Not strictly Iberian: Mathias Énard’s “Compass”

cover image for Compass

Mathias Énard, Compass, Prix Goncourt 2015, to be published in English on March 22 (UK) and March 28 (USA), 2017.

There are hardly any books, except for those by Karl-Ove Knausgaard, that recently have impressed this blogger in such a way that this one has. It is called a novel but could also be named a series of very lively encyclopedic articles held together by a neatly interwoven love story. A sleepless, feverish musicologist specialized in Oriental music who lives in Viena remembers anecdotes of his research journeys to Istanbul, Damascus, Aleppo, Palmyra (before the civil war), Teheran (before, during and after the Islamic Revolution), among others. He introduces the readers to Western male and female orientalists of the past, and shows how Western composers, authors, poets, etc. were influenced by Oriental authors, and how Eastern intellectuals for their part were influenced by their Western colleagues. There are a few references to Al-Andalus, to Pessoa; I learned that the island of Hormuz  in the homonymous strait was once a Portuguese colony (1507-1622; cf. Wikipedia); i.e. there is an “Iberian link”…

You can find a proper summary on the publishers’ pages (cf. source).

The Financial Times offers this review.

A blogger’s exercise in translation on “Americans in Prague” from Compass in Catalan:

… -one doesn’t know why the young Americans have become infatuated with Prague and with Kafka; they show up there in small or large groups, they spend a few months in the Czech capital, if not years, especially the young writers fresh from the creative writing universities; they go to Prague as one did before to Paris, to find inspiration; they have blogs and fill notebooks or blacken virtual pages in cafés, they drink litres and litres of Czech beer, and I am sure that some of them are still in the same place after ten years, finishing up their first novel or a collection of nouvelles [short stories] that should catapult them to glory-…

(M. Énard, Brúixola, Empúries, 2016, p. 114)

SOURCE: Fitzcarraldo Editors; New Directions Publishing (cover picture)




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