No one can walk beneath palm trees with impunityand ideas are sure to change in a land whereelephants and tigers are at home
This is the epigraph to Where Tigers Are at Home, Jean-Marie Blas de Roblès. It is taken from Goethe's Elective Affinities.
The novel is about Eleazard von Wogau, a retired French correspondent in modern Brazil, editing a biography of 17th-century Jesuit scholar Athanasius Kircher.
According to the description on the publisher's website,
The rest of his life seems to begin unraveling — his ex-wife goes on a dangerous geological expedition to Mato Grosso; his daughter abandons school to travel with her young professor and her lesbian lover to an indigenous beach town, where the trio use drugs and form interdependent sexual relationships; and Eleazard himself starts losing his sanity, escalated by loneliness, and his work on the biography. Patterns begin to emerge from these interwoven narratives, which develop toward a mesmerizing climax.
Jesuits! Strange manuscripts! Sex and drugs! What's not to love! (Plus the comparisons to Eco and Murakami.)
The following passage from Goethe, in a different translation, gives slightly more context:
Many times when a certain longing curiosity about these strange objects has come over me, I have envied the traveller who sees such marvels in living, every-day connection with other marvels. But he, too, must have become another man. Palm-trees will not allow a man to wander among them with impunity; and doubtless his tone of thinking becomes very different in a land where elephants and tigers are at home.
Where Tigers Are at Home was written in French. Originally published in 2008, it won the Prix Médicis that year. It is released in English by Other Press on March 5.
I will be reading it beneath palm trees. With impunity.