In 1907, Jacov Reinhardt is obsessed with melancholy and its effect on mankind. In an attempt to complete his treatise on the subject, Reinhardt and his faithful 24-year-old companion set off from their Croatian village for the South American jungles in search of his hero and mentor, Emiliano Gomez Carrasquilla, considered the foremost authority on the condition of melancholy.
Addicted to cocaine, Reinhardt leads the expedition through the jungles where Carrasquilla is known to have been seen. Reinhardt also looks for sources of cocaine. During their expedition, they discuss the subject of melancholy, Jacov’s youth, the life of the young writer accompanying Jacov, and their visits to Russia to meet with Tolstoy. Interesting characters include Sonja, Jacov’s one-legged former prostitute and companion living in Germany along with Ulrich, his bodyguard, who is accompanying Jacov in South America.
This was a difficult book to read. Haber writes using one continuous paragraph, and, in several instances, one sentence may encompass several pages, but the prose is well written. I found using a single paragraph certainly slowed the narrative. As the scenes and locations changed, it was difficult to determine where the scene took place. Though not your typical literary historical fiction, it had interesting moments, especially during the expedition, but I struggled to feel empathy for the characters. Still, Haber is a talented author and deserves recognition for his efforts.