilettante of Cruelty: Deserts, Gilded Abattoir:
Wreckage from a Journey, and such plays as Fellow Traveler, Our Lady of
Cries, and A Sonata for the Dead. He has published work in Another Chicago
Magazine, Permafrost, Ekphrasis and as a book reviewer for various periodicals
and literary magazines. His plays have been produced and radio broadcast
in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is a cofounder of the literary and arts
“zine” Caveat Lector and lives in San Francisco.