08 October 2011

"Airports: Frontier Nations" (Andrés Neuman)

If – if only – it were possible, many people would prefer to abolish waiting. They’d much rather disintegrate and immediately reappear in the place they want to be. Today, all transitions seem like obstacles. Seen from that impatient point of view, there are places we find odious: bus and train stations, waiting rooms, airports. At the same time, speed has rendered these waiting spaces absolutely essential. While our anxieties bounce off their walls, these temporary homes make possible the contemplative mode we need to slip into just to keep on running. The introspective effect of airports fascinates me. Bizarre structures that combine haste and quietude, strength and thin air. Within them, the vertigo of our lives collides with a sublime contradiction: We’ve come here to fly, but once inside we barely move. We have the urgent need to leave, but the interior rhythm of the building, its ceremonies and its rules, oblige us to wait. We are that obligatory patience. An urgent future that somehow seems far off.

- From Andrés Neuman's short essay in Granta (Online Only).

Andrés Neuman (b. 1977) is a poet and novelist from Argentina. He published his first novel Bariloche when he was 22. The novel was First Finalist for the Herralde Prize, for which Detective Bolaño sat as a member of the prize committe. Neuman was included in the "Bogotá-39 list" - 39 most outstanding Latin American authors under 39 - and in Granta's Best of Young Spanish-Language Novelists.

His first novel to appear in English will be The Traveller's Century (Pushkin Press, 2012), translated by Nick Caistor and Lorenza Garcia. The book's synopsis from the publisher's site is rather amusing, and annoying, for being described in abstract terms.
The Traveller of the Century is an original and ambitious experiment–a work that invites us to look at the nineteenth century with twenty-first-century eyes. A novel that rediscovers the inspiration of classic narrative from a contemporary point of view. A dialogue between the Europe of the Restoration and the political plans of the European Union. A narrative bridge spanning the past and the global issues of our present–immigration, interculturalism, translation, nationalism and the emancipation of women. Love as a metaphor of translation, translation as a metaphor of love. An exceptional, fun, mature novel from a writer wise beyond his years.

If a book's storyline is that hard to summarize, so that the publisher had to resort to doling out the themes, then it's certainly one of two things. But the mention of love and translation in the same sentence perks up my ears.

NEUMAN (Foto: Pepe Marín)

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