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Island of Second Sight

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The Island of Second Sight

Albert Vigoleis Thelen

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ISBN 13: 978-1-4683-0116-8
Trim Size: 6 x 9
Hardcover
Overlook
09/01/2012

Product Description

Winner of the 2013 PEN Translation Prize

Unavailable to English readers for more than 50 years, The Island of Second Sight is a literary tour de force, a Bolaño-esque sage of World War II. First published in Germany in 1953, it became a bestseller and has never been out of print. It is the fictionalized autobiography of the author and his wife’s years on Mallorca in the early 1930s. Low on money, they seek shelter in a brothel for bullfighters. Narrator Vigoleis is an inventor whodoubles as a writer-secretary, and the couple befriends literary figures and Jews, they make enemies of the Nazis, and then the Spanish Civil War erupts, presenting new challenges to their escape plan.

Thelen is a wonderfully gifted narrator, with burlesque humor and a delightful cynicism. The Island of Second Sight, often compared to Don Quixote, is a vivacious, furious, and funny book that will enrich and surprise.

Praise for The Island of Second Sight:

"A masterpiece." —Times Literary Supplement

"A genuine work of art." —Paul Celan

"Worthy of a place alongside On the Marble Cliffs, Berlin Alexanderplatz, The Death of Virgil and other modernist German masterworks; a superb, sometimes troubling work of postwar fiction, deserving the widest possible audience." —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

"A charming if exhausting blend of cultural self-examination and picaresque adventure…Even when the author-narrator’s observations prove overwhelming, his cultural insights, historical laments, literary references, and abundant wit make this first English translation (by Amherst professor White) and the book itself a literary achievement."—Publishers Weekly

"[A] brilliant novel…Readers will thank a gifted translator for finally making this masterpiece--acclaimed by Thomas Mann--available to English-speakers."—Booklist, starred review

"You know a book critic is uninspired and unoriginal when they call a book "a tour-de-force," but, for once, the over-used term is actually appropriate here. The Island of Second Sight is an 800-page tour-de-force, first published in 1953 and an international bestseller for decades. It is only now available to American readers for the first time, thanks to Peter Mayer and The Overlook Press…Thelen's sentences are powered by his inexhaustible wit, with nearly every paragraph containing a maxim or pun. Irony itself designs the structure of Thelen's prose. Frequent allusion to myth and epic reveal his vast knowledge of various traditions. With his tongue always planted in cheek, Thelen shapes various situations into a life lesson, stamping it with an aphorism…Like with the Quixote, these delightful nuggets of Thelen's wit and wisdom make reading The Island of Second Sight a breeze, even though the book is gargantuan." —The Coffin Factory


Albert Vigoleis Thelen (1903-1989) was a German writer and translator. During the rise of the Nazi regime, he lived on Mallorca with Beatrice Bruckner, whom he married in 1934. The Island of Second Sight was awarded the Fontane Prize upon its first publication.

Donald O. White is a Professor of German at Amherst College.

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