cover image Fracture


Andrés Neuman, trans. from the Spanish by Nick Caistor and Lorenza Garcia. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $28 (368p) ISBN 978-0-374-15823-1

The stirring latest from Neuman (Traveler of the Century) opens just before an earthquake sparks the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster on Japan’s east coast. Retiree Yoshie Watanabe, a survivor of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings that killed his family during WWII, watches in relative safety from his Tokyo neighborhood as the coastline braces for nuclear fallout. Yoshie, a former electronics executive, has lived in Paris, New York, Buenos Aires, and Madrid during his career, and in alternating chapters, Neuman fills in his protagonist’s history via first-person recollections by Yoshie’s past lovers. These stories occasionally pale in comparison to the immediacy of the 2011 narrative, as Yoshie travels to areas affected by the disaster, where he wrestles with the loss he carries from the atomic bombings and realizes that all the past phases of his life were ways to “shed his skin” and escape “from a previous somewhere.” Now, Yoshie reflects on the odd symmetry between the aftermath of the atomic bombings and the current disaster. Neuman slowly builds meaning in the book’s recursive structure and language (“he repeats silently the formula, part arithmetic, part nightmare, that hundreds of millions of people all over the planet have had to learn”). This weighty meditation on human interconnection is well worth a look. (May)