Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Where Tigers Are At Home

Summer reading is on!

NPR's Alan Cheuse calls Where Tigers Are at Home a "big, sprawling novel"--and it's all of that and more.  Written by French philosopher Jean-Marie Blas de Robles and remarkably translated by Mike Mitchell, this is an 800-page behemoth of a book, dancing between two centuries (the 17th and 21st) and two continents (Europe in the 17th and Brazil in the 21st).

There's something for everyone here: philosophy and theology, evolutionary theory and literary theory, psychological despair and wrenching suspense.  Blas de Robles is a masterful storyteller and evokes lush settings and thorny interactions with delightfully fresh language and passion.

I'll have to say it took me a long, long while to finish this novel--it's a tough read, and it starts slowly.  But page to page, story to story, it grew on me.  Its characters (from the 17th century Jesuits in one storyline to the 21st century seekers in the other) became more and more real, more and more nuanced and complex.  What happens to them shocked me, delighted me, saddened me and (in some situations) inspired me.

In the midst of everything else, there's a discussion here about rational minds and inconceivable realities, about well-intentioned cynicism and the magic which defies reason.  It bears on the collision of European culture and indigenous peoples in the Americas.  And it makes me wonder if that collision (and how we account for it) is a key to some of the big issues we face: sustainable culture, global climate change, violence on a huge scale, etc. 

If you're looking for an adventure, if you're willing to be patient this summer, if you like your novels spicy-hot and intellectually demanding...this is one to look at.