A kaleidoscopic, fast-paced tour of Latin America from one of the Spanish-speaking world’s most outstanding writers.
Lamenting not having more time to get to know each of the nineteen countries he visits after winning the prestigious Premio Alfaguara, Andrés Neuman begins to suspect that world travel consists mostly of “not seeing.” But then he realizes that the fleeting nature of his trip provides him with a unique opportunity: touring and comparing every country of Latin America in a single stroke. Neuman writes on the move, generating a kinetic work that is at once puckish and poetic, aphoristic and brimming with curiosity. Even so-called non-places—airports, hotels, taxis—are turned into powerful symbols full of meaning. A dual Argentine-Spanish citizen, he incisively explores cultural identity and nationality, immigration and globalization, history and language, and turbulent current events. Above all, Neuman investigates the artistic lifeblood of Latin America, tackling with gusto not only literary heavyweights such as Bolaño, Vargas Llosa, Lorca, and Galeano, but also an emerging generation of authors and filmmakers whose impact is now making ripples worldwide.
Eye-opening and charmingly offbeat, How to Travel without Seeing: Dispatches from the New Latin America is essential reading for anyone interested in the past, present, and future of the Americas.
“The buoyant Neuman (The Things We Don't Do, 2015, etc.) takes readers on a phantasmagoric journey through Latin America . . . a virtuoso demonstration of writing on the fly. After winning one of the Spanish-speaking world’s most lauded awards, the Premio Alfaguara, Neuman was sent on a massive 19-country tour that took him from his home in Argentina to far-flung appearances across Latin America. The writing is clever, light, and self-aware in a way that most travelogues are not . . . The translation by Lawrence is spot-on . . . Neuman is present in the moment and highly observant, catching little details that might have escaped other writers . . . To read this book produces an electrically fleeting feeling, but it seems that for the author, that’s kind of the point. 'The feeling of having left something someplace,' he writes toward the end. 'That we leave something everywhere we go, in addition to taking something with us.' A dizzying, evanescent snapshot of Latin America in all its grime and glory.”
“Curious, delightful . . . Neuman is hot property in contemporary Latin American literary circles. A former winner of Spain’s prestigious Alfaguara Prize and the National Critics Prize, he is tipped (by Roberto Bolaño, no less) to be one of a select ‘handful’ to take up where the ‘boom’ generation of Márquez, Cortázar, Fuentes and Borges left off . . . This is not a conventional travel book by any means . . . So forget the lyricism of Patrick Leigh Fermor, the historic sweeps of V.S. Naipaul or the episodic comedy of Bill Bryson. How to Travel Without Seeing is, in essence, a collection of journal jottings: the author’s notebooks transcribed in a rush; fragments of thought; overheard conversations; advertisement slogans; television snippets; stray lines of poetry. An honest reflection of most contemporary travel experiences, in other words . . . Yet the book works. This is partly thanks to Neuman’s eye for the absurd and ironic—Colombia’s Televisión Española, for example, ‘scrupulously selects’ the very worst of Spanish TV to disseminate abroad. More important still is his gift for the succinct. Places and people are captured in a single, spot-on phrase. Lima is the ‘club among clubs’; the estuary bay of San Juan flows gently to the sea ‘like someone falling asleep before drowning’. Aphorism, a literary device now hijacked by the Twitterati, is used to powerful effect here . . . Despite the miles he covers, he relishes remaining still, because his great passion is reading. He wolfs down books with an enthusiasm that most tourists reserve for sangria and sun-scorched sex. The result reads like the very best kind of bibliophile TripAdvisor.”
—Oliver Balch, The Spectator
“As Neuman moves on his journey, he transforms the most ordinary places in the world—airports, hotels and way stations—into shrines or temples dedicated to travel . . . In the book, he offers readers interesting snapshots of people and places while traveling on a book tour after winning the prestigious Alfaguara literary award in 2009 . . . Filled with intimate reflections, the book describes more the feeling of being in transit and the changing perspective of the traveler than the actual destinations on Neuman's itinerary. And this mobility connects readers with the excitement of travel and reminds them of how being in transit could make people feel like outsiders and insiders.”
—Arturo Conde, NBC Latino
“In this series of easily digestible travelogue entries, Neuman (The Things We Don’t Do) reflects on various Latin American cities and the way we travel now . . . rather offering than a traditional travelogue, Neuman presents bite-size, on-the-go reflections on everything including politics, films, other writers, and the vagaries of customs declaration forms . . . He hilariously describes the environment of his hotel in Caracas as 'oil-rich Stanley Kubrick' . . . Neuman’s book offers an untraditional but valuable perspective on globalization and the character of nations.”
“For his novel, Traveler of the Century (2009), Neuman received the prestigious Premio Alfaguara, awarded to outstanding works of Spanish-language literature. The prize includes a public-speaking tour, and Neuman took the opportunity to compose a travelogue that is anything but ordinary, combining wry observations, deadpan aphorisms, and literary commentary. From Asuncio´n to Panama, Neuman bounces all over South and Central America, recording amusing moments... and cataloging the writers he reads along the way, including Borges and Bolan~o but also lesser-known, contemporary upstarts, like Pola Oloixarac, Mo´nica Vela´squez, and Daniel Alarco´n . . . The hopscotch narrative, unique insights, and unapologetic bibliophilia make this book perfect for travelers as well as readers bound to home for the time being, looking for an escape."
—Diego Báez, Booklist
“Argentinean-Spanish wunderkind Andrés Neuman speeds through the new Latin America in How to Travel without Seeing.”