cover image To Walk Alone in the Crowd

To Walk Alone in the Crowd

Antonio Muñoz Molina, trans. from the Spanish by Guillermo Bleichmar. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $28 (432p) ISBN 978-0-3741-9025-5

Spanish writer Muñoz Molina, whose Like a Fading Shadow was shortlisted for the International Booker Prize, returns with an ambitious story of a writer-flaneur. An unnamed narrator enumerates his perceptions while walking in various cities: “I listen with my ears and with my eyes,” he notes in the opening, set in Madrid. In New York City, he travels from the southern tip of Manhattan to the Bronx, to visit Edgar Allan Poe’s former cottage. Interspersed are wistful descriptions of his aging wife (“She is enriched by the treasure of time”) and gauzy meetings in a Madrid café with a mysterious man whose “physical features were forgotten as soon as he was gone.” The narrator also ruminates extensively on such writers as Poe, Charles Baudelaire, Thomas De Quincy, Herman Melville, and Walter Benjamin, noting how they fell in social status while practicing “a useless trade pursued by people of no practical sense.” Most of the narrative is in short prose fragments, often headed by phrases that mimic ad copy (“Go Wherever You Choose”). Occasionally the narrator breaks out into verse, cataloging terrorist attacks and deadly accidents. Some sections burst with political barbs (“Donald Trump with his gold Lex Luthor hairpiece, misgoverning”). In the end, the solitary writer’s journeys and observations culminate in his discovery of solace in loving his wife, and his passion makes the narrative deeply rewarding. The result is a treasure trove. Agent: Jeffrey Posternak, the Wylie Agency. (July)