Learning to Pray in the Age of Technique: Lenz Buchmann's Position in the World

Gonc%CC%A7alo M. Tavares, trans. from the Portuguese by Daniel Kahn. Dalkey Archive, $15.95 trade paper (360p) ISBN 978-1-56478-627-2
In his personal life, unsavory, combative protagonist Lenz Buchmann displays a "total dissolution of moral values," while his professional life as an acclaimed surgeon is "the one moral stronghold he still maintained." Tavares (Jerusalem), winner of the Saramago Prize, uses Lenz to examine philosophical questions on subjects ranging from the power of surnames to the fearsome grandeur of ancient architecture. After determining that medicine no longer satisfies him, Lenz, believing in his superiority, embarks on a political career, and discovers that he is not immutable. Though the novel offers hedonistic acts, methodical pacing, occasionally naturalistic views, and a portrait of a man driven by ambition as well as memories of his father, this is, in the end, a time-honored take on comeuppance. Despite the careful layering of earthy vignettes and the unusual interpretation of human cruelty, the novel remains too discursive to have real emotional impact, and the conclusion yields few surprises. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 08/15/2011
Release date: 08/01/2011
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