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compass

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,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 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 Énard 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....

Title : Compass
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ISBN : 9780811226622
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 464 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Compass Reviews

  • Lee
    2019-01-08 13:10

    Finished this finally, unintentionally in the perfect way, reading from three to five in the morning when I couldn't sleep. It's the perfect way to finish because this is an insomniac's diary, or more so, its conceit involves an Austrian insomniac's cognitive perambulations in bed in Vienna as he makes his way, only ordered by the increasingly late hour, through the occidental experience of alterity (the novel's keyword) in the orient. It's about the interpenetration of east and west, self in the other. Like Zone, it's a vehicle for erudition, an assemblage of a whole lot of stuff previously unbeknownst to me. In "Zone," each phrase of a discontinuous, single, 500-page sentence is like the ties along the tracks the narrator rolls over seated in a train, providing basic forward movement and structure, whereas in this one, the narrator is in bed mostly, or puttering around his apartment, as nocturnal hours pass. In both novels, the masks the author wears (his narrators) have insider information -- although he's not a former spy as in "Zone," the academic orientalist narrator of "Compass" feels more naturally aligned with the author who I believe at one time taught Arabic at the University of Barcelona. The narrative mask seems more transparent. At one point, research is associated with espionage and this is sort of like the secret history of the western infatuation with the east, but Enard being a great writer blurs the duality and complexifies it. He also refers to Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata solely as his 14th sonata, which I then had to look up on Spotify, which really comes in handy when reading this since you can find Mendelssohn's Octet and choose from dozens of versions, or pieces by Schubert, Chopin, Wagner, or any other piece by western classical composers you don't know at all or well that are discussed at one point. Someone with more time should put together a "Compass" playlist. The title itself refers in part to Beethoven's compass, which is set to point east instead of north. It's not all about "orientalist" interests, however -- there's also a love story with another academic, Sarah, who the narrator loved and loves still, and idealizes, especially times together in Tehran and Damascus, and the love story, the history of their interactions since then, the cooling off, the letters, the time together in Vienna when Sarah only wants to visit museums related to horror, establish the novel's spine, the trunk from which the limbs of episodes and anecdotes and the foliage of essay and ideas can grow. Although nowhere near as conventional as Enard's last translated novel, Street of Thieves, the love story is satisfying enough, as is all the esoteric information and all the reference particularly to writers and artists and composers. Ultimately, like "Zone," this is a major Reference Work, what I've decided to call these contemporary novels that rely so heavily on biographical reference, particularly to artists, philosophers, musicians, et al, that they're almost something like disordered encyclopedias, like fragments from the fourteen-thousand volume compendium of all knowledge at the time that went up in flames thanks to the incursion/aggression of Westerners in China. It's five-stars in terms of the author's ambition, execution, and erudition but I nevertheless docked a star for my reading experience: I could only read this in bits and pieces, a few pages on the subway to and from work, a few pages before sleep overwhelmed me or I decided to put it down in favor of a tight NBA playoff fourth quarter streaming to my tablet. At times I thought it could have been edited more stringently, could have been pruned throughout and lost a hundred or more pages without missing much overall, but its ranginess and excessive stream-o'-consciousness sleepless progression also seem essential to what makes it feel unique. Anyway, definitely recommended reading for anyone willing to immerse themselves in the long history of western addiction to oriental alterity, beyond belly dancers, magic carpets, genies, all the way up to those recent black-hooded Islamic State decapitators from London. Lots of interesting opium-related stuff in here, too. And a nod to hope in the end. All of the authors' novels I've read in English have been translated by Charlotte Mandel, a tandem I count with confidence among my favorite contemporary writers thanks to this one's addition to their achievements, all different yet united in their focus on Euro-Eastern interaction and the often but not always resultant atrocities.

  • Paul Fulcher
    2018-12-19 11:48

    Now on the outstanding longlist for the 2017 Republic of Consciousness Prize for 'gorgeous prose and hardcore literary fiction' from small, independent presses.In Germany they impose the Scriptures on you in the back of the bedside table drawer, in Muslim countries they stick a little compass for you into the wood of the bed, or they draw a wind rose marking the direction of Mecca on the desk, compass and wind rose that can indeed serve to locate the Arabian Penisula, but also, if you're so inclined, Rome, Vienna or Moscow: you're never lost in these lands. I even saw some prayer rugs with a little compass woven into them, carpets you immediately wanted to set flying, since they were so prepared for aerial navigation.Matthias Enard's Compass, translated, like his wonderful novel Zone, by the highly accomplished Charlotte Mendel, is a novel dedicated to, inter alia, "The Circle of Melancholy Orientalists" and the Syrian people. The book consists of the recollections and stream of associations, during one insomnia filled night in Vienna, by Frank Ritter, a musicologist specialising in the influence of the oriental on Western Music. I've shown that the revolution in music in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries owed everything to the Orient, that it was not a matter of 'exotic procedures' as thought before, this exoticism had a meaning, that it made external elements, alterity, enter, it was a large movement and gathered together, among others, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Liszt, Berlioz, Bizet, Rimsky-Korsakov, Debussy, Bartok, Hindemith, Schoenberg, Szymanowski,, hundreds of composers throughout all of Europe, all over Europe the wind of alterity blows, all these great men use what comes to them from the Other to modify the Self, to barstardize it, for genius wants barstardy, the use of external procedures to undermine the dictatorship of church chant and harmony, why am I getting worked up all alone on my pillow now, probably because I'm a poor academic with a revolutionary thesis no one cares about. No one is interested any more in Felicien David who became extraordinarily famous on 8 December 1844 after the premiere of Le Desert.Franz has just received an, albeit unconfirmed, diagnosis that he is suffering from a (unspecified in the novel) degenerative and ultimately fatal condition, prompting his night of reflection, particularly on his unconsummated relationship with Sarah, whose PhD thesis kicks off his memories and thoughts. It began:There are certain wounds in life that, like leprosy, eat away at the soul and diminish it," writes the Iranian Sadegh Hedayat at the beginning of his novel The Blind Owl; the little man with round glasses knew this better than anyone.And he reflects:Today as I reread the beginning of this text, I must admit there was something strong and innovative in these four hundred pages on the images and representations of the Orient, non-places, utopias, ideological fantasies in which many who wanted to travel had got lost: the bodies of artists, poets and travellers who have tried to explore them were pushed little by little towards destruction; illusion as Hedayat said, ate away at the soul in solitude - what had long been called madness, melancholy, depression was often the result of friction, a loss of self in creation, in contact with alterity.This concept of alterity is crucial to the novel. Franz's thoughts take us widely through the history of music, literature, archaeology and those Westerners who embraced the East. But he is equally aware that one can only really become the other if one erases oneself:When Chateaubriand invented travel literature with his Itinerary from Paris to Jerusalem in 1811, long before Stendhal and his Memoirs of an Egotist, more or less the same time as the publication of Goethe's Italian journey, Chateaubriand was spying for the sake of art; he was certainly no longer the explorer who spied for science or for the army: he spied mainly for literature. Art has its spies, just as history or the natural sciences have theirs. Archaeology is a form of espionage, botany, poetry as well; ethnomusicologists are spies of music. Spies are travellers, travellers are spies. 'Don't trust the stories of travellers,' says Saadi in The Gulistan. They see nothing. They think they see, but they observe only reflections. We are prisoners of images, of representations, Sarah would say, and only those who, like her or the peddler, choose to rid themselves of their lives (if such a thing is possible) can reach the other. A contemporary note is sounded by the his contrasting his own experience in Syria to what he sees in the news today, as the country is caught between the forces of the Syrian state and the Islamic State for example reflecting on a visit on the 1990s to the Baron Hotel in Aleppo:In the evening as the day faded the bar filled up not only with hotel clients, but also with tourists staying elsewhere coming to soak in the nostalgia, drinking a beer or an arak whose smell of anise, mixed with that of peanuts and cigarettes, was the only Oriental touch on the decor. [...]This Baron Hotel that still reeked of nostalgia and decadence, just as today it reeks of bombs and death. [...]Impossible at that time, at the bar of the Baron Hotel, to foresee the civil war that was about to seize hold of Syria, even if the violence of dictatorship was omnipresent, so present that you'd rather forget it, for there was a certain comfort that foreigners found in police regimes, a muffled, silent peace from Deraa to Qamisilhi, from Kassab to Quneytra, a peace humming with suppressed hatred and fates bending under a yoke to which all the foreign scholars willingly accommodated, the archaeologists, the linguists, the historians, the geographers, the political scientists, they all enjoyed the leaden calm of Damascus or Aleppo, and we did too, Sarah and I, reading the letters from Annemarie Schwarzenbach the inconsolable Angeline in the bar of the Baron Hotel, eating white-coated pumpkin seeds and long, narrow, pistachios with light brown shells, we were enjoying the calm of the Syria of Hafez-el-Hassad, the father of the nation. This is a novel full of what the publishers blurb describes, accurately, as "generous erudition." This isn't research gleaned from Wikipedia or indeed a book that requires frequent use of Wikipedia to follow it, although the reader, should he or she so choose, can follow up on the many fascinating references to novels, music and fascinating characters such as Joseph von Hammer-Purgstall, Annemarie Schwarzenbach and Marga d'Andurian.I couldn't help but draw the contrast to last year's deeply unimpressive Man Booker winner and this is the very type of novel that makes me prefer the Man Booker International variant. One for the shortlist and a contender for the overall prize.

  • Jonfaith
    2019-01-13 13:04

    We Europeans see them with the horror of otherness; but this otherness is just as terrifying for an Iraqi or a Yemenite. Even what we reject, what we hate, emerges in this common imaginal world. What we identify in these atrocious decapitations as ‘other’, ‘different’, ‘Oriental’, is just as ‘other’, ‘different’, and ‘Oriental’ for an Arab, a Turk, or an Iranian,My initial bliss digging into this rich novel soon gave way to more serious labor. Whereas Jim Gauer's masterful Novel Explosives was a fanfare of images and poetry, this is a sustained exercise , an unflinching exploration of the relations between East and West and perhaps, ultimately, what Pessoa quipped is the "East east of the East." Pessoa looms large here, but alas, so do ranks of figures from Cervantes and Beethoven to Balzac. The novel is a nightlong insomniac agony of a (perhaps dying) Austrian musicologist Franz Ritter who ponders the efficacy of scholarship in our world-- while his misspent attentions and affections have crisscrossed the globe - especially towards and in the form of Sarah, a French ethnologist whom the protagonist has loved for decades and cravenly been unable to articulate. There are lateral paths and stories revealed on nearly every page, how the vampire novel has roots in the cross-pollination of Turkish and central European music. Thomas Mann and his children wave a significant shadow over these proceedings. Leverkuhn as Nietzsche/Schoenberg proceeds, finding nurturing in Flaubert's Egyptian orgy and thus affording a mirrored reading of Leg Over Leg: Shidyaq is thusly embraced.There are links between Rimbaud's amputation and Edward Said's piano playing -- if you look for them. Despite such erudite architecture, this is also a novel of opium, wine and unfortunately beheadings. Etymology, poetry and emancipatory politics make for cumbersome bedmates but the reader can only benefit from such congestion. Matters did appear to lose momentum but I felt it to be tremendously moving throughout. 4.5 stars

  • Philippe Malzieu
    2018-12-21 15:05

    I remembered the beginning of Salammbô. "C'était à Megara, faubourg de Carthage, dans le jardin d'Hamilcar." In only one sentence, I live in the Mysterious Orient, there is the color, the scent, the wet suffocating heat (in french we name it touffeur) of the luxuriant vegetation. I was already in love with Salammbô.I did not want to read this book. It belongs to the short list for the Goncourt Prize then which the best french book (Laurent Binet) has been eliminated.And I read the beginning of this novel in the bookseller. There is a brilliant text on Sadegh Hedayat. Enard compares him to Kafka and it is well seen. So I decided to read it.Pitch? An austrian musicolog have a love affair with Sarah, brilliant young university researcher. The book became a kind of treasure hunt between them with different stop from Vienna to Viet Nam. But too much erudition, too much references. It is a debeauche of exotics word and tones. It is too much. there is even photos. Photos in literature book have only a goal, prevent the author to write description like Breton in Nadja. Here, they have no utility.I have the impression that the author had collected all the cultural references on orient and had built his book around them.We are far from the conciseness of Flaubert. The novel becomes boring even if sarah does not miss charm. Dommage.

  • Laura لاورا
    2019-01-06 13:50

    I mille e un OrienteVincitore nel 2015 del prestigioso premio letterario francese Goncourt, “Bussola” non è un romanzo di facile recensione. Che cosa racconta?Una storia d’amore, anzi due storie d’amore: prima di tutto, quella tra una donna e un uomo, due orientalisti che per anni s’incontrano, fuggono e s’inseguono tra Europa, Turchia, Siria e Iran; sullo sfondo, superba e affascinante cornice, la seconda storia d’amore che per gran parte del libro sembra offuscare la prima: quella tra Occidente e Oriente (in particolare, quello più prossimo), inquieta e ancestrale passione, raccontata attraverso le tantissime piccole grandi storie di coloro che di essa, in passato così come in tempi più recenti, fecero una ragione di vita. Scrittori e studiosi a vario titolo, viaggiatori, avventurieri e sognatori… È lunga la lista degli occidentali irrimediabilmente stregati dall’Oriente: tra queste oltre quattrocento densissime pagine si susseguono nomi europei ben noti legati, in un modo o nell’altro, al mondo orientale. E si scoprono cose curiose e interessanti. Non sapevo, per esempio, che Flaubert avesse tenuto un diario egiziano né che Goethe si fosse dilettato a scrivere esercizi di lingua araba. Nel nostro vecchio continente c’è molto più Oriente di quanto si creda; e in Oriente, paradossalmente, esiste molto dell’Oriente stesso rielaborato dall’Occidente.“[…] lampade fornite di genio, tappeti volanti e pantofole miracolose; dimostrerebbe come questi oggetti sono il risultato di sforzi successivi comuni, e come ciò che consideriamo puramente “orientale” è in realtà molto spesso la ripresa di un elemento “occidentale” che a sua volta modifica un elemento “orientale” precedente, e così di seguito; ne trarrebbe la conclusione che Oriente e Occidente non appaiono mai separatamente, e sono sempre fusi, presenti uno nell’altro […]”Un’opera straordinaria e monumentale che racchiude storia, letteratura, musica, nonché esotismo ed erotismo davvero raffinati: un’erudizione sconfinata in materia di Oriente e orientalismo, che sono viaggio, esplorazione continua, forse pure perdizione. Considerati gli specifici riferimenti geografici, letterari e linguistici ad arabo e persiano, purtroppo non si tratta di una lettura per tutti, semmai per appassionati del settore, altrimenti essa rischia di annoiare o, peggio, di non essere capita.E a me, indegna appassionata di questioni orientali, che cosa ha lasciato questo libro? Moltissimo, più di quanto potessi immaginare. Anzitutto, una bella lista di nomi dei quali approfondire la conoscenza (in testa, quelli dell’avventuriera francese Marga d'Andurain, della scrittrice e fotografa svizzera Annemarie Schwarzenbach e dello scrittore iraniano Sadeq Hedayat); poi, il promemoria relativo a una lettura di Edward Sa’id che avevo interrotto quand’ero più giovane; infine, oltre a quello per i miei ormai lontani giorni d’Oriente, anche il rimpianto di non essermi recata in Siria quando, per diverso tempo, mi trovavo a un tiro di schioppo dalla frontiera e gli schioppi, quelli veri, ancora tacevano.Énard dipinge splendide descrizioni di Aleppo, di Palmira e del deserto siriano sospeso tra la notte stellata e lo sbocciar dell’aurora. Uno strazio profondo al pensiero di ciò che il Paese è diventato dopo ormai sei anni di guerra: un cumulo insanguinato di macerie e morte, perenne monumento alla stupidità e crudeltà umane.

  • Melissa
    2019-01-04 12:55

    Compass takes place over the course of one, long night during which Franz Ritter, a Viennese musicologist, suffers from a terrible bout of insomnia. The symptoms from his recently diagnosed illness, the memories of an unrequited love, and the dissatisfaction at his mediocre academic career all contribute to his sleepless night. Instead of chapters, Énard uses time stamps to denote the hours that are slowly ticking away as Franz runs through years of memories. Sarah, a French Academic with whom Franz has spent many years in love, sends him an article she has written from Sarawak, in Malaysia, which is her current place of residence. It is unclear at the beginning what Franz and Sarah mean or have meant to each other, but Franz slowly unravels their complicated history throughout the course of his sleepless night.As an academic musicologist, Franz has had a deep interest in the music of the Middle East, which studies have brought him into close contact with many orientalists, including Sarah. Compass is a travelogue, an historical essay, a literary catalog and a music lesson on the Orient. Franz takes us on his travels from Istanbul, to Palmyra, to Damascus, to Aleppo and to Tehran as he explores eastern music and his growing, emotional attachment to Sarah. The Orient becomes just as beautiful, enchanting and elusive as his love for Sarah. When Franz and Sarah are suddenly forced to end their travels together in Tehran, Franz nurses his wounds by going back home and retreating into himself and his academic career. Sarah consoles herself by wandering father east where she ends up spending quite a bit of time in a Buddhist monastery. But the objects in his apartment are a constant reminder of his travels with her in the east:My glasses were under a pile of books and journals, obviously, I’m so absentminded. At the same time, to contemplate the ruins of my bedroom (ruins of Istanbul, ruins of Damascus, ruins of Tehran, ruins of myself) I don’t need to see them, I know all these objects by hear. The faded photographs and yellowing Orientalist engravings. The poetic works of Pessoa on a sculpted wooden book stand meant to house the Koran. My tarboosh from Istanbul, my heavy wood indoor coat from the souk in Damascus, my lute from Aleppo bought with Nadim.The disjointed and rambling narrative structure is fitting for a man whose mind cannot rest over the course of a sleepless night. He jumps from one topic to the next: his illness, musicology, literature, archaeology and, of course, Sarah. Some might find this stream-of-consciousness style frustrating but a more straightforward narrative would not have been as fitting or appropriate for Franz’s state-of-mind and circumstances. One common thread that runs through his thoughts are the connections between East and West. He has a joke compass that points east which is fitting for Franz since his thoughts are always pulled in that direction. He discusses travelers, writers, musicians, academics and archaeologists who were fascinated by Orientalist travels and study. One of my favorite examples Franz brings up is the Swiss author, journalist, traveler, and even occasional archaeologists, Annmarie Schwarzenbach whose wanderlust brings her to different parts of the East. Schwarzenbach flees the turmoil brewing in Europe in 1933-34 and travels to Syrian and the desert, where Franz and Sarah follow in the footsteps of this interesting woman’s Eastern journey.More than any other book I have ever read, Compass made me want to travel to the Middle East, to the desert and to the ancient ruins of the Orient; but the narrative also made me sad that such a journey isn’t feasible nowadays. The Baron Hotel that Franz and Sarah stay at in Aleppo, and probably the entire neighborhood, has been reduced to a pile of rubble. The descriptions of his travels in Palmyra were particularly striking to me. Franz and Sarah, with a few other travel companions, sleep among the ruins of an ancient fort in Palmyra: “A night when the sky was so pure and the stars so numerous that they came down all the way to the ground, lower than you could see, in the summer, when the sea is calm and dark as the Syrian badiya.”Finally, I have never read a book that has caused me to buy so many other books based on the literary observations contained within. My “to-read” stacks have grown by leaps and bounds this past week as I made my way through Compass. The amount of research that must have gone into the writing of this erudite book is astonishing. Descriptions of Pessoa, Magris, Schwarzenbach and Hedayat to name a few, have caused me to add all of these authors to my always-growing library. Some of the writers Enard mentions are so esoteric that I was disappointed not to find them in English translation—the surrealist French poet Germain Nouveau, for example. It is truly a great thing when one piece of literature gives one such a full list of further reading. One could form an interesting book club to go through the volumes mentioned in Compass and spend many months exploring and discussing Franz’s syllabus.

  • ميقات الراجحي
    2018-12-31 15:51

    إلتقاء الشرق بالغرب في عمل "ماتياس إينار" جعله يستحق وبجدارة الـ"غونكور". من قرأ رواية (أنبئوني بالرؤيا) للناقد والكاتب "عبد الفتاح كيليطو" (1) سيعرف ظاهرة الرواية المعرفية. تقرأ العمل فتظن أنك لوهلة أمام بحث معرفي لكن بسردية ناجحة وتواجد لكل مقومات القصة أو الرواية وحقيقة ما تتجاهله ليس عدم قدرتك على تمييز نوع العمل بل أنت قد أحسنت تميزه بينما كرهت المعلومات الموجودة في سياق النص. أعلم أنك هربت من فضاء الكتب العلمية والأبحاث والدراسات ثم فجأة تقع بين يديك مثل نوعية هذه العمل وهنا يكون مأزق المثقف هروبه نحو فضاء السرد فيغرق من جديد في المادة العلمية. ماتياس في البوصلة راق لي جدًا، وأعجبني محاولاته الجادة في تلاقي الشرق بالغرب حتى لو من خلال علاقة حب. لإيماني بأن هذا العظيم – الحب – قادر على التلاقي ولن يعي ما أقول إلا المؤمنين. الشرق الذي يراه ماتياس شرق مختلف عن النظرة الماضية والعالقة في أذهان الفرنسيين والغرب. وفقًا للمواقع البريطانية والإمريكية نافسه في هذه الدورة الكاتب "التونسي هادي قدور" رغم حساسية موضوعه تجاه الغرب عن حقبة الإستمعار في الشمال الإفريقي، ولا أعلم عن تعليق الفرنسيين على الأمر لعدم إيجادتي الفرنسية. ولكن يبدو أن التونسي كان الأقرب وسأحكم حين اقرأ عمله "لي بريبونديران" مترجمًا للعربية أو الإنجليزية.______________لا أعرف له رواية غيرها، وربما هي تجربته الوحيدة حتى الآن.

  • Caroline
    2019-01-10 11:13

    Énard has written a masterwork, a long meditation on the Other, as embodied in his two main characters and their lifelong study of the idea and reality of the ‘Orient’ and the West. The entire work consists of the reminiscences of insomniac, fiftyish (?) Franz over one night as he wrestles with the knowledge that he has a fatal disease and has failed in a lifelong attempt to win Sarah, the object of his obsession. The irony, we come to see, is that despite his long academic meditations on the necessity of recognizing the self in the other, Orient in Occident and vice-versa, he is so self-absorbed that he misses every chance to hear Sarah and to respond to her alterity, to absorb her being into himself and become vulnerable to her. Sarah, a very successful academic, has her own weaknesses, a steely ambition and shell that prevent her from being honest with him. Their story is interwoven integrally over the period of about twenty-five years, as these two Occident academics criss-cross the “Orient” researching a wide range of concepts about how the two spatial and mindset constructs of Orient and Occident affect each other. A dark current running throughout is the collapse of the old Islamic/Persian world, and destruction of the cultural treasures and culture of that world.There is so much pleasure in this book. The astoundingly wide-ranging erudition flows naturally through Franz’s reflections and his renditions of episodes in his and travels and researches over the course of decades in Europe and the ‘Orient.’ Where the Orient starts and ‘ends’ is one of the ongoing questions, as it might start in Vienna, flow through the Balkans, Istanbul, Syria, Iran,…all of which places they have been, and now even to Sarawak, where Sarah is living in the wild studying death wine. Sarah’s academic fascination with the macabre may have roots in her own otherness, a French Jew with an Algerian French mother. Franz is another sort of other, an awkward, hapless mama’s boy. I came to Compass without the burden of Said’s Orientalism to color my reading. But I was so happy that over the past few years I had read so many of the authors referenced in Énard’s endless flow of reflections on the flow of literature from and about these countries. For some of them I have my Goodreads friends to thank (e.g. Faris al-Shidyaq’s Leg over Leg) and for many others my chipping away at Philip Ward’s A Lifetime’s Reading. I expected the literary references; I wasn’t prepared for all of the musical commentary (Franz is a musicologist). Lists of sample references:Literary/historical: Blind Owl by Sedegh Hedayat (on ongoing talisman work), Hofmannsthal, Danube by Magris, Hafez, Ta-abbata Sharran, Le Fanu, Rückert, Lousie Labé. Dumas, Grilllparzer, Balzac, Chateaubriand, Gomez de la Serna, Nerval, Richard Burton, Burckhard, Isabelle Eberhardt, Said, Trakl, Benn, Leopold Weiss, Hölderlin, Bloch, René Guenon, Lou Andreas-Salomé, Pierre Louÿs, Joseph Roth, Gautier, Lemaître, Luci Delarue-Mardrus, Proust, Schopenhauer, Pessoa, Rimbaud, Segelen, Hesse, Durrell, Govineau, Eliot, Avicenna, Ali Shariati, Khadjou, Nezami, Nima, Sepehri, Char, Heine (often), Suhrawardi, Mann (Doctor Faustus), Farugh Farrokhzad, Naim Frasheri Ebard, Ignac Goldziher, Flaubert, Sarga Moussa, Goethe (East West Divan), Hebraic love poetry of Andalusia, Masudi, Milarepa, Cervantes as the ultimate Orient-Occident melding author in Don Quixote.Music: Tristan and Isuelt, Felicien David, Ismayl Urbain, Badr Shakir, Sayyab-Iraq, Szymanowski, Wagner, etc etc. I’m not a musician and didn’t make as many notes on them. I listened to several over the internet as I read to try to see what Enard was getting at, which was a delightful side benefit of Compass.This should not be daunting but inspiring. Énard provides context for all of these references so that you know why he’s mentioning them. They give credence to Franz’s academic persona and substance to his arguments. Another irony, though, is that while Franz’s closely argued theories are persuasive and impressive, it is the quotes from Sarah’s papers and letters that show the agility and genius of a remarkable mind as it leaps to truly insightful and profound ideas about east and west, the other, death, the macabre, and so much else.I’ve only read three of the nominees for the Man Booker, but this has got to get into the very short list. It is valuable book for our times as we try to find out way toward a way to overcome our seemingly innate self-other reactions that now threaten to destroy not the other, but ourselves.Some quotes:There is no such thing as chance. (p 10, again p 30 and throughout)In the meantime, there had been Félicien David, Delacroix, Nerval, all those who visited the façade of the Orient, from Algeciras to Istanbul, or its backyard, from India to Cochin China; in the meantime, this Orient had revolutionized literature, and music, especially music: after Félicien David nothing would be the same…I’ve shown that the revolution in music in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries owed everything to the Orient, that it was not a matter of “exotic procedures,” as was thought before, this exoticism had a meaning, that it made external elements, alterity, enter, it was a large movement, and gathered together, among others, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Liszt, Berlioz, Bizet, Rimsky-Korsakov, Debussy, Bartók, Hindemith, Schönberg, Szymanowski, hundreds of composers throughout all of Europe, over all of Europe the wind of alterity blows, all these great men use what comes to them from the Other to modify the Self, to bastardize it, for genius wants bastardy, to use of external procedures to undermine the dictatorship of church chant and harmony…(p 140-141)It would include a discussion of genie lamps, flying carpets, and fabulous slippers; she could show who these objects are the result of successive shared efforts, and how what we regard as purely “oriental” is in fact, very often, the repetition of a “Western” element that itself modifies another previous “Oriental” element, and so on; she could conclude that Orient and Occident never appear separately, that they are always intermingled, present in each other, and tahat these words—Orient, Occident—have no more heuristic value than the unreachable directions they designate. (p 210)Sometimes I feel as if night has fallen, that Western darkness has invaded the Orient of enlightenment. That spirit and learning, the pleasures of the spirit and of learning, of Khayyam’s and Pessoa’s wine, have not been able to stand up to the twentieth century; I feel that the global construction of the world is no longer carried out by the exchange of love and ideas, but by violence and manufactured objects. Islamists fighting against Islam. The United States, Europe, at war against the other in the self. (p 398-399)Life is a long meditation on death.Remember the Death of Isolde, which you spoke to me about at such length? You heard in that a total love, of which Wagner himself wasn’t aware. A moment of love, of union, of unity with the Alll, unity between the Eastern enlightened ones and Western darkness, between text and music, between voice and orchestra. As for me, I hear in it the expression of compassion, karuna. Not just Eros seeking eternity. Music as the “universal expression of the suffering of the world,” said Nietzsche. This Isolde loves, at the instant of her death, so much, that she loves the entire world. Flesh allied with spirit. It’s a fragile instant. It contains the seed for its own destruction. Every work contains the seeds of its own destructions. Like us. We are equal neither to love nor to death. For that we need enlightenment, awareness…(p 442)

  • Gumble's Yard
    2018-12-26 12:13

    RE-VISITED (NOT FULLY RE-READ - SEE COMMENTS BELOW) DUE TO ITS LONGLISTING FOR THE REPUBLIC OF CONSCIOUSNESS PRIZE Fitzcarraldo Editions is an independent publisher (their words) specialising in contemporary fiction and long-form essays ….. it focuses on ambitious, imaginative and innovative writing, both in translation and in the English language . Their novels are (my words) distinctively and beautifully styled, with plain, deep blue covers and a "French-flap" style .... And that serves as something of an introduction to this novel ........ distinctive, at times beautiful styled, but also very French - a winner of the Prix Goncourt, the most prestigious French literary prize - but perhaps a novel less designed obviously appealing to non-French speaking literary tastes (it was shortlisted for but did not win the 2017 Man Booker International Prize). Ostensibly the set-up of this novel is that it is set over a single night of insomnia, as Franz Ritter (an Austrian Musicologist, suffering from an unnamed, but he believes, serious illness) thinks back on his various travels and researches in the Middle East and in particular his (at least on his side) obsessive relationship with a French academic, Sarah.In practice this book is more of a Sebald-esque meditation on the Middle East (particularly Syria, Iran and Turkey), on Orientalism, and the relationships and interactions of Westerners (archaeologists, writers, musicians, academics) with that area over the last few centuries. Sarah’s central thesis (one which explicitly rejects Edward Said’s “Orientalism”) about this relationship is that:What we regard as Oriental is in fact very often the repetition of a ‘western’ element that itself modifies another previous ‘Oriental’ element, and so on … the Orient and the Occidental never appear separately, they are always intermingled, present in each other and ..these words – Orient, Occidental - have no more heuristic value than the unreachable directions they designate.The actual conceit of the novel is very weak – Ritter’s feverish thoughts seem to allow him to reproduce details both of his own adventures and (even more unlikely) various historical episodes in encyclopaedic (and often also tedious) delay including with reproductions of articles and documents, which are sometimes excused by Ritter apparently getting up to look at them, but which at other times are unexplained. At times also the book turns effectively into a non-fictional book or perhaps more of some form of cultural essay or doctoral thesis – and, it has to be said, a poorly organised and at times tedious one. I found at times myself sympathising with Ritter’s own thoughtsWhat an atrocity to think that some people find dreaming pleasant .... It's so tiresomeAnd only wishing he would have followed through on an early resolutionI'll try to reduce my thoughts to silence, instead of abandoning myself to memoryHowever overall, I found that on a first read I was just about able to skim read the more tedious passages and instead join Ritter in abandoning myself to his memory: to the overall impressions he creates both of the cities in which he stays (Damascus, Aleppo, Palmyra, Tehran, Istanbul, Vienna); to the complexities and depths of his relationship with Sarah (an aspect which grows in strength as the book progresses and particularly as we understand the ambiguities of Sarah’s reciprocal feelings). On a second read - I realised that this is a book to be dipped into, to lose oneself in one of Franz's digressions for 15 minutes just before sleeping makes a wonderful digression ..... but trying to read it conventionally and serially is challenging (despite its conceit of it taking place over a single night). Perhaps in this way the novel mirrors a night of insomnia and fever, drifting between chains of association. The book increases in power due to its topicality – much of Ritter and Sarah’s early travels are in areas of Syria which Ritter is now aware are at the heart of the Syrian civil war and ISIS’s atrocities and this adds added urgency to the attempts to really understand the Orient. Sarah talked to me about her thesis ……. , Hedayat, Schwarzenbach, her beloved characters; about those mirrors between East and East that she wanted to break, she said by making the promenade continue. Bring to light the rhizomes of that common construction of modernity. Show that “Orientals” were not excluded from it, but that, quite the contrary, they were often the inspiration behind it, the initiators, the active participants, to show that in the end Said’s theories had become, despite themselves, one of the most subtle instruments of domination there are: the question was not whether Said was right or wrong in his vision of Orientalism; the problem was the breach, the ontological fissure his readers had allowed between a dominating West and a dominated East, a breach that by opening up a well beyond colonial studies, contributed to the realisation of the model it created, that completed a posteriori the scenario of domination which Said’s thinking meant to oppose. Whereas history could be read in an entirely different way, she said, written in an entirely different way, in sharing and continuity. She spoke at length on the postcolonial holy trinity – Said, Bhabha, Spivak; on the question of imperialism, of difference, of the 21st-century, when, facing violence, we needed more than ever to rid ourselves of the absolute otherness of Islam and to admit not only the terrifying violence of colonialism but also all that Europe owed to the Orient – the impossibility of separating from each other, the necessity of changing our perspective. We had to find, she said, beyond the stupid repentance of some or the colonial nostalgia of others, a new vision that includes the other or the self. On both sides.Overall a flawed novel but an important and, if approached in the correct way, ultimately enjoyable one.

  • Neil
    2019-01-13 15:48

    I made a start on this book several months ago when it was long listed for the Man Booker International prize. I gave up after a third of the book because I felt like I was being tortured by being force-fed Wikipedia articles.This time, I stuck with it and made it to 100%.I’m not at all sure what it is I want to say about this book, so I took the unusual (for me) step of looking at some other reviews before writing my own. There are two quotes from The Guardian that, I think, sum up my sentiments:Fascinating though the facts often are, the scores of pages of this kind of thing are mainly rendered in detailed precis: there is very little direct speech in the novel, which helps to evoke the febrile meanderings of insomniac memory but it also threatens to send the reader, if not Franz, off to merciful sleep.…and the book concludes with a surprisingly upbeat, if not sentimental, flourish. As the dawn does for our sleepless hero, this comes as a relief to the reader, who emerges from this strangely powerful work as from a feverish dream.I think one thing that helped me get to the end this time was the fact that I recently read Home Fire and Exit West from the main Man Booker long list. Compass is a sort of meditation on the interaction between East and West and it often gave me cause to think back over those two books.…she could show how these objects are the result of successive shared efforts, and how what we regard as purely ‘Oriental’ is in fact, very often, the repetition of a ‘western’ element that itself modifies another previous ‘Oriental’ element, and so on; she could conclude that Orient and Occident never appear separately, that they are always intermingled, present in each other, and that these words – Orient, Occident – have no more heuristic value than the unreachable directions they designate.This quote also highlights one of the problems I had with this book: the sentences are simply too long (this is a relatively short example) and I found it (even though I have read all of Pynchon!) rather mind-numbing.That said, I think the mind-numbing is partly deliberate. The book is the rambling thoughts of Franz Ritter through a sleepless night. He is wrestling with his thwarted love for Sarah and remembering the times they have spent together. Both of them, in different fields, are fascinated by the interaction of East and West, so his thinking about Sarah feeds his thinking about Orientalism (and vice versa).Unfortunately, I ended up in the place the narrator finds himself when considering a colleague…he would pace up and down the corridors thinking out loud in a low voice, for hours, kilometres of corridors travelled, and this monody, as knowledgeable as it was unintelligible, got on my nerves terribly.Last time I read this I abandoned it and gave it 1 star. This time, I have completed it and I am upping my rating because I can recognise the literary merit of the book. But I cannot claim to have enjoyed it, despite the odd flash of humour. So, 2 stars is as far as I can go. It’s won prizes already and may well go on to win more, but it’s not one I could support.

  • Michael Kotsarinis
    2019-01-08 17:11

    Από τα βιβλία που δεν μπορώ να αποφασίσω τι βαθμό (αν έχουν καμιά αξία αυτά) να δώσω. Εύκολα, όμως, μπορώ να καταλάβω όποιον του δώσει 1 αστεράκι και όποιον του δώσει 5 και πιο εύκολα μπορώ να καταλάβω όποιον το παρατήσει.Είναι ένα βιβλίο δύσκολο στην ανάγνωση αλλά όχι δυσνόητο. Για να διαβαστεί θέλει ρυθμό και χρόνο καθώς είναι ελάχιστα τα σημεία που προσφέρονται για διακοπή. Ο αναγνώστης κινδυνεύει να χαθεί μέσα στο δαίδαλο των ονομάτων, περιστατικών και τόπων. Αυτό γιατί ο συγγραφέας γράφει συνειρμικά θα έλεγα πιάνεται από ένα όνομα, μια λέξη και η αφήγηση παίρνει άλλες οδούς. Φυσικά, αυτό δικαιολογημένα συμβαίνει καθώς υποτίθεται ότι ακολουθούμε τις σκέψεις ενός ανθρώπου σε αϋπνία. Όμως, όσο επιμένεις, τόσο φανερώνεται η κεντρική ιστορία που χωρίς να είναι ιδιαίτερη δεν είναι και άσχημη. Παράλληλα έχεις αποκτήσει ένα σωρό γνώσεις για τον οριενταλισμό.Αυτή είναι και η ουσία θα έλεγα του βιβλίου, η ενασχόληση και η αναζήτηση των Ευρωπαίων (πιο σωστά των δυτικοευρωπαίων) για την περίφημη Ανατολή. Εμείς λόγω των ιστορικών συγκυριών έχουμε μια διαφορετική άποψη για την Ανατολή και αυτό είναι ένα από τα πράγματα που αποκόμισα από το βιβλίο. Έτσι λοιπόν από τις σελίδες παρελαύνει όλη η ιστορία και όλα τα πρόσωπα που ασχολήθηκαν με την Ανατολή άλλος πιο προσγειωμένα άλλος πιο εξιδανικευμένα. Μεγάλο βάρος πέφτει στη μουσική καθώς ο κεντρικός ήρωας είναι μουσικολόγος και αρκετά από τα μουσικά κείμενα που αναφέρει έχουν ενδιαφέρον (ανάγνωση μετά μουσικής, γιατί όχι;).Δεν μπορώ να πω συμβατικά αν μου άρεσε ή όχι. Σίγουρα με κούρασε, υπήρχαν σημεία αχρείαστα φλύαρα αλλά και σημεία πολύ μεστά, σημεία που η ιστορία έκανε κοιλιά και άλλα που σε κρατούσε σε αγωνία. Εκείνο που μπορώ να πω με βεβαιότητα είναι ότι πιάνει σε πολύ καλό βαθμό τον τρόπο σκέψης και την ατμόσφαιρα των εποχών που περιγράφει και ότι σίγουρα αποκόμισα κάποια πράγματα από αυτό.

  • Vityska
    2018-12-30 17:06

    Ніч, заповнена книгами, платівками і східними дрібничками кімната віденської квартири і ще не старий музикознавець Франц Ріттер, який, отримавши невтішний лікарський вирок, прокручує перед собою кіноплівку спогадів про своє життя. Ні, він не готовий прощатися із ним. Просто йому не спиться, ніч довга, згадати є що. А задурманена опіатами свідомість підсовує поміж реальних спогадів дивовижні видіння. І в центрі цього видива, цього плину думок і почуттів, — дві великі любові Ріттера, — Схід, музику якого він самовіддано досліджував, і Сара — науковиця, яка поділяє його велику пристристь до сходознавчих студій.«Компас» — без сумніву, роман інтелектуальний, у найбуквальнішому сенсі цього слова. Читаючи його, я мовби знову стала першокурсницею Могилянки і потрапила на лекцію до котрогось із наших культурологічних «гуру». Стан приблизно такий самий: тобі несамовито цікаво, але ти розумієш далеко не все :))) Тому не дивуйтеся, якщо, читаючи «Компас», ви відчуватимете сильне бажання гуглити — і не опирайтеся йому 🙂 (Ну, хіба що, на відміну від мене, ваше знання з орієнталізму не обмежується побіжним читання Едварда Саїда, — тоді вам буде простіше).Звісно,тут багато цікавого не лише про східну культуру і музику (хоча саме на ній спеціалізується наш оповідач, тож…). Тут можна знайти чимало і про європейських музикантів, а ще — несподівані зв’язки між Сходом і Заходом (Відень як Східна брама Європи, турецькі мотиви у творчості Моцарта, перший в європейській літературі текст арабською вяззю, надрукований у романі Бальзака тощо).Несподівано оповідач згадує і про Україну. Тут і про українську кохану того ж таки Бальзака, і про гастролі Ференца Ліста в Одесі, Києві, Чернівцях. Звісно, сам Енар не акцентує на цьому увагу, але це здалося мені добрим знаком. Ні, мене не треба переконувати в тому, що Україна віддавна вписана у культурну мапу Європи. Але приємно, що європейські інтелектуали відчувають це теж:)Що мені дуже сподобалося — так це оця університетська, дослідницька атмосфера. Спілкування молодих і не дуже вчених, які з побіжної репліки можуть згенерувати кілька ідей для наукової статті, які знаходять нестандартні теми для досліджень, які горять своєю роботою так, що готові ненароком спалити своїх опонентів 🙂Звісно, у «Компасі» йдеться не тільки про східну культуру — інакше він перетворився б на наукове дослідження чи статтю. Кохання Франца до Сари, жінки, яка подарувала йому компас, що замість півночі вказує на схід, зв’язує усі фрагменти спогадів, історій і внутрішніх монологів, надає цілісності роману — а може, і життю Франца. Вони дуже різні, як земля і повітря, — заземлений, прив’язаний до речей, до матеріальних об’єктів музикознавець, і жінка, яка повниться енергією, легко змінює міста і місця, і найважливіше, що везе із собою, — це записники, де зафіксовані її думки й ідеї. Не в останню чергу через цю різницю Ріттер і приходить до того, з чого починається роман, — до самотньої кімнати, до подорожі крізь пам’ять.Читати цю книгу я не раджу тим, кого в літературі цікавить виключно сюжет, — по-перше, його тут дуже важко зловити, по-друге, він тут не головний. Читати «Компас» я раджу тим, хто вміє насолоджуватися текстами, хто шукає нових читацьких досвідів і хто любить завантажувати мозок роботою)) Дуже багато цікавої інформації, несподіваних (як на профанів у сходознавстві 😉 інсайтів і просто смачної їжі для «сірої речовини» гарантовано.Ніч, міцний солодкий чорний чай з помаранчами, тепле світло і оповідь, що огортає тебе, як барвистий перський килим, і несе у далекі краї… «Компас»- це трохи як казки Шехерезади для інтелектуалів, а трохи — як довга тужлива східна мелодія, яку не можеш перестати слухати, хоч і хотів би.

  • Anya
    2019-01-07 12:54

    “Boussole” had been one of my top reads last year, and (in my opinion), a very deserving Prix Goncourt winner. I was thus happy to plunge into this dense and atmospheric novel a second time, as part of the 2017 Man Booker International challenge.I can happily say that “Boussole” certainly holds up to a second reading. The book is about Franz, a middle-aged Austrian musicologist, who is having a sleepless night. He spends what should be his sleeping hours revisiting memories of his past travels and reflections on the Orient; memories that centre around the unrequited love of his life, a brilliant academic by the name of Sarah.And so, over the course of the night, we follow Franz from country to country (e.g., Austria, Iran, Syria), from memory to memory, from love story to love story… The book is ultimately part travelogue, love story and essay on Oriental historical, political, literary and musical trends. It respectfully renders homage to the East and strives to underline, throughout the entire narrative, the interconnectedness of East and West, and how both worlds have always nourished and exchanged with one another.“Boussole” is a dense, atmospheric novel that utterly impresses the reader, given the breadth of knowledge and erudition contained within. I was particularly captivated by the ‘love story’ told by Sarah’s thesis supervisor in Iran, and by the ‘night under the stars’ in Palmyra.This is not a fast read, but a novel that you will want to savour slowly, while listening and viewing -in the background-some of the referenced music, historical sites and paintings. It is a wonderful success of a novel that I would wholeheartedly recommend to any one interested in learning more about the Orient.

  • Fernando Jimenez
    2019-01-07 11:53

    'Brújula' es el exhaustivo relato de 'Las mil y una noches' en solo una; la enciclopedia del orientalismo europeo en forma de corriente de pensamiento; la constatación de que lo que nos separa del Otro es justo a lo que nos une a los europeos: una visión del extranjero, del bárbaro, del turco o el persa basada más en la erudición que en los prejuicios; un paseo por los límites de esa tensión (Viena, Estambul) que luego se extienden a casi todo el planeta (París, Alepo, Teherán). 'Brújula' es una novela exigente y fascinante que encierra un ensayo apabullante que padece un delirio pero que permanece más allá del amanecer de esa noche febril.

  • Winnielou
    2018-12-27 13:46

    Une thèse vaguement déguisée en roman. Alors que ça commençait plutôt bien, soudain le texte devient un prétexte à une longue thèse sur l'orientalisme et les rapports entre Orient et Occident. Comme toute thèse qui se respecte, le narrateur cite ses sources et de temps en temps entre deux citations érudites, une intrigue narrative essaye de se développer. Elle n'est pas vraiment développé et personnellement au bout de 100 pages je me fichais complètement de la vie de ce narrateur insomniaque.Quelques passages de temps en temps sont intéressants (au niveau de l'intrigue et/ou du style) mais c'est vraiment trop peu.

  • Alain
    2019-01-09 10:07

    Commencé en septembre, terminé en janvier. 4 mois pour le lire , l'abandonner, le reprendre. une ou deux dizaines de pages à chaque fois, jamais plus sous peine d'indigestion. C'est d'une érudition étonnante, effrayante même, a la fois passionnante et immotivée. Le souvenir qui me vient de sa lecture est une dose d'ennui qui se dégusterait avec plaisir, comme un thé un dimanche après midi pluvieux.Et l'ensemble de l'objet littéraire (difficile de parler de roman),- en fait le souvenir d'un amour inabouti , "ratage" qui fait toute la richesse des personnages et de leurs histoires, - est empreint d'un humanité émouvante.

  • Yuliya Yurchuk
    2018-12-29 09:46

    Мені сподобавлося все: переклад, тема Сходу, тусовка академіків, Європа, Відень. Сирія тут постає не з новин, я зовсім інакше - країна, яку люблять, в якій люблять, яку вивчають, якою захоплюються. Хороша книжка, одним словом.

  • Jim Coughenour
    2019-01-03 09:52

    A superb book, perfect for insomniacs – being one long night's reverie by an ailing Austrian musicologist Orientalist who cannot sleep. It is a slow read, it will doubtless appeal only to a few, but what a fortunate few we are. On one level the novel is a spirited, comical refutation of Said's Orientalism (much of which I would have missed without the work of Robert Irwin); on another, it is a fantasia on Orientalist themes, infusing the spleen of Thomas Bernhard and the musing melancholy of W G Sebald with the magic of Proust, Pessoa, The Arabian Nights, Annemarie Schwarzenbach, Omar Khayyam, Sadegh Hedayat, Hafez… but this is only a beginning, the list multiplies, the echoes reverberate throughout the night. There are bibliographic and musicological pleasures at every turn.On a more topical level it is the anti-Submission. In the deepest roots of our cultures, the Middle East and the West interpenetrate, we are each other's dreams and fantasies. The narrator is acutely aware of the horrors currently unfolding in Syria; his distress is mingled with memories of time spent in Aleppo, Damascus, Tehran. Nothing is glossed over, but one is most aware of his love for Arabic, Turkish, Persian art, music, poetry. His meditations are riddled with the scholars and artists who crossed back and forth among the cultures.Nietzsche the Persian, Nietzsche the reader of the Avesta, last or first Zoroastrian of Europe, blinded by the light of the fire of Ahura Mazda the Great Brightness. Always these paths keep crossing and re crossing: Nietzsche in love with Lou-Andreas Salomé, that same Lou who would marry an Orientalist, Friedrich Carl Andreas, specialist in Iranian languages, who almost stabbed himself to death, since she refused him her body and made him mad with desire; Nietzsche met Annemarie Schwartzenbach in Sils-Maria, where the Schwartzenbachs owned a sumptuous chalet; Annemarie Schwartzenbach met the ghost of Nietzsche in Tehran, where she stayed several times; Annemarie Schwartzenbach met Thomas Mann and Bruno Walter through Erika and Klaus Mann, to whom she sent those distraught letters from Syria and Iran. Annemarie Schwartzenbach met Arthur de Gobineau without realizing it in the Lahr Valley, a few dozen kilometers north of Tehran. The compass is still pointing east.Or, to pluck one of my favorite sentences from the middle of the book: "Without the Orient (that dream in Arabic, Persian, and Turkish, stateless, which we call the Orient) no Proust, no In Search of Lost Time." Dyspeptic, melancholy, defeated: this is a marvelous book.

  • Jim Elkins
    2018-12-28 16:01

    Sebald's Pernicious InfluenceOne of the challenging properties of painting is that influences are immediately visible: there's no hiding indebtedness from Pollock, Richter, or Schiele. Novels are complex in time and structure, and influences can be masked by masses of detail. "Compass" is at first intermittently, then forgivably, but finally overwhelmingly and depressingly indebted to W.G. Sebald. Enard has Sebald's penchant for travel in Europe, and he loves weaving histories of places and people together. He has Sebald's sweet melancholy, and Sebald's nostalgia mixed with pain.But there is a signal difference: Enard is insufferable. He is a snob in two specific senses: he wants to enlighten his readers, and he wants them to know how much he knows. On pp. 109-11, Enard's narrator, Ritter, tells us how Beethoven gave the premiere of his own Moonlight Sonata, Op. 27 no. 2 at a time when he was starting to go deaf; it has been recorded that his piano was out of tune, and he didn't realize it. A woman he loved was in the audience. Enard wants to say that the concert always reminds him of the "shame and embarrassment of all declarations of love that fall flat." It's a nice illustration, potentially, but to get to that point Enard needs to tell us who was present at the concert: Antoine and Therese Apponyi, the hosts, later friends, Enard notes, with Liszt, Lamartine, "the scandalous" George Sand, Balzac, Hugo, Metternich, Talleyrand (and that leads him to mention Napoleon, Goethe, Hafez, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Louis XVIII, Louis-Philippe, and Chateaubriand), the orientalist Joseph Hammer-Purgstall (not yet von Hammer-Purgstall), Chopin, Rueckert, and Mowlana Jalal ad-Din Rumi.This doesn't add atmosphere or content, really, and it doesn't help Enard make his point about embarrassed love. It is name-dropping. More often, Enard doesn't name-drop: he really does love all his 19th century historical figures, but unfortunately his love leads him to want his readers to know as much as possible. And for me, that recurring pedagogic impulse makes the book unbearable. I often thought that his ideal reader was a combination of a young, curious European academic, avid reader, or book reviewer, eager to learn more about Europe's relation to the Orient, and Sebald himself, whom I imagine Enard wanting to correct -- I picture Enard becoming annoyed at Sebald's persistent bias toward western and central Europe, and his obliviousness about eastern Europe, the Balkans, or the Middle East. My copy of "Compass" has many pages marked "lecturing Sebald."A sign that Enard's real interest is educating ideal readers of both types is the thinness of the novel's framing devices. The narrator is in love, and stories about his fellow scholar Sarah are threaded through the book. He is also ill with an unspecified disease, and he keeps thinking of that as well. But neither of those become much more than devices. The mentions of his disease are especially unconvincing because they come up so often, and to so little effect. Clearly Enard considered them useful strategies to keep the narrative afloat -- they are excuses and frames for the hundreds of historical, political, musical, literary, and linguistic stories he wants to tell.All this becomes especially difficult to tolerate when his two ideal readers (the educable and somewhat star-struck younger reader or newspaper book reviewer, and Sebald himself) cannot be combined in a general mode of address -- when it becomes clear that he wants to say one sort of thing to Sebald (and other older, more knowledgeable readers) and another to reviewers (and other younger and less well-informed readers).An example from early on in the book: on p. 29, he is thinking about Mahler's "Kindertotenlieder." First he feels he needs to tell us the title in English (French in the original):"...and now I have Mahler and his 'Kindertotenlieder' in my head, songs for dead children..."and then he needs to tell us about Mahler's daughter:"...composed by a man who held his own dead daughter in his arms in Maiernigg in Carinthia three years after composing them..."This is potted, or condensed, history: and who, exactly, is it for? If a reader knows Mahler, she knows the Kindertotenlieder, and if she knows them, she knows they are for dead children. I guess that almost everyone who knows Mahler knows his daughter died, even if only a few would know about Maiernigg, or that it's in Carinthia (the latter is important elsewhere in "Compass"). So on the one hand there's an imaginary reader who knows Mahler, and doesn't need to have this all rehearsed; on the other there's a reader who doesn't know Mahler, for whom this is a somewhat startling but essentially inexpressive or opaque passage. The former is "Sebald," and the latter is the younger reader I've been imagining. Somewhere in between is their composite: a reader who knows something about Mahler, so that the mention of "Kindertotenlieder" strikes a chord, and yet somehow doesn't know about Mahler's daughter, or hasn't thought about how the "horrible dimension" of the songs "wouldn't be understood until long after" Mahler's death in 1911.Contrast this uneasy sense of a reader with the end of the same paragraph:"...these 'Kindertotenlieder' are set to poems by Rueckert, the first great German Orientalist poet along with Goethe..." (p. 30)I imagine not many people who know Mahler will know this, or appreciate the song cycle's place in the history of Orientalism: but in that case this sentence strikes a clearly pedantic tone. It's instructional, and now the reader knows better than before.Enard can't stop himself from dropping hints that he knows a lot about these subjects. He does it through his narrator, Ritter, but those passages come across clearly as claims about his own knowledge. (I have been taken to task for mistaking Ritter for Enard: but the structure of the text permits the inference of an implied author, because the rhetorical position of the narrator when he tells us how much he knows is different from the rhetorical position accorded to the narrator when he tosses and turns in his bed.) Enard, then, has Ritter muse about just how much knowledge he has of the performance history of Beethoven, for example, and the entire of "Compass" is scattered with ideas for books Ritter (which is to say, Enard) might write. Farther down on p. 30, Ritter muses that "as a teenager" "Kindertotenlieder" "was the only piece by Mahler I could bear": a thought that also serves to remind us that it's not just the narrator who knows his Mahler backwards and forwards.I don't mean to imply that these problems of tone and address could be easily solved. Many reviewers loved this book; of the reviews I have read only Stephen Poole in the "Guardian" has some of the reservations I have. (He wishes Enard was "less determined to demonstrate the pleasures of erudition.") I found material that I can use when I teach Orientalism and its critiques in my own classes. The problem is not in the stories themselves, it's their uneasy imbrication into a novel. Enard wants to tell these stories, and it is not easy to know how to set them up, how to make them seem to be naturally lodged in Ritter's stream of consciousness, how to avoid interpolating explanations that Ritter would never bother to give himself. And yet that is exactly what Sebald manages to do, and that's why I think of Enard as a pedagogue, if not a snob, in a way Sebald never is.I have two more complaints.First regarding Enard's range of historical reference. His narrator is fascinated by the 19th century, which is the author's prerogative. But to the extent that Ritter speaks for Enard, it is unfortunate that his interest drops off so rapidly when it comes to art, music, architecture, and literature of the last hundred years. Ritter's mind is at home with Liszt, Chopin, and Beethoven, and although he mentions Part, Schoenberg, and others, they really aren't part of his imagination. Enard, the implied author, is old fashioned. He studies Orientalism, and he offers some correctives not only to the Occidentalism of Sebald, but to the prejudices and limitations of academic Orientalists. But he himself is embedded in the 19th century: an especially dire condition given that the debates about Orientalism that enable Enard's discontents are themselves late 20th century developments, and they go with a very different culture. Intellectually, Enard offers critiques of Eurocentrism that were initially enabled by Edward Said and developed in the very large literature following his work; but culturally and emotionally, Enard's world is the exact one that perpetrated all the Orientalist prejudices and projections that even the first wave of Orientalist scholarship in the 1970s clearly rejected.Second, and last, regarding the images. Because I am making a special study of novels with images, I was intrigued to see photographs scattered through the text. But they are also disappointing. The first two are exactly apposite to the book's themes: they are pictures of open two-page spreads from Balzac's "La Peau de chagrin." The first edition has Arabic on the page, a first, as Enard says, in European literature (although I wonder about Renaissance texts: doesn't the Hypnerotomachia poliphili have Arabic?). The second omits the Arabic script. The two images fit the book's themes: they're texts, they're 19th, they're literary, they have to do with translation, and they are framed, in the novel, by a text within the text. But it's a squandered opportunity. I waited another 12 pages for the next images, and during those pages I was wondering: how did those images get into the text? Did Ritter supposedly have a copy machine? A camera? I was taken out of the narrative as I began to wonder about why Enard didn't think a reader might wonder about such things. And then, 12 pages later, on p. 102, Enard has Ritter introduce the third image with a deictic gesture that might well have made Sebald laugh: "Oh look," he writes, "in this article Sarah reproduces the engraving..." and viola, there's the engraving on the next page.

  • ReemK10 (Paper Pills)
    2018-12-31 09:09

    My first thought before deciding to read Compass was, would this be a betrayal?“Sarah had mentioned the Great Name, the wolf had appeared in the midst of the flock, in the freezing desert: Edward Said. It was like invoking the Devil in a Carmelite convent.” Would Mathias Enard's Compass be an attempt to appropriate or redefine Edward Said's Orientalism?“The Orient and Islam have a kind of extrareal, phenomenologically reduced status that puts them out of reach of everyone except the Western expert. From the beginning of Western speculation about the Orient, the one thing the orient could not do was to represent itself. Evidence of the Orient was credible only after it had passed through and been made firm by the refining fire of the Orientalist’s work.” ― Edward Said, OrientalismWould I need to put my guard up? Would this be more of the negative stereotyping we of the Orient come to expect from the Orientalists?I had read some really good reviews from people that I follow, and I was curious! Still, I hesitated. Then after a chance encounter with the translator Charlotte Mandell, I knew that I wouldn't resist anymore. I was intrigued! I ordered the book.It arrived with this beautiful cover by Peter Mendelsund whom I had to look up. Check out here: http://thoughts.petermendelsund.com/At first, I came across the spelling of the Quran as the Koran. I didn't care for it. For me, this is a spelling I tend to equate with Islamophobes. The preferred spelling is Quran or Qur'an. I reached out to Charlotte Mandell asking her about this particular choice in spelling, and we both agreed that it would be what the narrator Franz Ritter would be more likely to use. I could accept that.I put my guard down. I found myself deeply engaged with the text. Mathias Enard, a professor Of Arabic at the University of Barcelona had clearly shared his scholarship with us. I found myself learning so much! "The Orient is an imagined construction, an ensemble of representations from which everyone picks what they like, wherever they are."It's we Westerners, We Roumis, as the Muslims call us, Christians, who have a sense of the Orient.""Orientalism as lament, as a forever disappointing exploration. In fact, the Roumis appropriated this landscape of dream, it's they who now, long after the classical Arabic storytellers, exploit it and travel through it, so that all their journeys are a confrontation with this dream. There's even a fertile current that is built on this dream, without needing to travel, whose most famous representative is surely Marcel Proust and his In Search of Lost Time, the symbolic heart of the European novel. Proust makes the Thousand and One Nights one of his models- the book of night, the book of struggle against death. " I found Compass to be fascinating! There was Balzac, the First French novelist to include a text in Arabic in one of his novels. There was also the first Austrian Orientalist, Joseph von Hammer- Purgstall who translated the 1001 Nights and Hafez's Divan. I wanted to go see the Schloss Schonnbrunn Palace that has Allah on its frontispiece. I discovered The Chorus of the Dervishes that mentions the Prophet and the Kaaba that is never performed these daysIn the folds of your sleevesyou have carried the moonand shattered it.Kaabah Muhammad!You mounted the radiant Borakand,flew up to the seventh heaven,great Prophet! Kaabah!And the Barron Hotel in Aleppo where Agatha Christie wrote the first part of Murder on the Orient Express. She was in room 203.Lady Hestor Stanhope! What a character! She is said to have inspired Picasso. Joyce mentions her in Ulysses as Molly Bloom's girlfriend.Marga D' Andurain who found herself a passport husband so she could go see Mecca. It was later thought that she might have poisoned him.You have Chateaubriand with his travel literature, an itinerary from Paris to Jerusalem.Saadi writes, " Don't trust the stories of the travelers. They see nothing. They think they see, but they only observe reflections. We are prisoners of images of representations."Layla and Majnun compared to Romeo and Juliet predates Shakespeare by 1000 years."Desire for the Orient is also a carnal desire, a physical domination, an erasing of the other in pleasure. We know nothing of Kuchuk Hanim, that dancer-prostitute of the Nile, aside from her erotic power and the name of the dance she performed, "The Bee".And oh so much more! I could go on and on. Do read Compass!

  • Robert Wechsler
    2018-12-30 14:46

    For what it is, this long novel is very good. What I realized from reading nearly half of it was that a novel such as this — not so much a novel of ideas as a novel that details people and activities involved in an idea — has to be extremely good to keep my interest. Something else is needed to make such a novel work for me. I found myself increasingly hungry for that something else, and when it was clear that it wasn’t coming, I moved on to another book.

  • Jan Arimany
    2019-01-03 14:01

    Es la primera vez que leo un Goncourt, y la verdad es que la experiencia no ha sido positiva. De hecho, solo he llegado hasta la mitad, y porque es lo que me autoimpongo leer antes de abandonar una lectura. Es una novela sin dirección, densa, con un narrador pedante y aburrido, lleno de datos sueltos, que no aportan nada y lejos de ser interesantes. Lo siento pero Enard y yo no estamos hechos el uno para el otro.

  • Leah Bayer
    2019-01-13 13:11

    This is a book I was not expecting to love so much. I have seen it described as difficult, erudite, surreal, and dense. I suppose it is all of those things, but I fell utterly in love. This is not a casual reading experience. In some ways, calling it dense is an understatement. Compass is one night in the mind of a dying man who is reminiscing about his past. He is an Orientalist, as are all of his friends and colleagues. While there is a kind of over-arching plot focusing on Sarah, a girl he loves but never quite found the right moment to be with, most of his thoughts are reminiscing about Orientalism. There is a lot of discussion about Orient vs Occident, what makes something seem exotic, the line between the two both geographically and metaphorically. There are dozens and dozens of anecdotes about the history of Orientalism. If any of this sounds boring to you, turn back now. But if it's a concept you are interested in, be prepared to learn more than you ever thought you would.The amazing thing about Compass is that you can have no background knowledge of the subject matter and not feel lost. Enard guides us gently along the stories and anecdotes, and while I'm sure I missed well over 75% of the references I never felt confused or overwhelmed. I found the history described here fascinating, as it's an area I never really knew much about. The history of Europe and the Middle East is a lot more complex (and entertaining) than I originally thought. Did you know the first mosque in Germany was built in a POW camp during WWI? Just one of the many forgotten parts of history Compass covers.I found basically everything about this book magical. The whole new world of knowledge opening before me, the lyrical and smooth writing, the tangled history of our protagonist. I feel like you could read this a dozen times and come away with something new. I stretched this book out over as many days as possible because I really didn't want it to end. Perhaps my second-favorite of the MBI longlist, and a keen example of why I love literary prizes: had this not been shortlisted, there is no way I would have read it. And what a mistake that would have been.

  • Vanni Santoni
    2018-12-19 14:01

    Il flussone Énardiano, testato in Zona con un agente segreto sotto speed in un treno verso Roma, trova un passo più lento – ma anche più avvolgente – con un orientalista oppiofilo (e un bel po' sfigato con le donne). In ogni caso uno dei migliori romanzi dell'anno e una prova di impressionante maturità.

  • Tonymess
    2019-01-12 15:48

    This complex, but thoroughly engaging work, is a journey into the seduction of the Orient; “The Orient is an imaginal construction, an ensemble of representations from which everyone picks what they like, wherever they are.” A novel that contains stories within stories, as Franz reads old emails, research papers, dwells on moments of joy, sadness. The historical lessons, for example the revolution in Tehran, containing the players the Shah of Iran and the Ayatollah Khomeini, abound. The present-day war in Syria not far from the surface and referenced a number of times."We remained travellers, closed in the self, capable, possibly, of transforming ourselves in contact with alterity, but certainly not of experiencing it profoundly. We are spies, we make the rapid, furtive contact of spies." (p 233)Whilst thoroughly engaging throughout, this is not a book that can be easily reviewed, a mere reader like myself, falling deep in the shadows of Enard’s greatness and knowledge. One suggestion I do have, is to play the musical works referenced by the musicologist Franz Ritter as you are reading, publisher Fitzcarraldo Editions have put together a playlist at their blog personally I simply searched each work as it was referenced and hit “play” (the joys of modern technology!) A novel that is very much of our times (although a retrospective journey of memory);"It’s strange to think that today in Europe one so easily places the label “Muslim’ on anyone who has a last name that’s Arabic or Turkish. The violence of imposed identities." (p 327)The acknowledgements at the conclusion of the book, including “To the Syrian people”.This night of insomnia, this search for the turning points in his life, the search for Orientalism becomes “A mystical search without any god or transcendence other than the depths of the self…” (p445). Very much like the referenced Proust this journey of Franz Ritter’s is one that will linger for a very long time, a love story, with a person, with a region, with a country, with a culture, this is a deep and significant contribution to literature in translation.For my full review go to https://messybooker.wordpress.com/201...

  • Melissa
    2018-12-30 15:56

    Compass takes place over the course of one, long night during which Franz Ritter, a Viennese musicologist, suffers from a terrible bout of insomnia. The symptoms from his recently diagnosed illness, the memories of an unrequited love, and the dissatisfaction at his mediocre academic career all contribute to his sleepless night. Instead of chapters, Énard uses time stamps to denote the hours that are slowly ticking away as Franz runs through years of memories. Sarah, a French Academic with whom Franz has spent many years in love, sends him an article she has written from Sarawak, in Malaysia, which is her current place of residence. It is unclear at the beginning what Franz and Sarah mean or have meant to each other, but Franz slowly unravels their complicated history throughout the course of his sleepless night.As an academic musicologist, Franz has had a deep interest in the music of the Middle East, which studies have brought him into close contact with many orientalists, including Sarah. Compass is a travelogue, an historical essay, a literary catalog and a music lesson on the Orient. Franz takes us on his travels from Istanbul, to Palmyra, to Damascus, to Aleppo and to Tehran as he explores eastern music and his growing, emotional attachment to Sarah. The Orient becomes just as beautiful, enchanting and elusive as his love for Sarah. When Franz and Sarah are suddenly forced to end their travels together in Tehran, Franz nurses his wounds by going back home and retreating into himself and his academic career. Sarah consoles herself by wandering father east where she ends up spending quite a bit of time in a Buddhist monastery. But the objects in his apartment are a constant reminder of his travels with her in the east:My glasses were under a pile of books and journals, obviously, I’m so absentminded. At the same time, to contemplate the ruins of my bedroom (ruins of Istanbul, ruins of Damascus, ruins of Tehran, ruins of myself) I don’t need to see them, I know all these objects by hear. The faded photographs and yellowing Orientalist engravings. The poetic works of Pessoa on a sculpted wooden book stand meant to house the Koran. My tarboosh from Istanbul, my heavy wood indoor coat from the souk in Damascus, my lute from Aleppo bought with Nadim.The disjointed and rambling narrative structure is fitting for a man whose mind cannot rest over the course of a sleepless night. He jumps from one topic to the next: his illness, musicology, literature, archaeology and, of course, Sarah. Some might find this stream-of-consciousness style frustrating but a more straightforward narrative would not have been as fitting or appropriate for Franz’s state-of-mind and circumstances. One common thread that runs through his thoughts are the connections between East and West. He has a joke compass that points east which is fitting for Franz since his thoughts are always pulled in that direction. He discusses travelers, writers, musicians, academics and archaeologists who were fascinated by Orientalist travels and study. One of my favorite examples Franz brings up is the Swiss author, journalist, traveler, and even occasional archaeologists, Annmarie Schwarzenbach whose wanderlust brings her to different parts of the East. Schwarzenbach flees the turmoil brewing in Europe in 1933-34 and travels to Syrian and the desert, where Franz and Sarah follow in the footsteps of this interesting woman’s Eastern journey.More than any other book I have ever read, Compass made me want to travel to the Middle East, to the desert and to the ancient ruins of the Orient; but the narrative also made me sad that such a journey isn’t feasible nowadays. The Baron Hotel that Franz and Sarah stay at in Aleppo, and probably the entire neighborhood, has been reduced to a pile of rubble. The descriptions of his travels in Palmyra were particularly striking to me. Franz and Sarah, with a few other travel companions, sleep among the ruins of an ancient fort in Palmyra: “A night when the sky was so pure and the stars so numerous that they came down all the way to the ground, lower than you could see, in the summer, when the sea is calm and dark as the Syrian badiya.”Finally, I have never read a book that has caused me to buy so many other books based on the literary observations contained within. My “to-read” stacks have grown by leaps and bounds this past week as I made my way through Compass. The amount of research that must have gone into the writing of this erudite book is astonishing. Descriptions of Pessoa, Magris, Schwarzenbach and Hedayat to name a few, have caused me to add all of these authors to my always-growing library. Some of the writers Enard mentions are so esoteric that I was disappointed not to find them in English translation—the surrealist French poet Germain Nouveau, for example. It is truly a great thing when one piece of literature gives one such a full list of further reading. One could form an interesting book club to go through the volumes mentioned in Compass and spend many months exploring and discussing Franz’s syllabus.For more of my reviews visit www.thebookbindersdaughter.com

  • Κατερίνα Τσαγκαράκη
    2018-12-25 15:44

    Ένα παράθυρο στον κόσμο της ανατολής πλημμυρισμένο από ενδιαφέρουσες πληροφορίες για τη λογοτεχνία, τη μουσική και τη συνεχή επιρροή των πολιτισμών ανατολής και δύσης μεταξύ τους.

  • Sotiris Karaiskos
    2018-12-30 12:49

    Άλλο ένα βιβλίο που το έπιασα με αφορμή το βραβείο Booker. Το κύριο χαρακτηριστικό του και το μεγάλο προσόν του είναι ότι μεταδίδει ένα πλήθος πληροφοριών πάνω στην ιστορία της μουσικής, της λογοτεχνίας αλλά και στις σχέσεις της ανατολής με τη δύση. Το πρόβλημα είναι ότι ως μυθιστόρημα δεν μπόρεσε να μου μεταδώσει τίποτα ιδιαίτερο. Μπορώ να πω ότι αν ήταν ένα non fiction βιβλίο που να αναφέρονταν σε αυτά τα θέματα με τον πολύ ωραίο χαοτικό τρόπο που το κάνει θα το χαρακτήριζα εξαιρετικό, επειδή όμως πρόκειται για ένα λογοτεχνικό έργο θα ήθελα και κάτι περισσότερο που αν κρίνω από κάποια σημεία όπου πραγματικά διάβαζα ένα μυθιστόρημα ο συγγραφέας μπορεί να το δώσει.

  • Carlos Azevedo
    2019-01-14 08:43

    Sinto-me afogado em erudição, é uma espécie de tese de doutoramento com um romance de amor embutido, nem sempre a escrita flui como gostaria, mas fica o mais importante: o Oriente e o Ocidente são abstracções que não ajudaram nada a humanidade e confirmam que a barbárie é a regra.Os chamados orientalistas são uma raça de gente que partiu (e parte) para o Médio-Oriente à espera de dissolver essa antítese, romanticamente e com muito ópio.Paris, Viena (a "fronteira"), Istambul, Teerão, Damasco, Alepo.Suspeito que se o José Rodrigues dos Santos lê este livro nunca mais volta a escrever. Haja fé.Ide ler com calma, não vos arrependereis, canibais.

  • Pauline
    2018-12-21 13:06

    Ce n'est pas un roman mais la thèse d'un érudit ! On apprend beaucoup de choses sur l'orient et notamment sur l'Iran et la Syrie mais rien n'est construit ça part dans tous les sens c'est un chantier absolument pas structuré et même si l'auteur est un puit de culture et de science ça devient vite fatiguant...