It is a story of one man’s loneliness, having time to contemplate his life and consider how things have happened to him. There are wonderful explorations of noticing the smallest detail as he walked from his flat to the Guggenheim, such as the leaves on the trees when meeting his brother in Drumcondra. And I loved his thought that a bridge is not a trivial thing – it should be not put in the hands of an architect but of a structural engineer.
At the end I wanted to sit down in La Geraikesa, his nearest bar and have a coffee with Michael and just talk with him.
A beautifully written book which for me was the perfect antidote to the world right now. I could lose myself in the tale and the fantastic prose.
Lilliput Press/ 9781843517764/€15.99
What Does the Publisher Say
Michael, a retired engineer, has lived away from Ireland for most of his life and now resides alone in Bilbao after the death of his girlfriend, Catherine. Each day he listens to two versions of the same piece of music before walking the same route to visit Richard Serra’s enormous permanent installation, The Matter of Time, in the Guggenheim Museum. Over the course of 45 minutes before he leaves his apartment, Michael reflects on past projects and how they have endured, the landscape of his adolescence, and his relationship with Catherine, which acts as the marker by which he judges the passing of time.
Over the course of the narrative, certain fascinations crop up: electricity, porcelain, the bogland of his youth, a short story by Robert Walser, and a five-year period of prolonged mental agitation spent in Leipzig with Catherine. This `sabbatical’, caused by the stress of his job and the suicide of a former colleague, splits his career as an engineer into two distinct parts.
A Sabbatical in Leipzig is intensely realistic, mapped out like Michael’s intricate drawings. With a clear voice and precise, structured thoughts, we are brought from an empty landscape to envision the creation of structures in cities across Europe, from London to Leipzig and Bilbao. This narrator has left the void of his world in rural Ireland to build new environments elsewhere yet remains connected to his homeland. Duncan’s second novel stands alone as a substantial and compelling work of literary fiction.
I adored this novel. It is not necessarily a novel that I would have ordinarily read. Not sure why but I am thrilled that Lilliput Press sent it to me to read. I felt I was living through the eyes and ears of Michael. The novel is written with the most minute and beautiful detail. He describes every detail he sees in wonderful prose.
Such as when he views a painting by Joseph Anton Koch. “The painting was called Der Schmadribachfall and I was curious to see if the entire painting might feature in the show. It did, and the reproduction on my Eterna Edition – even the detail – did the earthy colours and texture in the painting very little justice. To the foreground of the detail a broad river courses past and on the outcrop of land in the centre a man is taking aim with what looks like a rifle, he in the act of shooting at a dispersing herd of deer fleeing up through the woods to the right” I could have been standing in front of the painting myself.