The Traveller of the Century

The Traveller of the Century

Book rating: 05 Paperback

By (author) Andres Neuman, Translated by Nick Caistor, Translated by Lorenza Garcia, Designed by Henry Rivers, Preface by Roberto Bolano

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  • Publisher: PUSHKIN PRESS
  • Format: Paperback | 592 pages
  • Dimensions: 124mm x 200mm x 46mm | 640g
  • Publication date: 30 March 2012
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 1906548668
  • ISBN 13: 9781906548667
  • Sales rank: 193,663

Product description

Shortlisted and named "a very close contender" for the 2013 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize A novel of philosophy and love, politics and waltzes, history and the here-and-now, Andres 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. 'Every year hundreds of books are published but rarely comes a book that reminds us of why we loved reading in the first place, that innermost quest for words and dreams. Traveller of the Century is a literary gem' Elif Shafak 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 Vasquez, Guardian A big, utterly captivating murder mystery and love story, full of history and politics and the hottest sex in contemporary fiction - Daily Telegraph 'A thought-provoking historical romance, in which sex and philosophy mingle to delightful effect.' - Angel Gurria Quintana, Financial Times, Best Books of 2012 Novel of the century - Lawrence Norfolk Andres 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 Bogota 39 list. He has published numerous novels, short stories, essays and poetry collections. He received the Hiperion Prize for Poetry for El tobogan, and Traveller of the Century won the Alfaguara Prize and the National Critics Prize in 2009.

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Author information

Andres Neuman was born in 1977 in Buenos Aires and now lives in Granada, Spain. He was selected one of Granta's Best Young Spanish-Language Novelists, and included in Hay's Bogota 39 list. He has published numerous novels, short stories, essays and poetry collections. Traveller of the Century won the 2009 Alfaguara Prize and the National Critics Prize. Pushkin Press will publish his latest novel, Hablar Solos, in 2014.

Customer reviews

By parrish lantern 20 Jul 2012 5

Hans is an adventurer and translator of literature, never staying long in one place, he is on his way to Dessau, but tired he chooses to stop off for the night in the mysterious city of Wandernburg, fully intent on leaving first thing the next day. Waking late the next morning, he steps out into a city full of the days hustle & bustle, he decides to explore and wanders aimlessly around the city, occasionally loosing his bearings. The day passes without him realising it & he misses his coach. Wandernberg is a strange place with mysterious properties, although it is situated between Berlin & Dessau, it's precise location is open to interpretation, as it has moved several times & even the streets are constantly in a state of flux, appearing to have the ability to change not only their compass position, but also the location of the buildings within them. This all combines to ensnare Hans, who ends up staying a lot longer than he had intended.

He ends up staying the next night & the next, unable to pursue his intended journey, without real intent he ends up prolonging his stay in this city. This leads to him encountering & befriending some of the local residents that cross his path, decreasing his motivation to leave. Through one of his new friends, he meets the the beautiful Sophie Gottlieb, an intelligent, well read, poetry loving, independent young woman, whom Hans falls deeply in love with, a perfect match one would think, except, there is a fly in the ointment, Sophie is betrothed to another.
Although at the heart of this book is this love affair, it is merely the core around which everything revolves, much of this book takes place in Sophie's Literary salon & through this medium we hear discussions covering everything from individual freedom to national sovereignty, they debate philosophy, music, they talk about books & censorship, argue about women's rights & the working class. We follow this relationship as they use language to probe & decipher each other, they meet in his inn room under the cover of translating poetry.


In my interview with Andrés Neuman, he said about this book, "the novel tells a love story between two translators, Sophie and Hans, who can't stop translating everything: words, gestures, intentions, silences. In the beginning, they don't know that the other is a translator too, but they connect through their obsessively translating approach to reality. They start to get more intimate, until they settle the routine of locking themselves in a bedroom in order to translate poems and ****, **** and translate poems (not a bad plan I think!). And they start to realize how similar can love and translation be. Loving someone implies putting the other person's words into ours; struggling to completely understand them and (unavoidably) misunderstanding them; founding a common, fragile language. Whereas translating a text implies a deep desire towards it; a need of possessing it and cohabiting with it; and both (translator and translated one) end transformed.", making this book an exploration of the idea of "Love as a metaphor of translation, translation as a metaphor of love"


"During the four hours they spent alone three times a week, Hans and Sophie alternated between books and bed, bed and books, exploring one another in words and reading one another's bodies. Thus, inadvertently, they developed a shared language, rewriting what they read, translating one another mutually. The more they worked together, the more similarities they discovered between love and translation, understanding a person and translating a text, retelling a poem in a different language and putting into words what the other was feeling. Both exercises were as happy as they were incomplete - doubts always remained, words that needed changing, missed nuances. They were both aware of the impossibility of achieving transparency as lovers and as translators. Cultural, political, biographical and sexual differences acted as a filter. The more they tried to counter them, the greater the dangers, obstacles, misunderstandings. And yet at the same time the bridges between the languages, between them, became broader and broader."

What is amazing about this book is that this is just one aspect, I could mention the organ grinder, Han's first friend & yet regarded by most as an old beggar. Through him Hans learns of the natural world via the discussions held in the cave the man lives in, and in one of those lump in the throat moments we follow the organ grinder as he fades away & dies despite, Hans doing everything he can to save him, or that there is a sub plot about a sexual predator furtively prowling the streets of Wandernburg, whilst being pursued by a father & son cop team, allowing for some great comic dialogue between the two as they detect & finally catch the culprit.

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 Philosophyâœ", Historyâœ", Politicsâœ", Romanceâœ", Translationâœ", Poetryâœ", and yet this isn't some dry intellectual exercise, it seethes with passion whether this is the love affair of the two main protagonists, or the ideas pouring off the pages. In fact it would be harder to find a reader that would not find this a wonderful, fantastic and a totally absorbing read.

Review quote

The literature of the twenty-first century will belong to Neuman and a few other blood brothers of his -- Roberto Bolano A beautiful, accomplished novel: as ambitious as it is generous, as moving as it is smart -- Juan Gabriel Vasquez The 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 A big, utterly captivating murder mystery and love story, full of history and politics and the hottest sex in contemporary fiction Telegraph Very few novels in world literature can build up an atmosphere as deftly and convincingly as the Traveller of the Century has done. This is a wonderful novel of ideas. It is a story of love, loneliness and journeys, spiritual and intellectual. Andres Neuman's story will envelop you like a morning fog and when you have finished reading, when the fog dissolves, you might see the world differently. Every year hundreds of books are published but rarely comes a book that reminds us of why we loved reading in the first place, that innermost quest for words and dreams. Traveller of the Century is a literary gem. -- Elif Shafak