Set in New York City in the months preceding 9/11, Norman Manea's novel introduces us to the protagonist who, like the author himself, is a Romanian professor in exile and who struggles with loneliness, dislocation, the desire to hide. Yet his difficulties and dilemmas are uniquely his own, and his quest for inner peace - the comfort of a lair - is a literary journey of deep originality. Manea's novel takes elements of Mittel-Europa atmosphere, Byzantine heritage, Jewish-Greek perennial conflict, labyrinths, and libraries to America, where hierarchies of authority are upended, and where his story turns absurd and ultimately tragic. Manea has described himself as "an adventurer trying to humanize his shipwreck wherever he may be". His hero, too, is such an adventurer. Norman Manea's work places him in the literary family of such writers as Bruno Schultz, Robert Musil, and Franz Kafka. Twice a survivor of totalitarian regimes, he often explores the implications of exile, and he illuminates the human tragicomedy with an intensity matched by no other author writing today.