Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Review: "Traveler of the Century" by Andres Neuman

Traveler of the Century is a pretty smart and mature novel from a writer, Andres Neuman, who isn’t even forty. The things that he knows and has extensive knowledge of are pretty impressive. I just wish he had the experience to make them seem interesting instead of pointless. I had really high hopes for this author, since I am developing a thing for Latin American writers, and it comes with the seal of approval by the late, great Roberto Bolano, who most people who know me know I admire greatly. But this book is rarely as good as anything Bolano wrote. It acts as a cross between something Kafka might have written and a Jane Austen/Edith Wharton novel of social moors, neither of which I care very much for. It does have very interesting scenes, much like The Savage Detectives and 2666 had, but they are crammed in between scenes of village life that nobody could make very interesting. The story revolves around a man named Hans, who travels through the village of Wardernburg, a town between Saxony and Prussia, on his way to an unknown destination. There he meets an unnamed organ grinder who lives in a cave, and meets a very intelligent woman named Sophie who he falls in love with. These two forces make him stay in the town longer than he has to. Each provide a kind of intellectual match for him, one that leads him to rise, and fall among the ranks of the society itself. The discussions had are insightful, but very dry and boring since the reader rarely gets a break from. A storyline about a Jack the Ripper-like murderer is interesting (and if Bolano was writing this it would have been fantastic), but I hate to say that it goes nowhere, leaving us with a predictable ending that has no emotional resonance. I am interested to see Neuman grow as a writer, and consider this novel a slight misstep.
Rating: 3/5

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