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Traveller of the Century Paperback – 29 Mar 2012

16 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 584 pages
  • Publisher: Pushkin Press; First edition (29 Mar. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1906548668
  • ISBN-13: 978-1906548667
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 4.5 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 345,887 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


A big, utterly captivating murder mystery and love story, full of history and politics and the hottest sex in contemporary fiction --Telegraph

I was swept up immediately, not just by a story that spans numerous genres - is it epistolary, historical, or a murder mystery? - but by Neuman s ability to populate the town with an array of truly alive characters that I never wanted to leave. --Justin Alvarez, Paris Review

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.


A beautiful, accomplished novel: as ambitious as it is generous, as moving as it is smart --Juan Gabriel Vásquez, Guardian

A work of true beauty and scintillating intelligence by a writer of prodigious talents … books as stimulating, erudite and humane as this do not come along very often --Richard Gwyn, Independent

The literature of the twenty-first century will belong to Neuman and a few other blood brothers of his --Roberto Bolaño

An exceptional, fun, mature novel from a writer wise beyond his years --Guardian online

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By M. Dowden HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 3 Feb. 2013
Format: Paperback
Andres Neuman's novel at last translated and published in English is definitely boldly ambitious and to some extent an 'experiment'. The author loves those good old 19th Century novels, but he wanted to bring the scope of those into a more modern even post-modern form, giving such a story a more contemporary feel. A tall order indeed which the author set about with some aplomb. This isn't perfect but it is a great read that hopefully you should enjoy.

Hans, a German gentleman decides to stop off for a night in the town of Wandernburg, a place that is a border town and often changes from one side of the border to the other, currently being Prussian held. What should have been one night in the place soon becomes so much longer, as firstly he can never seem to find his way around and thus misses his coach, meeting eccentric characters, and then love rears its head. The main plot of this is indeed love and translating, but it takes in so much more. Taking in literature, especially poetry this also has philosophy, the problems of translation, national identity, music and so much more. You may think that because of the period it is set in it is just an historical novel, but as with the discussions on national identity you feel you are reading about the current problems with creating a truly unified Europe, where everyone works towards the common goal.

This is a kaleidoscopic whirl of ideas and is very clever, but unlike some authors Senor Neuman doesn't show off his cleverness here or patronise to the reader, instead he does as all such great authors should do, takes it that you yourself are more than intelligent to see what his points are. This isn't a quick read by any standards especially as there are no speech marks or breaks, and so you can have three or four people talking away in the same paragraph. This is like the novels it pays homage to, it is something to take your time over, to ponder, and to relax and enjoy.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By TheBookshelf on 13 Dec. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I thought this book was mesmerisingly good. Possibly the weirdness of it means it's not for everyone, but if you love indulgently long, beautiful books this couldn't be more perfect. Lots of passages consist of the long meandering conversations of a literary salon, which manage to effortlessly combine very serious and engaging discussion with razor-sharp social comedy. Sophie is one of the most alluring characters in fiction, and the relationship with Hans stands out as being supremely well observed, even within the slightly magical world of the novel. For what it's worth, there's also some really interesting ideas about the similarities between love and translation, but they're only one of many bonus points in a book that's already comfortably earned its five stars
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Georgina Turner on 22 Jun. 2012
Format: Paperback
a strong read for those who enjoying thinking and the exploration of ideas and language. This is essentially where the book is orginal, knowledgeable and exciting. The choice of space (travelling - to stay or to go) and the sense of time (how it is experienced, lived) - are the axes of the narrative, in which the focus is how far we can really understand each other. Animated debates: what is said, what is unsaid, the will to win an argument, the urge to tell the truth, the appetite to explore, question it.
For example:
A. law should be a guarantor of peace, a law established by a union of equal states
B. don't you think peace is related to wealth?
A. that...takes us onto a moral ground, for unless wealth is shared there will never be peace - poverty is a potential cause of conflict

I have read few books - certainly no English one comes to mind - so able to transmit the sheer thrill of intensely discussing ideas and their use in, affect on, one's life and politics. The central characters actually pursue their ideas in their lives, so that their lives are transformed by them. The central drama is enacted here: how far they will challenge the existing societal mores to enact their moralised feelings. In fact, the two central characters fall in love because of their meeting of minds. It makes their realtionship - including their sex life - adult, credible, and fulfilling. This makes it a challenging book, as well as an intelligently satisfying one.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By TWBlount on 6 Nov. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
An itinerant translator, Hans, makes an unplanned stop in the (fictional) German city state of Wandernburg at some point in the 1820s. Although he only plans to stay for a single night, Hans keeps finding himself delayed, at first by the oddity of the town and his burgeoning friendship with a vagrant organ grinder and latterly by his flirtation -and eventual affair- with the proto-feminist, Sophie.

Of course, no-one who lives in Wandernburg is quite what they appear. Almost every character exhibits some degree of duplicity and it is the exposure of these secrets and misdirections that drive the story. Even the town itself is an enigma to Hans; the streets seem to shuffle of their own volition, its inhabitants are contrary and its Catholic conformity seems odd when it is encircled by Protestant neighbours. The plot, of course, is merely the vehicle through which the author can explore his real interests; philosophy, literature, history, politics, human relationships and the way in which meaning in these things are expressed, interpreted and translated.

Neuman sets out to illustrate that the process of translation mediates every aspect of human existence whether that involves reading, coquetry, criminal detection or arguments about the political power structures of continental Europe. Translation for Nueman, however, is never transparent; rather it is a negotiation with plenty of scope for misunderstanding and invention. This is somewhat ironic given that Traveller of the Century has been translated (very effectively) from Spanish into English. To translate such a dense book with such deft use of language must be a huge challenge and Caistor and Garcia's work must be on a par with William Weaver's translations of Umberto Eco.
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