• Compass

Compass

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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 centre 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.

An immersive, nocturnal, musical novel, full of generous erudition and bittersweet humour, Compass is a journey and a declaration of admiration, a quest for the otherness inside us all.

Winner of the 2015 Prix Goncourt, this is Mathias Enard’s most ambitious novel since Zone.

Information
  • Publisher: Fitzcarraldo Editions 
  • Translated by Charlotte Mandell
  • Published 22 March 2017, French paperback with flaps, 480 pages
  • Shortlisted for the 2017 Man Booker International Prize


Reviews

‘Crisply translated by Charlotte Mandell (as was Zone), Compass is Proustian in its set-up. [T]here are passages of pure delight with rare insight into the human condition.’
— Tobias Grey, Financial Times

‘[A] love letter to the cosmopolitan Middle East ... [a] strangely powerful work.’ 
— Steven Poole, Guardian

‘Enard is like the anti-Houellebecq, and he deserves far more attention.’ 
— Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal 

‘In Charlotte Mandell’s elegant translation, Mathias Enard’s humane and erudite novel reminds the anglophone world of what it owes to Islam.’  — Ruth Scurr, Spectator

‘A novelist like Enard feels particularly necessary right now, though to say this may actually be to undersell his work. He is not a polemicist but an artist, one whose novels will always have something to say to us.’  — Christopher Beha, Harper's Magazine

‘Compass is a book about boundaries and non-boundaries, smudged lines between countries, languages, cultures and times.'  — Thomas McMullan, minor literature[s]

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The Story

The Author

Mathias Enard, born in 1972, studied Persian and Arabic and spent long periods in the Middle East. He has lived in Barcelona for about fifteen years, interrupted in 2013 by a writing residency in Berlin. He won several awards for Zone, including the Prix du Livre Inter and the Prix Décembre, and won the Liste Goncourt/Le Choix de l’Orient, the Prix littéraire de la Porte Dorée and the Prix du Roman-News for Street of Thieves. He won the 2015 Prix Goncourt, the 2017 Leipziger Book Award for European Understanding, and was shortlisted for the 2017 Man Booker International Prize for Compass.

Charlotte Mandell has translated fiction, poetry, and philosophy from the French, including works by Proust, Flaubert, Genet, Maupassant, Blanchot and many other distinguished authors. She has received many accolades and awards for her translations, including a Literature Translation Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts for Zone.

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