Leaving the Atocha Station

Ben Lerner

Published: 7 March 2013
Paperback, B Format
129x198mm, 192 pages
ISBN: 9781847086914


Adam Gordon is a brilliant, if highly unreliable, young American poet on a prestigious fellowship in Madrid, struggling to establish his sense of self and his attitude towards art. Fuelled by strong coffee and self-prescribed tranquillizers, Adam's 'research' soon becomes a meditation on the possibility of authenticity, as he finds himself increasingly troubled by the uncrossable distance between himself and the world around him. It's not just his imperfect grasp of Spanish, but the underlying suspicion that his relationships, his reactions, and his entire personality are just as fraudulent as his poetry.

About the author

Image of Ben Lerner

BEN LERNER was born in Topeka, Kansas, in 1979. He has received fellowships from the Fulbright, Guggenheim, and MacArthur Foundations, and is the author of two internationally acclaimed novels, Leaving the Atocha Station and 10:04. He has published three poetry collections: The Lichtenberg Figures, Angle of Yaw (a finalist for the National Book Award), and Mean Free Path. In 2011, he became the first American to win the Mu¨nster Prize for International Poetry. Lerner lives and teaches in Brooklyn. More about the author


‘[A] subtle, sinuous, and very funny first novel. . . . [with] a beguiling mixture of lightness and weight. There are wonderful sentences and jokes on almost every page’ James Wood



‘[In this] short but potent novel . . . Lerner sets up profound questions about the possibilities of art and human experience . . . beguiling’ Andrew Staffell

‘[This book] stood out from everything else I read this year’ Catherine O’Flynn, Books of the Year

‘A dazzling first novel that does not flinch from difficulty but asks questions of language and art and what we can do with them’ Amy Sackville, Books of the Year

‘A marvellous novel, not least because of the magical way that it reverses the postmodernist spell, transmuting a fraudulent figure into a fully dimensional and compelling character’

‘A refined comedy’ Jonathan Derbyshire, Books of the Year

‘A slightly deranged, philosophically inclined monologue in the Continental tradition running from Büchner's Lenz to Thomas Bernhard and Javier Marías. The adoption of this mode by a young American narrator-solipsistic, overmedicated, feckless yet ambitious-ends up feeling like the most natural thing in the world’ Benjamin Kunkel

‘A thoroughly first-rate first novel: properly cutting edge, searingly clever and dark and beautiful’ Stuart Hammond

‘Acclaimed debut novel that follows the fortunes of an alienated, self-medicating American poetry student living in Madrid’

‘An anatomy of a generation's uncertainty and self-involvement, the novel offers a carefully constructed snapshot of a nation in doubt... Beautifully written’ Stephen J. Burns

‘An extraordinary novel about the intersections of art and reality in contemporary life’ John Ashbery

‘An odd, utterly distinctive book... I do recommend it’ Tom Sutcliffe

‘At its core, it's a deeply serious novel that - almost by stealth - makes you think afresh about all those late night imponderables to do with art and the meaning of life... A stunning debut’

‘Billy Liar as written by Proust’ Tom Sutcliffe

‘Clever, funny and beautifully written, I enjoyed every page’ Christmas Book Recommendations, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

‘Funny, uplifting and moving... Lerner's genius is to put into words that universal, often-lost period when most young people are commitment-free but weighed down with a sense of the nascent self... We finish this book feeling a little cleverer, and a little happier’ Isabel Berwick

‘Gales of laughter howl through [this] remarkable first novel. It's packed full of gags and page-long one-liners... intensely and unusually brilliant’ Geoff Dyer

‘Hilarious and cracklingly intelligent, fully alive and original in every sentence, and abuzz with the feel of our late-late-modern moment’ Jonathan Franzen

‘Hugely entertaining’ Liz Jensen

‘I love to death Ben Lerner's novel . . . [A] significant book’ David Shields

‘I was amused and appalled by the anti-hero’ David Nicholls, Books of the Year

‘Lerner conveys, with the lightest of touches, the wordly truth that the truly profound and totally mundane are sometimes feather-width apart’

‘Lerner is a multi-form talent who crosses genres, modes, and media... one of the most important young writers working today’

‘Lerner's remarkable first novel is a bildungsroman and meditation and slacker tale fused by a precise, reflective and darkly comic voice. It is also a revealing study of what it's like to be a young American abroad... for America, the path from The Sun Also Rises to Leaving the Atocha Station seems frighteningly downward’ Gary Sernovitz

‘One of the funniest (and truest) novels I know of’ Lorin Stein, editor

‘One of the funniest (and truest) novels I know of by a writer of his generation. . . . [A] dazzlingly good novel’ Lorin Stein

‘One of the most remarkable books I have read this year... Lerner's poetry manifests itself in elegantly stilted grammar, in contradiction and self-cancellation, in painfully self-aware self-mirroring and especially in misunderstanding... The camber of Adam's thoughts is conveyed with astonishing grace’ Stuart Kelly

‘One of the most talked-about fiction debuts this year, it's a book for anyone who's ever been young and self-conscious in a foreign city. The Spanish travails (or lack of them) of Lerner's preening poet narrator are painful, well-observed and often very funny’ Hari Kunzru

‘Seductively intelligent and stylish writing, mercilessly comic in the ways it strips the creative ego bare’ Peter Carty

‘The author's poetic skills and sandpaper-dry humour mounted a charm offensive’

‘The best new novel I've read for a long time’ James Meek

‘The overall narrative is structured around subtle, delicate moments... They're comic but they're also beautiful and touching and precise’ Jenny Turner

‘The sharpest and funniest novel I have read this year’ Craig Brown, Books of the Year

‘This arrestingly clever debut novel blends lyricism, wit and emotional self-laceration’

‘This debut has already created quite a stir in the US. Jonathan Franzen is a fan ("hilarious and crackingly intelligent") as is Paul Auster’ Alice O’Keeffe

‘Utterly charming. Lerner's self-hating, lying, overmedicated, brilliant fool of a hero is a memorable character, and his voice speaks with a music distinctly and hilariously all his own’ Paul Auster

‘Very funny... One of the most acclaimed debut novels of 2012’

‘Wonderful precision and comic timing... Superb’ Anthony Cummins

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