Wanderer: A Novel (Paperback)

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Wanderer: A Novel Cover Image
By Sarah Léon, John Cullen (Translated by)
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Staff Reviews

I am completely stunned and breathless after reading this book. The way in which Léon is able to craft the past into this novel is probably the most stunning storytelling I’ve come across. Uncover the dark past that Hermin and Lenny shared together before Lenny, now a famous pianist, leaves Hermin, his tutor and leaves, with essentially no notice, but reappears in Hermin’s isolated cabin deep in the blustery mountains. Coming from a millennial author, Wanderer is worthy of attention, and I hope it's spread widely. Be sure to grab a blanket for this one, because it’s cold.

-- Josh

— From Josh H. Staff Picks

Sarah Leon captures for the reader an almost impossible thing: the experience of music without needing to hear it. Through an intensifying pattern of thawing a forgotten past and shoveling through an uncertain present, we learn not only about two extraordinary musicians and their inspirations but also a human relationship so strong, so flawed, that for them it is impossible to name but to the outsider can only be read (or played, or sung, or shouted) as love. In Wanderer Leon smooths a harsh and bleak world with melodic beauty, weaving in rhythms of fear, tension, doubt, and desire to build a concise but powerful symphony of a novel.

-- Kyle

— From Kyle A. Staff Picks


Named a Best Book of the Year by The Advocate

An exceptional debut novel that explores the stifled, unspoken feelings of a music teacher and his former student, and the damage done by their years of silence

Hermin, a composer and instructor, leads a secluded life near the Bourbonnais Mountains in France, composing an homage to Schubert. On a bitter January night, this studious peace is broken when his former pupil, Lenny, a piano prodigy, mysteriously knocks at his door. The two men must confront the ghosts of their past, somewhere between musical harmony, erotic tension, and revelation.

Wanderer, echoing Schubert's recurring theme, is a novel of rare delicacy, a twilight adagio, a Winterreise, and a subtle ode to German Romanticism.

About the Author

Sarah Léon was born in 1995 and studied literature and musicology at the École normale supérieure in Paris. She won the 2012 Prix Clara for her novella, Mon Alban.

John Cullen is the translator of many books from Spanish, French, German, and Italian, including Susanna Tamaro’s Follow Your Heart, Philippe Claudel’s Brodeck, Carla Guelfenbein’s In the Distance with You, Juli Zeh’s Empty Hearts, Patrick Modiano’s Villa Triste, and Kamel Daoud’s The Meursault Investigation. He lives in upstate New York.

Praise For…

“[A] staggering debut…Léon’s innovative blending of events across time and her delicate emotional precision make for a bewitching, immersive experience.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“An intriguing, poetic work…the pathos of the French countryside is depicted vividly—it is a landscape of a Brueghel painting, Ms. Léon using a palette of various shades of grey and blinding, frightening white. Descriptions of the changing effects of light, perhaps a nod to Gustave Flaubert, are particularly striking.” —The Economist

“An elegant and finely focused winter’s tale. It starts out quietly dramatic and atmospheric but gradually builds and burns…nimbly done…gripping.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune

“The friendship of two men bound together by their all-consuming dedication to music is at the center of this novel.” —The New Yorker

“[A] poetic tale of music, love, lust, and dark secrets.” —The Advocate, The Best LGBTQ Novels We Discovered This Year

“Splendidly translated…an atmospheric, delicately wrought study of misunderstood emotion, heartbreaking yet incisive.” —Library Journal

“A short, intense novel…Léon’s writing is gorgeous…a beautiful account of friendship, love, and artistic devotion.” —BookRiot

“Léon perfectly measures out past and present to reach a satisfying and intimate crescendo.” —Booklist
“[Wanderer] treats the relationship between the two men with a delicacy that is unexpectedly moving.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Léon has interesting things to say about friendship and love—and about the way that those two registers of feeling vex each other.” —World Literature Today 

“The German word Wanderer means ‘traveler.’ This romantic figure of the vagabond infuses this delicate and poetic story, which favors harsh winter nights.” —L’Express Styles

“This is a first novel as visual as it is musical, which reads in one go and leaves behind another beautiful melody: that of a new talent blossoming.” —Luxemburger Wort

“A story of reunion between musicians. A story of friendship between two men. A tribute to the great German Romanticism. All in a light, refined prose imbued with winter tones.” —La Montagne
Product Details
ISBN: 9781590519257
ISBN-10: 1590519256
Publisher: Other Press
Publication Date: January 8th, 2019
Pages: 208
Language: English