The Back of Beyond
Travels with Benjamin
Rights sold:Romanian, Polish, Italian, German, US
“I have lived. Who can say that about themself?” This is how the narrator and main character David assesses his life at the end of the novel. It is the story of a man who lacks fulfillment despite his relative wealth. After the death of his wife he suddenly finds himself alone with his eight-year-old son Benjamin. In order to face the task ahead of him, he decides that he will have to make significant changes. He and Benjamin set off on a holiday trip together — a journey to getting lost. The novel is a part personal, part travel diary. Describing father and son’s adventures on the backdrop of several European countries (Greece, Italy, Bulgaria, Romania), it offers insight into the human soul.
It may not happen very often, but sometimes we are fortunate enough to come across a book that touches something vital deep inside us. I am not talking about high drama or wildly exciting stories which are virtually bound to move us. What I mean is the special kind of touch that happens when the book we read reaches out to something that is already within us, or when its themes tug at some especially sensitive string inside. It is a very personal, intimate contact with literature: something that is exclusively ours. Until recently, the last book to have had this kind of effect was Michel Houellebecq’s The Elementary Particles. Nearly twenty years later, the same has happened to me with Czech author Martin Vopěnka, previously completely unknown to me.