Compass

Publisher: New Directions
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, unrequited 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. 

PRAISE FOR

"Compass is poetic, ironic, irresistible." — Jane Ciabattari (BBC)

Promises to [...] singularly overwhelm. — John Madera (Big Other)

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 (Complete Reviews)

"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 (EuropeNow)

"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)

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

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

[A]s 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)

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 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)

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)

A narrative of infinite detail and esoteric knowledge blurs the boundaries between traditional genres, with fiction shading into nonfiction, poetry bleeding into history. — New York Times

A narrative of infinite detail and esoteric knowledge blurs the boundaries between traditional genres, with fiction shading into nonfiction, poetry bleeding into history. — New York Times

Mathias Énard is the most brazen French writer since Houellebecq. — New Statesman

Mathias Énard is the most brazen French writer since Houellebecq. — New Statesman

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)