Sabrina Janesch

The Golden City

Sabrina Janesch’s great novel about the lost city of the Incas and its forgotten German discoverer

Peru in 1887: Throughout the country, people are talking about one man and his incredible discovery. Augusto Berns says he has found the lost city of the Incas, and the news races from Lima to London and New York. But who is this man, the putative discoverer of El Dorado?
It all begins with a young boy washing gold in the Rhine, who loses himself in dreams of new worlds, who idolises Alexander von Humboldt and whose meeting with the famed explorer in Berlin leads to a momentous decision. Determined to find the Golden City, Berns embarks on the perilous journey to Peru where he becomes an inadvertent hero of the wars of independence, before beginning to gather the material he needs for his expedition while working as a railway engineer. Together with Harry Singer, an American, he climbs the Andes and battles his way through the deepest jungles before reaching a place more fantastical than anything he could have imagined.

Recent historical research has revealed that the fabled Peruvian city of Machu Picchu was discovered by a German explorer. In her rich and evocative new novel, Sabrina Janesch traces the remarkable journey of a forgotten explorer, recounting his fascinating story and constructing a narrative of enormous creative power that submerges its readers in an exotic world and explores what it means to live for ones dreams.

“The attraction of the imaginary is that we know it to be unattainable. But what if we unexpectedly succeed? What if El Dorado were suddenly reached? What happens to the man --in this case, the German adventurer Augusto Berns-- who presents to the world a cartography of its impossible desires? Sabrina Janesch has written a chronicle of such an adventure, part Märchen, part historical account, part a joyful paean in praise of our unbridled human curiosity.” - Alberto Manguel

“Immaculately written, with spellbinding characters and an all-pervading richness, colourful and unforgettable.” - Sten Nadolny

Sabrina Janesch

Sabrina Janesch

Born in 1985, Sabrina Janesch studied cultural journalism at the University of Hildesheim and polonistics and the Jagiellonian University in Krakow. Her novel The Cat Mountains was published in 2010, with Ambra and Tango For A Dog following in 2012 and 2014 respectively. Sabrina Janesch has been awarded many prizes for her literary work, including the Mara Cassens Prize, the Nicolas Born Prize and the Anna Seghers Prize. She was a resident writer at New York’s Ledig House and held the post of official writer of the city of Gdansk. Sabrina Janesch lives with her family in Münster. 

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