Traveller of the century by Andres Neuman
Translators Nick Casitor and Lorenza Garcia
Now when you read on the front cover this quote from Roberto Bolano ,which came from a piece called Neuman ,touched by grace (available in Bolano’s between parentheses)
The literature of the twenty first century will belong to Neumann and a few other blodd brothers of his
So when your faced with that you know you arte in for something special .Andres Neuman is Argentina born in 1977 ,he grew up in Buenos Aires and now like many of his fellow Argentinian writers lives in Spain ,he has a degree in Spanish Philology and has taught spanish american literature .He published his first novel age 22 .He has won a number of big Spanish lit prize with this and his earlier books .,this one the prestigious national critic awards .It is his fourth novel and the first to be translated to English .
Traveller of century is one of those hefty book that you know is going to be deep and meaningful before you open the cover and like a lot of very long books is hard to describe without writing a super long post and giving away too much . So I ll just be giving a flavour of the book .We meet the traveller of the title in a mystical nineteenth century Europe ,well what is modern Germany now , the strange city of Dessau .So Hans the traveller arrives he is on a long journey and this is a stop for him so armed with a huge case of books as he is a reader and translator himself , he enters the city.But this city is all that it seems ?So he goes to stay in the Inn in the town and over the next few day we see this strange town open up through the eyes of Hans .I decide to do some research on the town mention in the book I came to a work by the Asturian composer called Winterreise (winter journey) which sees a man on a journey stop at the town of Dessau songs include one about a Inn and one about a hurdy gurdy man who also appears in the book by Neuman .So it seems in part that is one influence for the book .Back to the story Hans falls for a pretty young girl in the village Sophie Gottlieb but she is with another man .We see Hans slowly woo Sophie and interact with the towns folk innkeeper Herr Zeit (zeit german for time ) .Hans is a translator and a philosophical type guy so there is much discussion of the philosophical movements of the time and writers like Goethe are mention .
This is the heterogenous basis of our thoughts,feelings and writings .In order to avoid getting lost in metaphor and upsetting you ,I shall try to give you a concrete example professor ,Does Goethe feel German on the one hand and the other speak in six languages ? or rather ,as an individual who speaks and reads several different languages,does Goethe feel in a specific way that is peculiar to him and which is this case expressed itself in the german language ?
So as you see deep stuff at times .
Well if you want to know Hans gets on does he get the women ,does he ever leave Dessau ? this and many other answers you will find out by reading the book .So how to place the book it is hard as it is epic in scale and due to that I ve struggled to cover it and feel I ll need to reread it at some point .But it has flavours of all those epic European writers Thomas Mann is the one that cropped up in the reviews and his Magic mountain a classic in the bildungsroman style (this will be another one day I feel) and is mention in a quote from a review in the back cover ,but I also felt bits of Calvino something of “if on a winter’s night ..2 expanded out to wide-screen ,also the early books of Orhan Pamuk sprung to my mind the books where things like thought ,philosophy and being are all brought together in a wonderful stew .I like Neuman’s little touches like the clever surnames zeit – time ,Gottlieb – god’s love and others just seems a clever wordplay .The way the city of Dessau seems to drift ,this in particular remind me of Calvino’s invisible cities a city that every time we see Hans in it seems to be different yet the same ,like Calvino managed in Invisible cities .SO what we get is book that on the surface seems like a European book but I feel at the heart of it is something very Argentina and that maybe is the struggle for identity the way writers like Neumann span continents and in a way manage to bring the best of europe and Latin american writing together ,so yes I agree with Bolano the twenty-first century does belong to Neuman and his blood brothers .This is another book for Spanish language lit month .
Have you read this book ?
Do you have a favourite Argentinian writer ?