Where Tigers Are at Home

Overview

Winner of the Prix Médicis, this multifaceted literary novel follows the Jesuit scholar Athanasius Kircher across 17th century Europe and Eleazard von Wogau, a retired French correspondent, through modern Brazil.
 
When Eleazard begins editing a strange, unpublished biography of Kircher, the rest of his life seems to begin unraveling—his ex-wife goes on a dangerous geological expedition to Mato Grosso; his daughter abandons school to ...
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Where Tigers Are at Home

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Overview

Winner of the Prix Médicis, this multifaceted literary novel follows the Jesuit scholar Athanasius Kircher across 17th century Europe and Eleazard von Wogau, a retired French correspondent, through modern Brazil.
 
When Eleazard begins editing a strange, unpublished biography of Kircher, the rest of his life seems to begin unraveling—his ex-wife goes on a dangerous geological expedition to Mato Grosso; his daughter abandons school to travel with her young professor and her lesbian lover to an indigenous beach town, where the trio use drugs and form interdependent sexual relationships; and Eleazard himself starts losing his sanity, escalated by loneliness, and his work on the biography. Patterns begin to emerge from these interwoven narratives, which develop toward a mesmerizing climax.
 
Shortlisted for the Goncourt Prize and the European Book Award, and already translated into 14 languages, Where Tigers Are At Home is large-scale epic, at once literary and entertaining, that belongs in the company of Umberto Eco and Haruki Murakami.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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)
From the Publisher
"Late in de Roblès’ remarkable novel, a tribal shaman chants, “Soon the Messenger will guide us to that mountain where visions cascade down uninterruptedly.” This dazzling book is itself such a mountain, overflowing with visions that dramatically enlarge the reader’s imaginative horizons." —Booklist (starred review)

"Psychodrama meets history meets mystery—vintage Umberto Eco territory, as practiced by French philosophy professor turned novelist Blas de Roblès." —Kirkus

“This encyclopedic and mystifying novel, full of picaresque adventures, delights and fascinates…Umberto Eco revised by Malcolm Lowry for Indiana Jones, with a bit of ‘The African Queen’ and Claude Levi-Strauss in Amazonia…An 800 page chameleon. A marvelous, dizzying galaxy, spiraling to the end of the novel.” —Patrick Grainville, Le Figaro littéraire

"Where Tigers are at Home repeatedly surprises- and, despite its occasional violence...is far from a depressing take on the human condition. A very good adventure tale- of both the intellectual and traditional kind-, Where Tigers are at Home is creative fiction of a very high order." —Complete Review

"Already translated into 14 languages, this is a novel that will stay with you longer than others." —Advocate

“Jean-Marie Blas de Robles toys with illustrious references and manhandles magical realism with bookish irreverence. Where Tigers Are At Home is a work of raucous erudition, and an enormously ambitious and amusing palimpsest.” —Clara Dupont-Monod, Marianne

"Those of you who stay with Blas de Robles' ultimately quite satisfying novel will find yourselves with a new European literary star to steer by." —Tri States Radio

“[A] freewheeling narrative that mixes adventure yarn, magic realism, social comment, political satire, high ideas, popular culture and a standard injection of sadism and sex...Long in the making, this clever, exuberant philosophical novel [shows] that we do not live in a protected Eden but in a land where power is king and tigers are more at home than we are.” David Coward, Times Literary Supplement

"Blas de Roblès simultaneously channels Umberto Eco, Indiana Jones, and Jorge Amado...what begins as a faux metabiography turns to picaresque adventure with erotic escapades, scams, and unexpected changes of fortune...this sprawling novel depicts 'the absurdity beneath which the criminal stupidity of men generally hides.'" —Publishers Weekly

"A massive tale of intrigue spanning centuries, with 17th century scholar and man of dubious science Athanasius Kircher at its heart." —Three Percent

"This novel is a quite satisfying read, one of best novels I suspect that will appear in English, in the original or translation, in 2013." —Three Percent

"Modern stories alternate between the characters with cliffhanger endings, not to be resolved until several chapters later...Each thread of the story becomes increasingly interesting as they all move toward a connection...Highly recommended." —Historical Novel Society

"...Where Tigers Are at Home is a great enough work that I would gladly travel through its treacherous pages again."—Rain Taxi Review of Books

Kirkus Reviews
Psychodrama meets history meets mystery--vintage Umberto Eco territory, as practiced by French philosophy professor turned novelist Blas de Roblès. Athanasius Kircher is Eco territory, too. That is to say, in many interviews centering on his bibliophilia, Eco cites his vast collection of material written by and relating to the 17th-century Jesuit polymath. He presumably won't mind that Blas de Roblès has appropriated his great hero and precursor, for there are no derivative notes in this inventive story, a sort of dream voyage into both present and past. Eléazard von Wogau, a French expat in Brazil, has been digging deep into the work of Kircher "with the same obsessiveness as some people collect bottles of whisky or cigarette packets long after they've stopped drinking or smoking." As he does, his orderly life begins to dissolve ever more completely; his wife leaves him, his daughter disappears, and von Wogau himself begins to lose track of the dividing line between Kircher's life and time and his own, Kircher's biography steadily filling the space in which his own story might have been told. It's a perfectly fitting setup, given, as Blas de Roblès notes, that in his day, Kircher faced accusations "of black magic by some simple or jealous people." This densely woven tale is anything but simple, however, and the reader approaching it should be prepared for abundant shape-shifting and time-shifting. The payoff is not just the enjoyment of a craftily written historical novel with detective-story undertones, but also plenty of cocktail-party-worthy trivia: "Zoroaster was not a man but a title, the one given anyone who concerned himself with knowledge of the arcana & magic." "[A]ccording to Servius, the word for elephant in the Punic language is ‘kaïsar.' " "A chicken, Caspar, a poulet, a pou-let! Don't you get it?" If you're a fan of Foucault's Pendulum and its kin, you'll enjoy Blas de Roblès' concoction.
Library Journal
A well-traveled academic and lecturer in both philosophy and archaeology, Blas de Robles offers a sprawling novel that echoes the scope of such writers as Haruki Murakami or Umberto Eco. Once this backstory is understood, readers have an idea of where they are headed: over time, over continents, and over the moon and back again. The story begins in Brazil, where French scholar and retired correspondent Eleazard von Wogau is studying the life of 17th-century Jesuit scientist Athanasius Kircher. As von Wogau's former wife begins a dangerous jungle expedition, their daughter takes on an equally dangerous journey involving drugs and sexual experimentation. In addition, the very rich and the very poor of Brazilian society each play a part in this drama, which freely roams the territory between the personal and the abstract. VERDICT Blas de Robles, who won the Prix Médicis for this work, presents an absurdist literary narrative for readers who have the patience and persistence to stay with him on this long, strange, mind-bending trip.—Susanne Wells, Indianapolis P.L.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781590515624
  • Publisher: Other Press, LLC
  • Publication date: 3/5/2013
  • Edition description: Translatio
  • Pages: 832
  • Sales rank: 1,452,924
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 2.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Born in 1954, Jean-Marie Blas de Roblès was a lecturer in philosophy at universities in Brazil, China, and Italy and, finally, for the Alliance Française in Taiwan. His first literary publication was a volume of short stories in 1982, followed by two novels, after which he turned to writing full time. An avid traveller, Blas de Roblès also edits a series of books on archaeology, and is a member of the French Archaeological Mission.

Mike Mitchell has translated over fifty titles including works by Goethe, Meyrink, Adolf Loos, and Oskar Kokoschka. Several of his translations have been shortlisted for awards, including three short listings for The Oxford Weidenfeld Translation Prize. Most recently Mitchell has been shortlisted for the Kurt Wolff Prize for his translation of Thomas Bernhard's Over All the Mountain Tops. In 1998, he was awarded the Schlegel-Tieck Prize for best German translation for Herbert Rosendorfer's Letters Back to Ancient China.

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