The Tragedy of Arthur, by Arthur Phillips
Reviewed by Sarah Gilmartin
The Tragedy of Arthur
A search for identity is at the core of The Tragedy of Arthur, an innovative work from the American writer Arthur Phillips that blurs the lines of fiction, drama, memoir and literary criticism to make an engaging and challenging read. Formatted as a lengthy introduction to an apparently lost Shakespearean play, Phillips’s book offers the strange, eventful histories of twins Arthur and Dana as they respond in very different ways to the deceits of a con-man father. In prison for most of the book, Arthur snr is an enigmatic character. A ghost that haunts his son, an inspiration to his daughter, a creator of fantasies, a puppeteer who controls from the sidelines – just like the Bard he so reveres. Although a knowledge of Shakespeare will add to the reader’s enjoyment, Arthur’s attempts to uncover his father’s greatest con are rendered with such humour and compassion that this clever book, shortlisted for the 2013 International Impac Dublin Literary Award, will please anyone interested in the mechanics and magic of fiction.