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Traveller of the Century [Paperback]

Andres Neuman
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
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Book Description

9 Jan 2013

Shortlisted for the 2014 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and the 2013 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize

A novel of philosophy and love, politics and waltzes, history and the here-and-now, Andrés Neuman's Traveller of the Century is a journey into the soul of Europe, penned by one of the most exciting South-American writers of our time.

A traveller stops off for the night in the mysterious city of Wandernburg. He intends to leave the following day, but the city begins to ensnare him with its strange, shifting geography.

When Hans befriends an old organ grinder, and falls in love with Sophie, the daughter of a local merchant, he finds it impossible to leave. Through a series of memorable encounters with starkly different characters, Neuman takes the reader on a hypothetical journey back into post-Napoleonic Europe, subtly evoking its parallels with our modern era.

At the heart of the novel lies the love story between Sophie and Hans. They are both translators, and between dictionaries and bed, bed and dictionaries, they gradually build up their own fragile common language. Through their relationship, Neuman explores the idea that all love is an act of translation, and that all translation is an act of love.

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

Andrés Neuman (b.1977) was born in Buenos Aires and later moved to Granada, Spain. Selected as one of Granta magazine's Best Young Spanish-Language Novelists, Neuman was included in the Hay Festival's Bogotá 39 list. He has published numerous novels, short stories, essays and poetry collections. He received the Hiperión Prize for Poetry for El tobogán, and Traveller of the Century won the Alfaguara Prize and the National Critics Prize in 2009.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Pushkin Press; New edition (9 Jan 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1908968389
  • ISBN-13: 978-1908968388
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 12.8 x 3.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 50,401 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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


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 --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Boldly Ambitious 3 Feb 2013
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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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars time as travel, space as a maze 22 Jun 2012
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best book I read this year 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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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant 4 May 2012
This book is incredibly readable, with real depth too: politics, philosophy, music, love, history, sex, poetry, dancing... It's all in there! I'm so glad I bought this book and would urge others to do so too. I cannot wait to read more from this author in English.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Did not catch my interest at all 10 April 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a shameful pseudo-Kafka novel, with a lost protagonist in a familiar, yet unrecognizable land, he wanders from character to character with no clear purpose or meaning. I found it, unlike Kafka's brilliant and politically-existentially engaged and engaging work, to be a boring word-fest with uninteresting characters, rambling both physically and verbally about pseudo-intelligent topics. A massive waste of time, until I gave up after about 200 pages (a generous endeavour as it bored me to death). Another example of an overhyped writer.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Novel of the Century
Andrés Neuman has written a large and large-spirited, encyclopedic novel exploring the linkage between sexual desire and literary translation in a spectral town in Germany... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Lawrence Norfolk
2.0 out of 5 stars philosophy, poetry, love, but so tedious
An ambitious epic which explores many interesting themes but is so tedious and long-winded I felt exhausted at times. The story is linear and dull and there are few surprises. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Amazon Customer
2.0 out of 5 stars Difficult to read with terrible punctuation
Very heavy going and made worse by the almost non-existant punctuation. I found it difficult to read. A very poor quality translation and reproduction for Kindle.
Published 16 months ago by Ian
2.0 out of 5 stars Is it me?
I bought this book having read excellent reviews from both the media and other purchasers. The book description seemed to offer something different from the usual type of novel I... Read more
Published 17 months ago by Nephan
2.0 out of 5 stars Incomprehensible
I found this a tedious book which I did not finish which is very unusual for me. The narrative trudges wearily through a mysterious world of a cave dwelling barrel organ grinder... Read more
Published 17 months ago by Andrew
5.0 out of 5 stars Although at the heart of this book is this love affair, it is merely...
Attempting to pin down & define all that goes on in this book isn't easy, as I said in my interview it seems to encompass everything - Do you like Philosophy', History', Politics',... Read more
Published on 18 May 2012 by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic read!
Neuman writes dialogs like no-one else, and his characters literally jump from the page. Really recommended for the Summer reads.
Published on 4 May 2012 by Krishnapur
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