Mathias Énard, winner of the 2015 Prix Goncourt, writes propulsive, far-ranging prose. His long, snaking sentences are nuanced history lessons disguised as fiction. Erudite and melancholic Viennese musicologist Franz Ritter, in the throes of yet another sleepless night, surrenders to the merciless fun house mirrors of memory. Memories, specifically, of the elusive, intoxicating Sarah, but in a larger sense, memories of the fraught and multivalent tensions between Europe and the Middle East. Fans of W.G. Sebald or Anne Carson should not miss Énard's opium dreamscape. -John— From Spring Booknotes 2017
As night falls over Vienna, Franz Ritter, an insomniac musicologist, takes to his sickbed with an unspecified illness and spends a restless night drifting between dreams and memories, revisiting the important chapters of his life: his ongoing fascination with the Middle East and his numerous travels to Istanbul, Aleppo, Damascus, and Tehran, as well as the various writers, artists, musicians, academics, orientalists, and explorers who populate this vast dreamscape. At the center of these memories is his elusive, unrequited love, Sarah, a fiercely intelligent French scholar caught in the intricate tension between Europe and the Middle East.
With exhilarating prose and sweeping erudition, Mathias Enard pulls astonishing elements from disparate sources--nineteenth-century composers and esoteric orientalists, Balzac and Agatha Christie--and binds them together in a most magical way.