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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 and a hand reaching out - like a bridge between West and East, yesterday and tomorrow. Winner of the 2015 Prix Goncourt, this is Mathias Enard's most ambitious novel since ZONE.
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What Reviewers Are Saying
'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.' - Eileen Battersby, Irish Times '[T]he beauty of Compass is the sheer breadth and density of its vision, calling forth a multitude of different worlds, bound only by the capacious mind of its narrator, an aging Austrian musicologist named Franz Ritter.' - Jeffrey Zuckerman, New Republic 'Compass is a challenging, brilliant, and - God help me - important a novel as is likely to be published this year.' - Justin Taylor, Los Angeles Times '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 'Enard is constructing an intricate, history-rich vision of a persistently misunderstood part of the world.' - Jacob Silverman, New Yorker 'Enard 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. More than that, it points toward, as one character puts it, "a new vision that includes the other in the self."' - Andrew Ervin, Washington Post '[A] love letter to the cosmopolitan Middle East ... [a] strangely powerful work.' - Steven Poole, Guardian '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 'Lyrical and intellectually rich without ever being ponderous, reminiscent at turns of Mann's Death in Venice and Bowles' Sheltering Sky.' - Kirkus (starred review) 'In a world that has become afraid of intelligence, Compass - slowly, I imagine, and carefully translated by Charlotte Mandell - is a deeply intelligent novel, a book that I could vanish into forever.' - Anthony Brown, Time's Flow Stemmed 'Compass is a book about boundaries and non-boundaries, smudged lines between countries, languages, cultures and times. Following this multi-directional flow is a pleasure, thanks in part to prose that - translated by Charlotte Mandell - buoys academic detours with aphorisms and scenes plush with emotional detail. [...] It is a book with ideas, but one that underpins its eruditeness with a sad, lovesick soul. For a novel overspilling with dead writers, Enard has created a story full of life, full of possibility for the oriental and occidental to find the self in the other.' - Thomas McMullan, minor literature[s]