In the fictional, 19th century town of Wandernburg, Germany, a mysterious traveler stops for the night on his way from Berlin to Dessau. Expecting to stay for a few days, Hans is drawn in by the cast of eclectic characters he finds: an old organ grinder with a penchant for interpreting dreams, a priest who keeps a diary of his parishioners’ sins, and a beautiful, young freethinker who’s engaged to a local aristocrat. The forbidden love story of Hans and Sophie defies social expectations, and unfolds against the backdrop of a rapidly transforming old Europe.


  • Andres Neuman Writer and poet, author of "Una Vez Argentina" (Once in Argentina); elected to the Bogota-39 list of outstanding young Latin American authors.

Program Highlights

Spanish author and poet Andres Neuman’s new novel, “Traveler of the Century,” tells a story about forbidden romance, the search for identity and the metaphorical link between love and literary translations. Set in the fictional 19th century town of Wandernburg, Germany, the book follows the protagonist Hans as he meets an odd assortment of characters and falls in love.

Family Inspiration

Born in Argentina, Neuman has lived in Spain for more than half his life. He said he wanted to write about Europe because it’s his “second shore.” “So I always say that I’ve got two passports, but as well two foreigner feelings,” Neuman said. His mother was a violinist in Argentina and fond of German composers. Neuman said he learned those songs by heart and wrote this novel as homage to her.

Mourning Characters

Neuman said he cried while writing about the death of one of his characters, the organ grinder. But he said he shouldn’t have cried, comparing writers with actors who need to control their feelings. Through this, Neuman said he learned how fictional characters could become like real people. “When you kill a character, you’re killing life. So you have to be very careful and respectful with that,” Neuman said.

Forbidden Love

Hans, a mysterious traveler, falls in love with Sophie Gottlieb, who is engaged to an aristocrat in an era when family controlled women. Neuman said Sophie’s character was inspired in the beginning by all the very first generation of European feminists. They fall in love by translating poems, with a dream of building an infinite anthology of Western poetry, which Neuman calls “impossible.”

Book Translation

Originally written in Spanish, this is Neuman’s first book that was translated into English. Neuman played an editorial role in the process and said he was very amused by the male and female pair of translators because they reflected the book’s plot. He said translating a text is not only about transferring words into another language, but also about sometimes radically changing the connotations and nuances.

You can read the full transcript here.

Excerpted from “Traveler of the Century” by Andrés Neuman, published in May 2012 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Copyright 2009 by Santillana Ediciones Generales. Translation copyright 2012 by Nick Caistor and Lorenza Garcia. All rights reserevd:


  • 11:06:56

    MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. In his first novel to appear in English, celebrated Spanish author and poet, Andres Neuman, writes a timeless story all about forbidden romance, the search for identity, and the metaphorical link between love and translation. The book is titled "Traveler of the Century." It's set in an imaginary 19th century German town. Andrew Neuman joins me in the studio. I hope you'll be with us as well. Call us on 800-433-8850, send us your email to, join us on Facebook or Twitter. Good morning. It's good to have you here.

  • 11:07:54

    MR. ANDRES NEUMANGood morning. Thank you very much.

  • 11:07:55

    REHMI'm so glad to meet you. I know, Andres, you were born in Argentina, and that was the subject of your last novel. Tell us why you decided to write this novel in 19th century Europe at this time.

  • 11:08:17

    NEUMANYeah. To run away from Argentina? No. No. In fact, I feel that the deep subject is still the same. It's about feeling foreigner. It's about border and about the dialogue between different cultures, and in fact, all my family, Argentine family, came from Europe so I think this is like the second part of it, just going to the roots of how Argentina was built with immigration from Europe. And on the other hand, well, I've been living in Spain/Europe more than half of my life so it became natural to think about my second shore.

  • 11:09:09

    REHMSo, in fact, you had a foot in two worlds?

  • 11:09:15

    NEUMANYes. That's the story of my life. When I'm in Argentina, they always ask me about Spain, and when I am in Spain, obviously they say I am an Argentinean person. So I always say that I've got two passports, but as well two foreigner feelings.

  • 11:09:33

    REHMYour great grandfather...

  • 11:09:37


  • 11:09:38

    REHM...was a Polish Jew.

  • 11:09:40

    NEUMANYeah, he was.

  • 11:09:40

    REHMTell us about him.

  • 11:09:42

    NEUMANThat's a funny and a scary story because I am not Neuman really. I am a pretender. My family name should be Hasatski (sp?) , but what happened is that my grand-grandfather, who was, as you said, a very poor Jewish Polish, he was on the border between Russia and Poland, again, the border. And he didn't want to go to the military service because nobody came back from that. It was in Siberia during three years so they really killed them, I think.

  • 11:10:22

    NEUMANSo what he thought was, instead of cutting an arm or an ear like so many friends of him did just to avoid the military service, he stole the passport of a German soldier and that soldier was named Neuman, which is amazing, because that means in German like almost in English, new man. So he turned out to be a new man and he ran away to Argentina and he had family perfectly false. And that's how imagination can save our lives, and that's what fiction is about, to choose another identity in order to save your life.

  • 11:11:04

    REHMYou dedicated the book to your mother.

  • 11:11:08


  • 11:11:08

    REHMHow did she inspire you?

  • 11:11:11

    NEUMANWell, sadly, she died very young and she was a musician. She played violin in Argentina, and she was very fond of Schubert's songs, what in German they called (word?) , the songs. And in my house, it was like a soundtrack, a family soundtrack, and I learned those songs in German, obviously without having a clue about the lyrics. But I learned them by heart, and when I was older, I felt it would be a very beautiful homage to write a novel about that world of Schubert. And I think that my mother was an inspiration during the whole process of the writing this book because the music is not only a subject in the plot, but as well and more deeply, it's an attitude. I think that writing is not only about talking, but about listening...

  • 11:12:19


  • 11:12:20

    NEUMAN...and that's why the organ grinder, which is one of the main characters, is always listening to the wind like an invisible instrument that is carrying someone else's words. I don't know if in English you say this, but in Spanish we say (speaks foreign language) , which means, the wind blows away the words as if -- meaning that words, you cannot trust words because, you know, they move with the wind, and the organ grinder says no, it's quite the opposite.

  • 11:12:54

    NEUMANThat's a good thing about words, they are able to move and travel and so maybe we are now listening the whispers of the words of we don't know who. So that's why you have to listen to the silence.

  • 11:13:11

    REHMAnd the organ grinder also interprets dreams.

  • 11:13:18

    NEUMANThat's true, yes. Well, since the book is very much about reading and translating, I needed a character who read no books about other things because not every single wisdom comes from reading books. So we have this character that has learned so many things without having read a single line, and that's why Hans, the main character, is so amazed with this old man that appears to have read all the philosophers without reading a book, and yes, one of his abilities is interpreting the dreams.

  • 11:14:01

    NEUMANBefore Freud, it was even a harder task and he does those surreal and delirious interpretations that turned to be true in a way, yes.

  • 11:14:16


  • 11:14:17

    NEUMANAnd he (word?) dreams, I think. I suspect that when he tells his dreams, it's not true.

  • 11:14:24

    REHMDo you interpret your own dreams carefully?

  • 11:14:29

    NEUMANI try not to interpret them, but writing them, sometimes the hidden meaning becomes clear...

  • 11:14:40


  • 11:14:41

    NEUMAN...during the process of the writing. Because you know what, the French poet, Paul Valery, said something that sounds very, very true to me. He said that the writer that thinks that he or she is sure about what he wants or she wants to do, the writer sure of what he wants to do won't be aware of what he has done, in fact. So I think that if we put in our dreams, a very rigid interpretation, maybe we will miss the real meaning so let's write about it and let's see what happens.

  • 11:15:23

    REHMSo just writing them down and then letting them go and letting them evolve.

  • 11:15:33

    NEUMANYes. Because the final result is often much more interesting than your intentions.

  • 11:15:38


  • 11:15:38

    NEUMANMaybe our intentions are wrong, but the result is fine.

  • 11:15:42

    REHMI love the cover, a copy of Picasso.

  • 11:15:48


  • 11:15:49

    REHMAnd it is one he did in 1957. Tell us about this jacket because there is one lonely dark figure moving through a door while all these other strange characters...

  • 11:16:12


  • 11:16:13

    REHM...are, in one way, or another watching what's happening.

  • 11:16:19

    NEUMANYes. Yeah, that's true. There are different reasons for having put and chosen that particular cover. One is that the painting, which is called "Las Meninas," it's kind of kind of reinterpretation of the past tradition so Picasso took the Velazquez painting and he did an experiment. It was applying the contemporary esthetic to repaint a classical painting. And me, myself with much less talent, obviously, but with the same curiosity about rewriting the classical tradition, I thought that it would be interesting to do a novel which rewrites the 19th century tradition. So I felt that that kind of experiment was similar. And the content of the painting, yes, everybody's paying attention and I think the book is an homage, a tribute, to the art of speaking and having a good conversation.

  • 11:17:30

    NEUMANSo in a way, it's a radio program, I think, because one of the tricks is like in the literary salon, the characters don't speak and first the other one, but they try to speak at the same time like in a very enthusiastic debate on the radio.

  • 11:17:52

    REHMInteresting. Tell me at what age you were when your mother died.

  • 11:18:01

    NEUMANI was almost 30, and she had cancer. And what really struck me was that she was such a strong woman, very independent. She was an artist that used to travel, and she suddenly became a weak women who needed help, and so it was a death inside a death. Before she was died, she had lost her independence, but on the other side, that was a lesson of love, too.

  • 11:18:41

    REHMAndres Neuman. His new book is titled "Traveler of the Century."

  • 11:20:05

    REHMAnd if you just joined us, we're talking about a brand-new novel by Andres Neuman. He is the author of "Traveler of the Century," the first book of his which has been translated into English. He is a celebrated Spanish author and poet. "Traveler of the Century" is a long novel. You can read an excerpt of it on our website, But, Andres, what I'd like you to do now is to read for us from the book and set it up for us.

  • 11:20:57

    NEUMANOh, well, that's a responsibility and a pleasure, too. Should I read the excerpt about the organ grinder?

  • 11:21:07

    REHMYes, please.

  • 11:21:09

    NEUMANYeah. Well, this is the section when the organ grinder explains his theory about playing the organ barrel. And he, without noticing, compares it with the art of telling stories, about making music and having a dialogue between silence and words.

  • 11:21:36

    NEUMAN"Well, this is how I see it. Every tune tells a tale, nearly always a sad one. When I turn the handle, I imagine I'm the hero of that tale and I try to feel at one with its melody. But at the same time, it's as if I'm pretending, do you see? No, not pretending. Let's say that even as I'm getting carried away, I have to think about the end of the tune because I know how it ends, of course.

  • 11:22:08

    NEUMANBut maybe the people listening don't. Or if they do, they've forgotten. That's what I mean by touch. When it works, nobody notices. But when it doesn't everyone can hear. So, for you to borrow an organ is a box that tells stories, said Hans. Yes, exactly. Goodness, what a way you have with putting things. Playing the barrel organ is like telling stories around the fire like you the other night.

  • 11:22:39

    NEUMANThe tune is already written on the barrel and it may seem like it's all done for you. A lot of people think you just turn the handle and think of something else. But for me, it's the intention that counts. Just turning the handle isn't the same thing as really applying yourself, do you see the wood also suffers or is grateful. When I was young, because I was young once like you, I heard many organ grinders play and I can assure you no two tunes ever sounded the same even on the same instrument.

  • 11:23:16

    NEUMANThat's how it is, isn't it? The less love you put into things, the more they resemble one another. The same goes for stories. Everyone knows them by heart. But when someone tells them with love, I don't know, they seem new. Well, that's what I think anyway."

  • 11:23:36

    REHMAndres Neuman reading from his book, "Traveler of the Century." And of course, the organ grinder is speaking with Hans.

  • 11:23:49


  • 11:23:50

    REHMTell us about Hans.

  • 11:23:52

    NEUMANHans is a mysterious traveler. We don't know where he comes from. But we either don't know when he comes from. He's a kind of breach between two centuries. He seem to have read certain books yet unpublished. He claims to have visited every single place, although he's a liar. And he claims to speak any language existent. He says that he's able to translate from, like Google translator, from any language to any language. And Sophie, who is still the woman with whom...

  • 11:24:38

    REHMWith whom he falls in love.

  • 11:24:39

    NEUMANYeah, that's it. And she starts to realize that that isn't quite true. But it's the traveler who is supposed to stay just for a night in an interesting but horrible town, very dark town. And without even noticing, he stays longer and longer. And he cannot leave this place. And he...

  • 11:25:04

    REHMHe can't pull himself away because these characters he meet are so interesting.

  • 11:25:11

    NEUMANThat's it. It's like the process of immigration. He doesn't talk about immigration in an explicit way. Then he develops roots there. He develops relationships there and he starts to belong to this place even if he hates the place. And that's how many immigrants start to live in a strange place.

  • 11:25:38

    REHMAnd do the people there in this imaginary of yours, Wandernburg, accept him?

  • 11:25:51

    NEUMANNot completely, I think. But not everybody feels comfortable there either. Because I think that sometimes the very deep foreigners are people who don't feel comfortable in their own places. That's really a foreign condition, not to identify yourself with your place. So, yes, anyone seems to be completely happy there. But as you said, it's an imaginary city in the line of Calvino's "Invisible Cities."

  • 11:26:29

    NEUMANThat's an amazing book that I strongly recommend, "Invisible Cities" by Italo Calvino or like (word?) metaphor. It's a city that slightly moves every day. It's not very clear this, but sometimes Hans gets out from the inn and he's searching for a cafe, right? And he goes uphill and then turns right. And the following day he goes downhill and he turns left. And he said, this is my fault maybe or perhaps this place is changing its streets. It can be so...

  • 11:27:06

    REHMChanging before my eyes.

  • 11:27:09

    NEUMANYeah, that's it. So, nobody knows if it's Hans' fault because he's a foreigner or it's the shifting space. But the intention was to build a metaphor of shifting map and a moving identity.

  • 11:27:27

    REHMA shifting and a moving identity, not only geographically, but for the individuals themselves.

  • 11:27:39


  • 11:27:39

    REHMAnd how they see the world around them.

  • 11:27:43

    NEUMANExactly, that's it. Yes. There's a poetical link between the space and the cultural and psychological condition of the characters. So the space itself is another character in the book.

  • 11:28:00

    REHMWhat is Hans seeking?

  • 11:28:05

    NEUMANIf I see him, I will ask him. But I can have a guess. I think he is searching for, searching for. The German philosopher and poet Friedrich Schlegel said that the aim of thinking -- the searching of thinking was keep on searching. So, he's not expecting to find the ideal place, but he's expecting to keep on moving.

  • 11:28:38

    REHMIt was fascinating to me that when the carriage, which is carrying him...

  • 11:28:47


  • 11:28:47

    REHM...the driver of the carriage says to him, do you really want to stop in this place? There is a much nicer inn farther along. And Hans says, no, I want to stay here. We don't know why, but neither does he know why.

  • 11:29:11

    NEUMANYeah, that's true. And when he comes down from the carriage, he has this heavy trunk -- trunk you say, yes? And the driver says, what is in there? A dead body because it's very heavy. And he replies, Hans replies, not a dead body, but several. What does that mean? And it turns out to be that in the trunk there are many books. So, well, there are dead and living people inside the trunk. And he turns out to be a translator. So he's a traveler and a translator.

  • 11:29:48

    REHMAnd he falls in love with Sophie.

  • 11:29:52


  • 11:29:52

    REHMWho is herself, we might call, someone with an open mind.

  • 11:30:01


  • 11:30:01

    REHMSomeone who regards ideas as interesting to be evaluated, to be discussed, to be thought about.

  • 11:30:15

    NEUMANYeah. Sophie Gottlieb, even though is an entirely fiction character, was inspired in the beginning by all the very first generation of European feminists. Mary Shelley or (word?), all these women educated in the French revolution and the enlightenment ideas, who realized it very quickly that the rights of mankind were actually the rights of men. And they needed, you know, to fight against enlightenment and the enlightened father with its own weapons, translating, earning her own money writing essays and being interested on politics.

  • 11:31:07

    NEUMANAnd so, I studied carefully the lives of these amazing, really avant-garde women who had to struggle indoors and outdoors for their rights. And Sophie is pretty much like these women, stuck in a house and in the family that wouldn't allow her to do what she wants. But she still thinks what she wants.

  • 11:31:33

    REHMShe is engaged to an aristocrat, moneyed from the Old World.

  • 11:31:40


  • 11:31:41

    REHMBut her heart shifts to Hans and his kind of thinking of the New World.

  • 11:31:52

    NEUMANYes. She finds a kind of soul mate, but here the interesting point is that I didn't want a 19th century woman like Anna Karenina or Emma Bovary who -- they are finally punished. I was interested on having an unfaithful woman without a punishment nor a silly happy ending either. So kind of a conflict, not with an obvious resolution. But, yes, they begin to translate together, Hans and Sophie.

  • 11:32:32

    NEUMANAnd with that excuse, I'm afraid, they go to bed quite frequently. And the key metaphor of the second part of the book, as you said in the beginning, their relationship, the link between translating and loving.

  • 11:32:49

    REHMTranslating what?

  • 11:32:52

    NEUMANTranslating poems. They are poetry translators. And they have this dream of doing an impossible and infinite anthology of Western poetry. So they have to translate from any language to any language. And the interesting thing is that the more they know their bodies, the better they translate and the opposite.

  • 11:33:22

    REHMAndres Neuman. His new book is titled, "Traveler of the Century." And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Would you read us that portion between Sophie and...

  • 11:33:41

    NEUMANOf course. This is how they start working together, Hans and Sophie. "During the four hours they spent alone, three times a week Hans and Sophie alternated between books and bed, bed and books, exploring one another in words and reading one another's bodies. Thus, inadvertently, they developed a shared language, rewriting what they read, translating one another mutually.

  • 11:34:24

    NEUMANThe more they work together, they more similarities they discovered between love and translation, understanding a person and translating a text with telling a poem in a different language and putting into words what the other was feeling. Both exercises were as happy as they were incomplete. Doubts always remained, words that needed changing, missed nuances.

  • 11:34:55

    NEUMANThey were both aware of the impossibility of achieving transparency as lovers and as translators. Cultural, political, biographical and sexual differences acted as a filter. The more they try to counter them, the greater the dangers, obstacles, misunderstandings. And yet, at the same time, the breaches between the languages between them became broader and broader."

  • 11:35:31

    REHMSo the language of love and the language of translation helped them to reach each other in ways that could not be done otherwise.

  • 11:35:50

    NEUMANI think so because translating and loving has one thing in common. Well, more than one. But it's about finding a third language, which is not yours not mine, it's our language and must be found and built during a dialogue process. When you want to translate a text, you experiment strong desire toward this text. And you want to possess these texts. But on the other hand, you know that these texts has its own ideas, its own style.

  • 11:36:26

    NEUMANAnd you have to respect the style and at the same time to mix this style with your own feelings and language. So, just the opposite, when you love someone, you have to interpret what the other person is saying, when someone is flirting, the eternal question is, what does this mean? You have to put the other person words in your own words. You try to understand the other person and you quite frequently misunderstand tragically the other person, like translators.

  • 11:37:01

    REHMYou know, it seems to me that your words could apply equally to politics.

  • 11:37:09

    NEUMANOh, yes.

  • 11:37:10

    REHMAs they could to the warmer reactions between or among people. You know, we haven't had a call yet, and I believe it's because people are loving listening to you. I invite them to call, 800-433-8850, send your email to The book is titled "Traveler of the Century."

  • 11:40:02

    REHMAnd if you're just joining us, we have the pleasure of talking with Andres Neuman. He is a very important poet and author. His new book, all about forbidden romance, the search for identity and what he calls the metaphorical link between love and translation is titled "Traveler of the Century." A quick email from Debbie in Ann Arbor, Mich., who says, "As an avid listener to books in an audio format, I wonder if there are plans for your wonderful book to be released, being read by you or a narrator. And I am urging Andres to read it himself." What do you think?

  • 11:41:06

    NEUMANI think that my mother would have liked very much that idea. Seeing that she talked to me about the sound of words and she focused the words as a form of the music. So it will be a way of becoming the musician. I couldn’t because I had no talent, nor patience to play violin. I tried. I was a perfect failure. So maybe recording my voice could be a little and humble way of being a musician like my parents were. So it's a beautiful idea, but I have never thought about it.

  • 11:41:48

    REHMBoth your parents were musicians?

  • 11:41:50

    NEUMANYes, that's true. My father played oboe and he was a teacher, music teacher. Yeah, so...

  • 11:41:58

    REHMAnd did you try the oboe as well?

  • 11:42:02

    NEUMANNo, I didn't dare. No, that was too much. But I tried with the violin during five years and it was very clear that I wasn't able to play properly, the violin. My little brother, who isn't little at all, he's taller than me now, well, that's not so difficult. But my little brother, now he himself is a musician and a singer. So everybody that surrounds me are working with the beauty of sound so that's why I was used to listen to the people that I love.

  • 11:42:45

    REHMI'm going to give away one tiny facet of this novel because it meant so much to you when it happened. And that is that the organ grinder...

  • 11:43:04


  • 11:43:04


  • 11:43:05


  • 11:43:06

    REHMYou cried.

  • 11:43:09

    NEUMANYes, it's not very frequent that one cries while one is writing because to build feelings, you have to control them, you know, in ways like an actor. You know about those feelings, but it's not convenient that you feel exactly those feelings while you are trying to recreate them. But in this case, see, my mother was dying herself during the process of these fictional dying, too. I couldn’t help to be deeply moved.

  • 11:43:50

    NEUMANAnd it was, well, painful but interesting, too, how this moment changed in the book because it became less barouche, less showy, when it became true, when I wasn't talking about a fictional death, but real death. And I learned that any character is a living person. When you kill a character, you're killing life. So you have to be very careful and respectful with that. You can't kill characters just like a game or a video game, right? So this moment became more and more silent and delicate and not sensational at all. And, yes, I cried in that moment. I shouldn't have done it, but I did.

  • 11:44:45

    REHMIt's interesting. Here's an email from Cincinnati, Ohio. "The passage your guest read expresses a profound truth about life. You see it all over America today. The majority of suburbs are designed around profit and as a result, they are generic and indistinguishable. Those neighborhoods designed with love are rare, but exquisitely unique and desirable places to live. Love makes all the difference in every aspect of life."

  • 11:45:35

    NEUMANWell, that's so brilliantly expressed that I should include this reflection in the book. Could I just steal these paragraphs...

  • 11:45:45

    REHMWe'll give you a copy.

  • 11:45:45

    NEUMAN...with the permission of our listener?

  • 11:45:48

    REHMAnd here is an email from Laura in Michigan who says she is loving this conversation. She says, "Mr. Neuman has such an elegant and romantic way of speaking." She can't wait to read the book. "Please talk about the process of writing in the language that is not your first language. What was the publication like? How was it different from previous publications?"

  • 11:46:25

    NEUMANWell, that's a very interesting point. Because, well, the book was originally written in Spanish, of course, but I did take part of the translation. And this is very funny story indeed because, you know what, the English translation was done by a couple of translators. So, you know, there was a story, a love story between a couple of translators doing sometimes dirty things. And I was talking about this with a couple of translators who were working on this, a man and a woman. It's Nick Caistor and Lorenza Garcia. So I was very amused of this because it was like taking part in the plot.

  • 11:47:08

    NEUMANAnd we talked a lot about the book. We met up personally, which doesn't happen so often. And I did a proofreading and I made suggestions and comments. So, of course, it's not my translation, but I feel that I did a little part of the job. And I think it's a brilliant translation. And it's very moving to contemplate how your words, again, become a different words and how, through the voices of someone else, in this case a couple of translators, you discover what you meant. You discover unforeseen meanings in your words. So translating is not just about transferring words from a language to another language, but sometimes radically changing the connotations, the nuances.

  • 11:48:10

    NEUMANSo it's a transformation. It's kind of miracle because the author isn't really you or maybe it's a you that you didn't know. So you get translated too as a human being and it was a very moving process. But I love, so much, English language and I usually read in English and everything. So for me, it was like a dream who came true, which is to be able to take part in an English writing.

  • 11:48:51

    REHMWould you have preferred to do the entire translation yourself?

  • 11:49:02

    NEUMANWell, that is a tricky matter because on one hand, you can think that, well, nobody better than the author to do so, but on the other hand, I think that that is not right because you need someone neutral and someone who has different feelings. It's like, you know, you shouldn't make love with yourself. You need someone else. You need -- misunderstanding someone else even. So the process of translation is not complete until a different point of view and a different way of feeling comes to the book.

  • 11:49:46

    NEUMANSo it's a dialogue again. It's not about the author. It's about two shores, a dialogue between the shore of the author and the shore of the translator. And this gets reproduced in the process of reading. Reading is not about a reader trying to understand what the author meant, but much more deeply about what's the result of a conversation between the ideas and feelings of the author and the ideas and feelings of the reader.

  • 11:50:18

    REHMHere's an email from Guillermo in Florida. "Just to say, wonderful material, bravo, brillante from a Venezuelan living in the U.S. Congratulations," he says.

  • 11:50:36

    NEUMANGracias, (speaks foreign language) .

  • 11:50:41

    REHMNow, let's go to Miami, Fla. Good morning, Juan, you're on the air.

  • 11:50:49

    JUANGood morning, really appreciate the diversity you bring into your shows, Diane. My comment or question is how language is something we try to use and understand, but sometimes within a relationship, it's like learning a new language so it's a whole concept of translation. It's almost like a process that you have to put into place when you're trying to establish a relationship. And I find it very interesting, in your book, in how you seem to blend it so well.

  • 11:51:22

    NEUMANWell, thank you very much. Yes, in fact, there are many couples with different languages. Maybe one person can speak English and the other can speak French or Spanish. So in those cases, the story of the book becomes literal. Not metaphorical, but literal because the crafting of this love implies a translation process, a daily translation process. And I think it's very, very pleasant to have a love affair with someone else who doesn't speak your own language because that leads to lose a bit what you thought it was your identity and find a new one, maybe a more interesting one. I mean, become a bit foreigner can be a deeper way of being faithful with what you are.

  • 11:52:29

    REHMBut doesn't that also happen when two people who fall in love speak the same language?

  • 11:52:38


  • 11:52:39

    REHMBecause it's always a matter of reinterpretation of understanding deeply another persons' feelings and, in a sense, words can get in the way.

  • 11:52:56

    NEUMANOf course, and marriage can be a loss in translation.

  • 11:53:01

    REHMAs one who's been married for 52 years, I know what you mean. And you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. Let's go now to Stanford, Conn. Good morning, Genevieve.

  • 11:53:19

    GENEVIEVEOh, good morning, Diane. I just had my breakfast and I wrote notes. I wish this was in an audio book because I don't have patience reading a whole book. But now, just talking to you over the phone, I'm thinking of the people that I know of Germanic background, of Spanish background. I just had a nurse here. I just broke my hip and she came to give me a shower and I have to talk to her in English, sometimes I talk to her a mix French in a dialect of my grandmother who was born in (word?) , Italy.

  • 11:53:57

    GENEVIEVEAnd it's amazing, I said to her, "My grandmother used to say (speaks foreign language)." And she interpreted that. She said it was the children of the storm. So I feel warm inside. My mother died on Christmas day. The night before, she said, I want to go to the beach. I said, but mother, it's cold outside, it's winter. Oh, she says, I need fresh air. We went to the beach. She said, this driftwood that I'm picking up will be our Christmas tree.

  • 11:54:26

    GENEVIEVEWell, the next day, my mother had an attack and died at 12:00. The day before she cried, I don't think I've cried in 10 years. My psychologist said, look at sad movies. But I burst out in song, all kinds of songs. So maybe this wonderful author should come and visit me and write it -- I really am so impressed with this.

  • 11:54:52

    REHMI'm so glad, Genevieve.

  • 11:54:54

    NEUMANThank you, that's beautiful.

  • 11:54:55

    REHMAnd your comments are just lovely. Maybe we'll have him sing before the hour is over.

  • 11:55:04

    NEUMANMaybe a good job, I should change my job. I think I should be a reader for people who's having breakfast. That would be a very good job, indeed.

  • 11:55:16


  • 11:55:16

    NEUMANInstead, you know, teaching or giving lessons, that's boring. Thanks for having breakfast with us. And...

  • 11:55:23

    REHMThat's lovely.

  • 11:55:24

    NEUMAN...and I love the story about a cold beach which becomes a warm place to remember.

  • 11:55:36

    REHMHere's an email from Paula (sp?) who says "I'm finishing a PhD in Latin-American literature. I'm interested in the connection between writing and autobiography. I would like to ask if Andres thinks all writing is autobiographical in one way or another. Also, considering that he has been such a prolific author since such a young age, do you have advice for aspiring authors?"

  • 11:56:19

    NEUMANWell, I don't dare to give any advice. I mean, I'm too young for that. But it's a very interesting question about autobiographical content of writing. And I think there are different ways of being autobiographical when you write. The most direct or obvious one is what we call and I know our friend knows it, autofiction so it's talking about your own life and letting all the reader to know that you're talking about your own life. That's what I did in my last novel. But there are another way, very interesting, which is splitting yourself among all the characters. So, yes, this can be autobiographical book, but nobody knows where the author is...

  • 11:57:06


  • 11:57:06


  • 11:57:07

    REHMA perfect ending to a wonderful hour. I've enjoyed it. The book we've been talking about "Traveler of the Century," Andres Neuman, spelled N-E-U-M-A-N. Thank you.

  • 11:57:26

    NEUMANIt was such a wonderful trip with you, thank you very much.

  • 11:57:29

    REHMI enjoyed it. Thanks for listening all, I'm Diane Rehm.

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