MATHIAS ENARD'S COMPASS ON THE SHORT LIST FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE

 

“Énard has written a masterful novel that speaks to our current, confused moment in history by highlighting the manifold, vital contributions of Islamic and other Middle Eastern cultures to the European canon… With divisive rhetoric spouting these days from every direction, Mathias Énard’s magnificent Compass has appeared on our shores at precisely the right time. It’s a novel that looks closely at the intersections — historical, personal and, most of all, musical — between East and West. It also provides another welcome look at the kinships that bind the Middle East to Europe. In doing so, Compass reminds us that these are not static places, but in fact dynamic combinations of cultures and traditions. The genius of Énard’s composition lies in the seemingly random organization of Ritter’s thoughts. Of course, they’re not random, no more than is any literary exercise in stream of consciousness, but the tendrils that subtly lead from one thought to the next are astounding. Although Ritter appears to make huge leaps in logic, and his brain jumps from topic to topic, Énard always provides us with enough bread crumbs to follow his winding path.”

—Andrew Ervin, The Washington Post

 

“A fever-dream meditation on East and West and a lost love that binds the two worlds… Lyrical and intellectually rich without ever being ponderous, reminiscent at turns of Mann's Death in Venice and Bowles' Sheltering Sky.”

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Énard’s prose, which tends to pile descriptive clauses ever higher on top of one another... can be mesmerizing. But it’s the larger project of his writing that bears particular consideration: in his fiction, Énard is constructing an intricate, history-rich vision of a persistently misunderstood part of the world.”

—Jacob Silverman, The New Yorker

“As much an essay, a compendium, a rant and a polemic as it is a work of fiction. This novel contains many books and all of their counter books. Ritter himself is a knot of contradiction… Compass is as challenging, brilliant, and―God help me―important a novel as is likely to be published this year.”

—Justin Taylor, The Los Angeles Times

 “Mr. Énard fuses recollection and scholarly digression into a swirling, hypnotic stream-of-consciousness narration. [...] So this sad yet invigorating novel is both a love letter to a vanishing discipline and an elegy. Franz’s mental circumnavigations constitute a celebration of the civilizing power of knowledge and ‘the beauty of sharing and diversity.’”

—Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal

“The cultural cross-pollination between east and west is explored in a tale that offers rare delights.” —Tobias Grey, Financial Times


“A novelist like Énard 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. If that doctored replica of Beethoven’s compass stands as a fitting emblem of Ritter’s work, a better one for Énard’s would be the compass that can be found in hotel rooms throughout the Islamic world, so that travelers can orient themselves for prayer.” —Christopher Beha, Harper's Magazine

“In a time of fear and loathing, Énard’s magnum opus points us toward the reality behind so many myths of the Orient. Charlotte Mandell’s radiant translation of Compass into English provides its readers with the opportunity to step back and consider the question of how France and the rest of the West might look at Islam and, for that matter, the world east of Europe. The beauty of Compass is the sheer breadth and density of its vision, calling forth a multitude of different worlds.”

—Jeffrey Zuckerman, The New Republic


“This astonishing, encyclopedic, and otherwise outré meditation by Énard on the cultural intersection of East and West takes the form of an insomniac’s obsessive imaginings―dreams, memories, and desires―which come to embody the content of a life, or perhaps several… An opium addict’s dream of a novel.”

—Publishers Weekly

“Poetic, audacious.” —Ben East, The National

“For all its sandstorm of scholarship, translated with tireless eloquence by Charlotte Mandell, Compass aches with that simple yearning. ‘Only love’ of a person or a culture, thinks Franz under the stars of Syria, ‘opens us up to the other.’” —The Economist

“Compass is a novel about many things. At its surface it is about the pull of unmet dreams and ambitions. The falsities of love. But at the crux of this examination of a human life is the fabric of cultures intersecting―and in the truth that the pathos of grief exempts no one.”

—Yasmin Roshanian, Europe Now

“Few works of contemporary fiction will yield as much pleasure as Compass. Reading it amounts to wandering into a library arranged in the form of an exotic sweet shop, full of tempting fragments of stories guaranteed leaving you wanting more. Énard conjures up the wonders of the Middle East in a sorcerer’s cornucopia, alive with illusions and allusions, which is itself a cultural compass and so much more.”

—Irish Times

Compass is a novel for, more than of, our times, often comic but ultimately deeply serious... Énard manages to make what is essentially this sleep-deprived protagonist's monologue consistently entertaining―no wonder he can't sleep, with all this bubbling in his mind…”

—Michael Orthofer, The Complete Review

“Compass is poetic, ironic, irresistible.”

—Jane Ciabattari, BBC

 “Mathias Énard has found a way to restore death to life and life to death, and so joins the first rank of novelists, the bringers of fire, who even as they can’t go on, do.”

—Garth Risk Hallberg, The Millions

“Mathias Énard is the most brazen French writer since Houellebecq.”

—New Statesman

“Enard’s novel is a bottomless treasure chest of stories about European adventurers, archaeologists and explorers such as Annemarie Schwarzenbach and Gertrude Bell, who succumbed to the fascination of the Orient – a fascination that, Enard shows, led to a rich cultural dialogue over the past centuries, finding its way into European literature, art and not least music.”

—Ulrich von Schwerin, Qantara

Compass is a profound and subtle tale. Énard is an immensely ambitious writer—luckily, his ambition is matched by his equally extraordinary talent.” —Alberto Manguel, El País

“I’m grateful to Mathias Énard for having given me the chance to read about an Orient that includes as much complexity as humanity. It’s not the Orient of the Other, but a reader’s and a writer’s experience. If I dared, I would say that it’s a participatory Orient.” —Kamel Daoud, author of The Meursault Investigation