Michael's Reviews > Leaving the Atocha Station

Leaving the Atocha Station by Ben Lerner
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Jan 26, 12

Read from January 21 to 26, 2012

I read this mainly because I knew it was about an American living in Madrid and I am planning a trip there this spring. The Atocha Staion refers to the central Madrid train station that was bombed by terrorists shortly after the Iraq war began.
The story involves a young American poet named Adam who is on a fellowship living on the fellowship and his parent's money in Madrid to study/write about the influence of the fascist government on literature. Adam comes across as a not so likaeable person who for some reason seems to have made some friends in Madrid who encourage his work. He is not very emotionally accessible to them and constantly lies about or fakes his feelings to them. He feigns his inability to speak Spanish as a reason for his communication problems and emotional distance. In fact I found him to be very much like the character Muersault in Camus' "The Stranger".
Adam doesn't seem to have the soul of a real poet or to be even really seriously interested in poetry. He spends most of his time getting high smoking spliffs, taking tranqulizers, and agonizing over whether he likes or is liked by one of two women, Teresa or Isobel. Whenever he is with one, he is thinking about the other and is either jealous of their other male friends or wants them to be jealous of his relation with the other. Adam is a total jerk and not a very deep person for being a poet. When the Atocha station is bombed, Adam is so indifferent that he hardly takes interest.
I found the book interesting only in that it describes many of the Madrid locations I hope to visit.
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