cover image Traveler of the Century

Traveler of the Century

Andrés Neuman. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $30 (528p) ISBN 978-0-374-11939-3

From the Argentina-born Neuman, winner of Spain’s coveted Alfaguara and Nation Critics Prizes, comes this trenchant new novel. On his way to Wittenberg, dreamy young Hans is waylaid in the border town of Wandernburg and absorbed into the private dramas of a host of 19th-century types, from a kindly organ-grinder who lives as a hermit to the fetching Sophie, a writer/translator whose Romantic disposition quickly endears her to Hans. But the novel’s centerpieces are the lively discussions at the local salon, where an assembly of Prussian and Spanish intellectuals debate everything from the direction of post-Bonaparte Europe and the rise of the novel to Kant and Goya. Yet something sinister is stirring in the village, a murderous harbinger of the dawning century. Neuman was singled out for praise by Roberto Bolaño and it’s easy to see why: like that late author, Neuman combines love and intrigue with serious intellectual engagement. A novel of ideas somewhere between Kafka’s The Castle and Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain, Neuman’s English-language debut is a rich deconstruction of the competing currents of history, less a postmodernist pastiche than proof that modernism is still alive in the Spanish-speaking world. (Mar. 20)