Un viajero enigmático. Una ciudad en forma de laberinto de la que parece imposible salir. Cuando el viajero está a punto de marcharse, un insólito personaje lo detiene, cambiando para siempre su destino. Lo demás será amor y literatura: un amor memorable, que agitará por igual camas y libros; y un mundo imaginario que condensará, a pequeña escala, los conflictos de la Europa moderna.And now, in better English than the one found in Amazon's Product Description:
El viajero del siglo propone un ambicioso experimento literario: leer el siglo XIX con la mirada del XXI. Un diálogo entre la gran novela clásica y las narrativas de vanguardia. Un puente entre la historia y los debates de nuestro presente global: la extranjería, el multiculturalismo y los nacionalismos, la emancipación de la mujer.
Andrés Neuman despliega un mosaico cultural al servicio de un intenso argumento, pleno de intrigas, humor y personajes emocionantes, con un estilo rompedor que ofrece a estas cuestiones un sorprendente cauce.
From this blurb and the first 40 pages that I read tonight, this is shaping up to be another winner for the Premio Alfaguara. I have read all 13 of the books awarded this prize since 1998 and each and every one of them were memorable in their own ways. Also, quite a few of the winning novels share traits with English-language speculative fiction; those who can understand the blurb above will note a few of those on display there.
An enigmatic traveler. A city in the form of a labyrinth from which it seems impossible to depart. When the traveler is about to leave, an unusual person detains him, changing forever his destiny. What follows after will be love and literature: a memorable love, which will shake equally both beds and books; and an imaginary world which will condense, in small scale, the conflicts of modern Europe.
El viajero del siglo proposes an ambitious literary experiment: to read the 19th century with the eyes of the 21st. A dialogue between the classic great novel and avant-garde narratives. A bridge between history and the debates of our global present: foreignness, multiculturalism and the [various] nationalisms, women's liberation.
András Neuman displays a cultural mosaic in service to an intense argument, full of intrigue, humor, and emotional characters, with a groundbreaking style which offers to these questions a surprising course.
I have something I want to say about "literary fiction" and "speculative fiction" in the very near future, so I'll hold off on that for now. Just note that stories like these, if they were to be translated into the languages of more readers, might just give some new reading options to quite a few.
Oh, almost forgot - there was this one author blurb, about Neuman himself:
"Tocado por la gracia. La literatura del siglo XXI pertenecerá a Neuman y a unos pocos de sus hermanos de sangre."
("Touched by grace. The literature of the 21st century will belong to Neuman and to a few of his blood brothers.")
Who said it? Only Roberto Bolaño just before he died. And to think Neuman was born in 1977, making him 3 years younger than I am. Sobering thought that he earned such praise from Bolaño when he was in his 20s.