Atlas of an Anxious Man

Christoph Ransmayr

Translated from German by Simon Pare

Seagull Books

S. Fischer Verlag 2014

Atlas of an Anxious Man

This unique account follows Ransmayr across the globe: from the shadow of Java’s volcanoes to the rapids of the Mekong and Danube Rivers, from the drift ice of the Arctic Circle to Himalayan passes and on to the disenchanted islands of the South Pacific. Ransmayr begins again and again with, 'I saw . . .' recounting to the reader the stories of continents, eras, and landscapes of the soul. Like maps, the episodes come together to become a book of the world—one that charts the life and death, happiness and fate of people bound up in images of breathtaking beauty.

Christoph Ransmayr offers a mesmerizing travel diary—a sprawling tale of earthly wonders seen by a wandering eye. This is an exquisite, lyrically told travel story.


“Whatever the future may hold—and this is a book ruled by the past tense—it will emerge from the beautiful wreckage Ransmayr describes in these seventy tales: a world of ruins, haunted by failure and littered with the bodies of the dead, human and animal alike. Several of the vignettes evoke writing on a wall. We have no reason for arrogance, the author suggests, and little cause for hope. . . . Pare’s translation is lithe and assured. . . . Ransmayr casts a magisterial eye over a suffering world: the atlas he compiles is one in which awe at the splendour of the planet is tempered by sorrow at what has become of it.” —Times Literary Supplement

“Atlas of an Anxious Man is a record of the extraordinary things that can happen to a person if he steps out into the world with his eyes and mind open. It is an evocative and haunting book, a masterpiece of multiple genres by a writer unlike any other. Ransmayr is one of Austria’s most accomplished novelists, but his work is relatively unknown outside of Europe. With this excellent translation by Pare, there is hope that Ransmayr will start to receive the attention he deserves.” —Northwest Review of Books (US)

Whether in the Caribbean or in Laos, the Brazilian tropical forest, the North American wilderness, in Russia, or even in his Austrian homeland — Ransmayr is most concerned with describing both nature and humanity. The 70 chapters of Atlas of an Anxious Man deal "exclusively with people I have encountered, people who helped, protected, threatened, rescued or loved me," Ransmayr writes. And sometimes also animals. The novel draws on diverse histories to recall the oddities of everyday life, and to describe the peculiarities of people and the places they inhabit. Ransmayr's literary travels take him to small and large dramas in remote places across the planet. How do these characters behave in distant cultures? How does one deal with silence and the desolation of nature? How does one face the hardships of life? The author both asks questions and offers answers that yet retain an element of mystery. Ransmayr's literary expeditions often lead to minor and major dramas Using prose that transcends the mere experience of the journey, Ransmayr addresses such quandaries in ways that won't be found in traditional travel literature. "Often my destinations were also determined by reading, such as Stevenson and Melville," the writer said in an interview about his motivation for writing. —Deutsche Welle

“Atlas of an Anxious Man is far from your usual travel-account, but it's an impressive collection of scenes of the contemporary world -- the almost-asides of the often everyday, which are in fact often quite extraordinary. Recommended.” —The Complete Review (US)

This is a portrait of the novelist as an active man. As Ransmayr hikes, swims, cycles, fishes, camps and drives through Europe, Asia and South America, he seeks and comes across people, animals, plants, buildings and myths that reveal something essential about the inner life of a place. In the pages of Atlas, it seems as if the writer’s interior and exterior lives have come together to exchange notes after their own expeditions. —Scroll (India)