The Permanent Observer
A Novel · R.K. Scher
Sarah Cunningham is a serial temp worker, never staying in the same job more than a few months, until now. Her new gig has her restless nature ensnared in a bizarrely personal web of international intrigue: working for a UN Permanent Observer, the eccentric Ambassador de Fluvia, who also happens to be a Knight of the ancient Order of Malta.
What will become of the downtown poet she’s always been when her day-job eclipses her creative ambitions? The more Sarah gets to know the fanciful yet very real worlds of the Knights of Malta and the United Nations, the less she seems to know herself; the more she understands her boss, the less she can do about it.
Knights, Dames and Orders notwithstanding, the twists and turns in this book take place across a desk, within a file cabinet, via broken English, an old fax machine, and pipe smoke. Look closely, and unexpected truths will come to light.
Rachel Knecht Scher is the author of a short story collection, BRAILLE. The Permanent Observer is her first novel. She holds Masters degrees from Columbia University and Johns Hopkins University. She lives in New York with her husband and daughter and too many pets.
“The Permanent Observer unspools with an impeccable sense of fun. With a rare combination of hilarity and narrative grace, it tantalizingly reveals one of the most fabulous characters of all time: the enigmatic UN Ambassador of the Knights of Malta, a man of unspeakable elegance and even more unspeakable absurdity. Our Ambassador comes to life through the sparklingly dry narration of his bewildered and bewitched secretary. Together, these two whisk us along on a journey of international intrigue, undertaken entirely within the powdery halls of diplomacy. Never has observation been so propulsive. The pages turn themselves. R.K. Scher’s novel is searingly intelligent as well as utterly disarming in its warmth. By the end, we are not only thoroughly entertained, but also aglow with the idea that observation may in fact be the swiftest form of action.”
- Hilary Reyl, author of Kids Like Us and Lessons in French
“R. K. Scher's voice is a completely new thing, funny, knowing, strange. The Permanent Observer is a work like none other, therefore; founded on European and early modernist precursors, unconcerned with contemporary American ideas of conventionally naturalistic writing. Its striking originality accounts for why it's such a joy to read.”
- Rick Moody, author of The Ice Storm and Hotels of North America