Book review: Fictional Diaries of a Life Artist

book review

The fictional diary of a life artist


William Boyd mixes fantasy and reality in “A Man’s Heart” (archive photo).

Photo: Photo Alliance / dpa | Horst Galuchka

William Boyd’s republished novel, The Heart of a Man, is everywhere history is made in the 20th century.

Hamburg. During the Spanish Civil War, shells were flying in his face; The World War II He tested as a teacher for the Duke of Windsor in the Bahamas; The 1950s led him to the dazzling art scene of New York City. Born in Uruguay in 1906, Logan Gonzago Mountstuart leads a dangerous and exciting life that only ends in 1991 with his death in France.

He is present wherever world history is written in the twentieth century, meeting famous personalities such as Virginia Woolf, Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso and Jackson Pollock. Mountstuart’s life is similar to the character from the movie Forrest Gump, traversing through contemporary history. The reader is always at hand, for Mountstuart writes down everything that happens to him and thinks of the Nine memoirs.

Book review: Boyd mixes fact and fiction

Writer William Boyd calls his account of this character, a writer, war correspondent, spy and art dealer, but above all a bohemian fond of quality drinks and beautiful women, “the heart of a man.” The diary is of course fictitious, and there was no Shelley biographer and journalist named Mountstuart.


But Boyd, born in 1952, blends fact and fiction in such a poignant way that reading it often makes one forget that one is in a novel rather than in real personal memories. The first German edition of A Man’s Heart was published in 2005, and the Swiss publisher Kampa took over William Boyd and reissued his novels as hard covers.



Mountstuart describes his love life in detail

Logan Mountstewart’s life is turbulent. This began early in his student days at Oxford, where he made lifelong friendships with writer Peter Scapius and gallery owner Ben Liping, and continued for decades.

Mountstuart describes his love life in detail, he has been married three times, the affair with Peter Scabius’ wife Tess haunts him his whole life, his affair with a 16-year-old girl in New York forces him to leave the USA in a hurry and begins his life in deserted bohemian Manhattan.

Book review: Boyd lets the character speak in a conversational tone

Boyd makes his character tell amusing details, often with a conversational tone, but he manages to equally poignantly describe the demons that Mountstuart struggles with – such as the desperation after the deaths of his wife Freya and daughter Stella, or the growing lethargy such as the result of depression and excessive alcohol consumption.


Mountstuart’s poverty in old age is described in “Second London Memoirs”, set in the mid-1970s, as oppressive as well. Dandy and Bon Vivant have turned into a shabby dog ​​food existence. Mountstuart has been living in seclusion in France for the past few years. And the memoir ends with him toasting himself: “Up and down. My own roller coaster. No, roller coaster, that would be too smooth—more than a yo-yo, a game of jumping and spinning in the hands of a clumsy kid…”

Updated: Friday, 25/03/2022, 05:50

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