Top positive review
Self-deprecatory Adventures from an Almost-Millennial
Reviewed in the United States on April 27, 2021
On a list of recent best recent novels, "Leaving Atocha Station" was described as “subtly hilarious.” Always on the prowl for literary humor, particularly in our era of (justifiable) gloom and doom, I tried it. Lerner’s style is elegant and efficient, allowing Jamesian psychological probings of his protagonist’s human relationships, particularly with two women he meets on his fellowship year in Spain. The machinations of his male ego as he deals with both, who are each impressed with his status as poet via the mythology that vocation invokes, and whom he eventually realizes are not quite as impressed as he thinks they are, or in the way he’d like, produce many laugh-out-loud moments. And Adam’s not-quite-proficient mastery of Spanish allow for dozens of misprisions that recall Mark Twain’s travels in Europe. But the novel is not wholly comical by any means: there are observations on cultural and national identity, the relation of art and politics, and, especially toward the end, some poetic flights that demonstrate another side of the author’s considerable gifts. This is a capacious envelope for digressions that includes (always in the guise of the author's alter-ego protagonist) a brief study of John Ashbery, but never does the rhythm or momentum of the book get disturbed. After the surfeit of Millennial novels inspired by Pynchon and David Foster Wallace, this was a welcome, mature relief. I’ll be reading another of his novels, "10:04," soon enough.