Where Tigers Are at Home

Jean-Marie Blas De Roblaes, Author, Mike Mitchell, Translator
ean-Marie blas de Roblès, trans. from the French by Mike Mitchell. Other Press, $32.50 (832p) ISBN 978-1-59051-562-4
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Writing in French a story set in Brazil, Blas de Roblès simultaneously channels Umberto Eco, Indiana Jones, and Jorge Amado in his internationally acclaimed 800-plus–page riff on science, civilization, and self-interest. Fact and fiction interweave through alternating narratives: a French journalist attempts to translate a 17th-century manuscript recording the life of real-life Jesuit scholar Anathasius Kircher as seen through the eyes of his private secretary; the journalist’s ex-wife searches for rare fossils in the Amazon rain forest; the journalist’s daughter seeks oblivion in drugs and sex; Nelson, a 10-year-old crippled beggar, exists among the dregs of society; Carlotta, wife of a corrupt politician, entertains the elite. The novel opens with journalist Eléazard von Wogau reading about Kircher’s wide-ranging academic studies and acquaintances with figures like Bernini, Galileo, and Sweden’s Queen Christina. But what begins as a faux metabiography turns to picaresque adventure with erotic escapades, scams, and unexpected changes of fortune: Elaine von Wogau’s geological expedition is attacked in the jungle and must seek refuge among headhunters, while her daughter, Moéma, spirals downward into addiction. From a foul-mouthed macaw to Leonardo’s flying machine, this sprawling novel depicts “the absurdity beneath which the criminal stupidity of men generally hides.” (Mar)
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