In this debut novel from Hungarian-born Mora (the author now lives in Germany), a man who speaks ten languages but has no country to call home wanders the reconfigured borders of the former Eastern Europe in search of an identity.
In the world of neural-linguistics, Abel Nema is a phenom. A deca-linguist, he has lost any trace of his mother-tongue accent. What no one knows, however, is that Abel is adept at losing things. His father deserts his family when Abel is a boy. Abel’s best friend, Ilia, rejects him upon high-school graduation. After nearly dying (gas leak) at the home of his father’s former mistress, Abel discovers he has lost his sense of taste, smell and his ability to get drunk. Phoning his worried mother, Abel learns that, in his absence, he has been branded a deserter and can never go home. With only the name of a linguist his mother whispers over the phone, Abel arrives in Berlin without papers, penniless and lost. In short order and through no effort on his part, Abel is adopted by a garrulous Russian scam artist; roped into traveling with a musical band for which his oversexed godmother acts as muse; and is stalked by a street gang. He becomes witness to a murder; denizen of a watering hole called the Looney Bin; husband to the beautiful Mercedes; and tutor to her son, the brilliant, one-eyed Omar, all the while remaining a cipher. Mora delivers a hard-charging, cacophonous narrative about a multilingual man who’s unable to communicate. Told from the point of view of multiple characters, the book can be unnecessarily confusing. At least in this edition, everyone sounds alike.
Lost in translation?