Adrian Nathan West

Eastern Approaches



Fitzcarraldo Editions 475pp £14.99 order from our bookshop

Throughout his now-ample body of work, Mathias Enard has portrayed travel – on a ferry in Street of Thieves, on a train in Zone and the still-untranslated L’alcool et la nostalgie – as a goad to thought and reflection. In Compass, his most far-reaching and accomplished book and one of the finest European novels in recent memory, the method of conveyance is the mind: dreams woven by opium, wistful visions rendered up by insomnia. In Confessions of an English Opium Eater, which Compass readily evokes, Thomas De Quincey writes, ‘I feel assured that there is no such thing as forgetting possible to the mind.’ Franz Ritter, the narrator of Compass, would probably concur. During a single night spent fretting about his unnamed but possibly fatal illness and cursing the barking of his neighbour’s dog, he offers up, in the midst of musings over Sarah, the object of his barely requited love, an encyclopaedic survey of the intersections between oriental and occidental high culture, together with long excerpts from his imagined masterpiece, entitled On the Divers Forms of Lunacie in the Orient.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • From the Archive: Martyn Bedford on Ian McEwan's 'Atonement' ,
    • In 'Silenced Voices' reports the ongoing story of the human rights lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, who has been… ,
    • The mystery of Jack the Ripper's identity has long been agonised over. But what do we know about his victims?… ,
    • A piece of Literary Review history from way back in 1983: John Haffenden talks to the great Iris Murdoch. ,
    • Britain’s only travelling lit fest, the Garden Museum Literary Festival is heading to Houghton Hall, Norfolk, for a… ,
    • 'The 19th-century German sage is not my idea of a pleasant travel companion' goes hiking with Friedr… ,
    • If you want ideas about what to read next, sign up to our free email newsletter, and get book reviews, archive mate… ,