Austral: A Novel (Hardcover)
From Carlos Fonseca comes a dazzling novel about legacy, memory, and the desire to know and be known.
Julio is a disillusioned professor of literature, a perpetual wanderer who has spent years away from his home, teaching in the United States. He receives a posthumous summons from an old friend, the writer Aliza Abravanel, to uncover the mysteries within her final novel. Aliza had raced to finish her work as her mind deteriorated. In her manuscript is a series of interconnected accounts of loss, tales that set Julio hurtling on a journey to uncover their true meaning. Austral tracks Julio’s trip from Aliza’s home in an Argentine artists’ colony to a forgotten city in Guatemala, to the Peruvian Amazon, and through Nueva Germania, the antisemitic commune in Paraguay founded by Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche.
A story of mourning and return—to one’s native country, to one’s darkest memories, to oneself—Carlos Fonseca’s Austral interrogates the obsessions and upheavals faced by survivors of a rapidly globalizing world. A treasure map of intertwined experiences, each cleaving its own path through time, the novel is a fascinating investigation into the disappearance of culture and memory and a charting of the furthest limits of what language can do. With this remarkable exploration of the traces we leave behind, those we erase, and how we seek to rebuild, Carlos Fonseca confirms his status as one of the most powerful voices in contemporary Latin American literature.
About the Author
Carlos Fonseca was born in Costa Rica, grew up in Puerto Rico, and studied in the United States.
He was selected by the Hay Festival as part of the Bogotá39 group (2017), by Granta magazine as one of
its twenty-five best young Spanish-language writers (2021), and by the Encyclopaedia Britannica as one
of the twenty most promising writers in the world for its “Young Shapers of the Future” (2022). His
previous novels are Colonel Lágrimas and Natural History, both translated by Megan McDowell. His
work has been translated into more than ten languages. He is a fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge.
“Austral is a masterly voyage of discovery, both physical and intellectual."
—Anderson Tepper, The New York Times Book Review
“The protagonists of this sweeping novel strive to piece together the past in all its cruelty to better understand themselves and whence they came. Austral juxtaposes beautifully the search for truth and the artistic process in a depiction that makes one indistinguishable from the other. With great sensitivity, Carlos Fonseca captures the sense of dislocation that comes to define anyone who has ever been displaced.”
—Alejandro Varela, author of The Town of Babylon
“In Austral, Fonseca has created a profoundly literary project: to search for the traces of that journey of no return to who we used to be, and to leave a free and joyful record of his unexpected findings discoveries.”
—Alia Trabucco Zerán, author of The Remainder
“Austral is a tender and thoughtful exploration of the painful irony of being alive and our attempts to make sense of the past as well as the present. Carlos Fonseca has written a book that is like a beautiful maze where we can discover new treasures at each turn."
—Katharina Volckmer, author of The Appointment
“A beautifully knotted novel which unfolds with every traced layer of its deeply affecting narrative along side a meditation on memory, mystery and vanishing. Sebaldian in its turns, Austral is a novel of profound questions."
—Guy Gunaratne, author of Mister, Mister
"Carlos Fonseca is one of today's most promising Latin American novelists, and Austral – a reflection on identity, rootlessness and violence, written in admirable prose – is his most ambitious, most complex and most accomplished novel to date"
—Javier Cercas, author of Even the Darkest Night
"[A] tour de force."
"As a study of the confusions of history and the challenge of language to get the story right, it’s an admirably complex, intellectually searching work."