Harvard Book Store welcomes MARK HABER—author, bookseller, and operations manager of Brazos Bookstore—for a discussion of his new novel, Reinhardt’s Garden. He will be joined in conversation by poet, translator, and bookmaker KIT SCHLUTER.
At the turn of the twentieth century, as he composes a treatise on melancholy, Jacov Reinhardt sets off from his small Croatian village in search of his hero and unwitting mentor, Emiliano Gomez Carrasquilla, who is rumored to have disappeared into the South American jungle—“not lost, mind you, but retired.” Jacov’s narcissistic preoccupation with melancholy consumes him, and as he desperately recounts the myth of his journey to his trusted but ailing scribe, hope for an encounter with the lost philosopher who holds the key to Jacov’s obsession seems increasingly unlikely.
From Croatia to Germany, Hungary to Russia, and finally to the Americas, Jacov and his companions grapple with the limits of art, colonialism, and escapism in this antic debut where dark satire and skewed history converge.
“An exhilarating fever dream about the search for the secret of melancholy . . . Haber’s dizzying vision dextrously leads readers right into the melancholic heart of darkness.” —Publishers Weekly
“Reinhardt’s Garden is one of those perfect books that looks small and exotic and melancholic from the outside but, once in, is immense and exultant in the best possible way. Think Amulet by Roberto Bolaño, think Nightwood by Djuna Barnes, think Train Dreams by Denis Johnson, think Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, think Zama by Antonio Di Benedetto, think The Loser by Thomas Bernhard. Think.” —Rodrigo Fresán
“Jacov Reinhardt and his faithful assistant roam South America in a quixotic search for the essence of melancholy—an enterprise that makes Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo, their rough contemporary, come off as a levelheaded pragmatist. To follow Reinhardt, fueled by amounts of cocaine not even Sigmund Freud could have managed, is to walk into a fascinating literary maze that spans from Ulrich Schmidl’s chronicles to the decadent movements in turn-of-the-century Europe and Latin America. Melancholy has never felt more euphoric than in Mark Haber’s breathless paragraph-long novel.” —Hernan Diaz
Certain books were “banned in Boston” at least as far back as 1651, when one William Pynchon wrote a book criticizing Puritanism.