Énard’s prose, which tends to pile descriptive clauses ever higher on top of one another…can be mesmerizing. But it’s the larger project of his writing that bears particular consideration: in his fiction, Énard is constructing an intricate, history-rich vision of a persistently misunderstood part of the world.

The New Yorker

Winner of the Prix Goncourt and shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize, Compass is an astounding novel that bridges Europe and the Islamic world


Fiction by Mathias Énard

Translated from French by Charlotte Mandell

With a contribution by Mathias Énard

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.

Winner of the Prix Goncourt (France), the Leipzig Prize (Germany), Premio Von Rezzori (Italy), shortlisted for the 2017 International Man Booker Prize, winner of the 2018 National Translation Award in Prose

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Ebook(published Mar, 28 2017)

Portrait of Mathias Énard

Mathias Énard

Prix Goncourt winning French novelist

Énard’s prose, which tends to pile descriptive clauses ever higher on top of one another…can be mesmerizing. But it’s the larger project of his writing that bears particular consideration: in his fiction, Énard is constructing an intricate, history-rich vision of a persistently misunderstood part of the world.

The New Yorker

In this magisterial, exquisitely erudite novel, the insomniac meditations of the bedridden and lovelorn musicologist Franz Ritter take the reader on a vast, crisscrossing perambulation through the rich history of the commingling of Orient and Occident in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

The New York Times

[A] brilliant, elusive, outré love letter to Middle Eastern art and culture.

Dustin Illingworth, Los Angeles Review of Books

It’s with no small amount of urgency that Mathias Énard’s Compass, an engrossing meditation on the cultural and historical tension between Europe and the Islamic world, arrives from New Directions in a gorgeous translation by Charlotte Mandell.

Hal Hlavinka, Quarterly Conversation

His most far-reaching and accomplished book and one of the finest European novels in recent memory.

Adrian Nathan West, Literary Review

Comparisons of Compass with The Thousand and One Nights and with Proust (and Ritter thinks about both) are not only inevitable, but necessary.

Frank RIchardson, Numero Cinq

Richly written, baroquely observant, and so terrifyingly erudite in its dizzying display of knowledge that some readers might be overwhelmed, this propulsive work explores the meaning of the Orient and the Orientalist impulse in the West…

Library Journal

Compass, in its relentlessly discursive impressiveness, embodies an uncompromising vision of the novel as relatively static political and cultural essay.

The Guardian

For all its sandstorm of scholarship, translated with tireless eloquence by Charlotte Mandell, Compass aches with…simple yearning.

The Economist

Énard has written a masterful novel…

The Washington Post

In a time of fear and loathing, Énard’s magnum opus points us toward the reality behind so many myths of the Orient.

New Republic

Once Énard’s immersive prose gets a grip on you, there’s no turning back.

Ron Slate

[Énard’s] imagination is indeed a wonder to behold.

The Irish Times

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

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, Wall Street Journal

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

The cultural cross-pollination between east and west is explored in a tale that offers rare delights.

Tobias Grey, Financial Times

Compass is poetic, ironic, irresistible.

Jane Ciabattari, BBC

The true beauty of Compass is that a shadow is a shadow: like the opium inhaled it is undetectable, and unassuming. The past belongs to no one and is claimed by everyone, disturbing the movement of time.

Yasmin Roshanian, EuropeNow

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 …

Harper's Magazine

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)

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

Enard’s novel is a bottomless treasure chest of stories about European adventurers, archaeologists and explorers… One is tempted to start reading it all over again.

Ulrich Von Schwerin, Qantara.de

Mathias Énard is the most brazen French writer since Houellebecq.

New Statesman

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