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Septimania: A Novel Hardcover – April 5, 2016
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“There is a hint of Harry Potter about the start of Jonathan Levi's immensely ambitious Septimania. Septimania has the format of a novel, but it has roots in the folk-tales of The Arabian Nights. It reaches out to epic, in the form of Dante’s Divine Comedy, and to Wordsworth’s Newton, “voyaging through strange seas of thought, alone.” It takes in the sad modern world of refugees and terrorism, plots and code-breakers. And it’s a love story, too. More than one reading will be needed to digest Mr. Levi’s comprehensive, many-branching vision. It adds new dimensions to the idea of the novel.”
- The Wall Street Journal
- Álvaro Enrigue, The New York Times Book Review, “By the Book”
“Levi creates an energetically brilliant, genre-defying masterpiece filled with lavish descriptions, mysteries intertwined with history and legend, and a large cast of memorable, offbeat characters. [B]e prepared to stay up late savoring every word. Although it’s a literary dream of a book, it’s also a storyteller’s work of magic, and a fantastically suspenseful adventure, along the lines of Arturo Pérez Reverte’s The Flanders Panel (1994) and Iain Pears’ The Dream of Scipio (2002), told with the aplomb and smart humor of Michael Chabon and Jonathan Franzen.”
- Booklist (starred review)
“[L]aced with philosophy and wit. A thoroughly intellectual postmodern fable, wise yet melancholy, meant to be read slowly and savored.”
“Highly intelligent, insanely ambitious, and restlessly imaginative, Levi’s novel is also so recondite that any attempt to accurately describe its plot risks sounding like madness...Levi’s vast creation pays off once you give in to its unique fusion of history, music, and the origin of belief in invisible things.”
- Publishers Weekly
“Intellectually fascinating and emotionally powerful, the tale that follows is a poignant meditation on youth, love, myth, history, and quantum theory.”
- Chicago Review of Books
“Reading Jonathan Levi’s new novel Septimania is like dancing on a moving stage; it’s exhilarating, even as you worry that your feet might fly out from under you.”
- The Seattle Times
“Septimania is a masterpiece: a rule-bending, category-smashing, delightful work of brilliance that combines history and longing and religion and timelessness with good old-fashioned story-telling.”
- Bill Buford, author of Heat and Among the Thugs
“Jonathan Levi’s novel Septimania is both a compelling, fun mystery and a philosophical love story. In these pages, the musical prose combined with profound, complex ideas is masterful.”
- Jennifer Clement, author of Prayers for the Stolen and The Widow Basquiat
“A richly imagined, complex tapestry of gleaming threads woven through the centuries to converge in a glorious epiphany. This is realism as magical as the best of García Márquez.”
- Homerjo Aridjis, author of 1492: The Life and Times of Juan Cabezon of Castile
About the Author
Jonathan Levi is an American writer and producer. A founding editor of Granta magazine, Levi is author of two novels, A Guide for the Perplexed and Septimania. His short stories and articles have appeared in many publications including Granta, Condé Nast Traveler, GQ, Terra Nova, The Nation, The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times Book Review, and his plays and opera libretti have been performed all over the world. Born in New York, he currently lives in Rome, Italy.
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The reader is joyously compelled along a clever and gripping story arc that would make Dan Brown wish he were funnier and smarter, while the tale’s underlying harmonies not only bring to mind history, astronomy, music, grammar, faith, love, mathematics, logic, sex, rhetoric, science, and art, they make the reader begin to see that perhaps these are all the same one thing. "Septimania" is a suspenseful page-turner that invests you in the developments that grasp a hold of its protagonist and stun him along his and our road to very deep and broad discovery. You cannot take your eyes off of the spectacle. But other realizations play the accompaniment. The whole intellectual world is contained in the map of Rome. Music is making love is literature. We are, each one of us, a Jew, and a Gentile, a Muslim, and a pagan. A violin plays to us in the colors of a Michelangelo or a Titian. Gravity is light and electricity and perhaps God. One woman is all the women in the world.
If you do not find that you cannot put this book down even after you have finished it, you will not long be a virgin. It compels you to read it over again and to draw from it some things that are new or were unseen before. It is a Borgesian smorgasbord of meaning and beauty. Jonathan Levi is the wise shaman, or the unifying field theorist, of all the things that matter to the thinking and feeling heart. "Septimania" will synesthetically leave you seeing red and feeling blue and being green with envy, because it will strike you with the Emersonian truth that genius is the property of convincing us that what we knew all along is what we have just been told.
In his latest book, Levi brings us aboard for a tour of "magical realism," a compelling, captivating story that is permeated with myths and fantastical encounters. The settings in space and time are diverse and - given Levi's immense knowledge of, and attention to, detail - immersive. So as we follow the story of Mallory and Louiza, we visit Cambridge and Rome, Baghdad and Bucharest, decades modern and ancient... as well as the lost (or is it merely hidden?) kingdom of Septimania.
Levi's tight weaving of history and popular culture, mystery and romance, mathematics and music, religion and magic, carry us along and delight in unexpected ways. The reader should hold on loosely, and not try too hard to anticipate where things are heading. The ride is most enjoyable - and thought-provoking - when one abandons expectations of a conventional narrative and tired historical-mystery tropes.