I think Mikkel Rosengaard gives us a hint for understanding The Invention of Ana early in the book. As Ana relates the important stories in her life to our unnamed narrator, she frequently mentions that her mathematician father specialized in topology. Topology is, as far as I can understand it, about how a process of transformation can prove that apparently different things are actually the same thing. Wikipedia shares this joke about topologists that I think helps to explain the weird logic of the field:
“a topologist cannot distinguish a coffee mug from a doughnut, since a sufficiently pliable doughnut could be reshaped to a coffee cup by creating a dimple and progressively enlarging it, while shrinking the hole into a handle”
Keeping this in mind, I found that Ana’s strange stories made more sense over the course of the novel. This book is, to me, about how the pressures of time, the past, and off-kilter views of reality can transform (or warp) a person.
Our unnamed narrator meets his muse at a gathering for his brother’s art festival in New York. Our narrator is an intern. Ostensibly, he’s a writer, but he spends a lot of time in close contact with the bizarre world of ultra-avant garde and performance artists. He falls into a conversation with Ana Ivan, a Romanian artists with a piece called The Time Traveler, which points out the gaps between perceived time, astronomical time, and clock time. Her past and her ideas about time capture our narrator’s imagination. She encourages him to use what she tells him for short stories, though she never reveals why she shares such intimate details with someone she just met.
Over the course of The Invention of Ana, we learn more about her parents, the influence of her mathematician father, and how she has traveled in time throughout her life. I’m not sure how much of Ana’s story is “real” or just her version of reality. In the end, it probably doesn’t matter because veracity is not the point of her stories. Instead, I interpret this book as a fictional take on topology—or a topological take on fiction. Later in the book, Ana worries about sharing certain parts of her story with our narrator, because it has “ruined” people in the past. Ana’s story, like Ana her self, exerts its own pressure on whoever hears it because it is infectious; we just can’t stop trying to make sense of it and the potent ideas about time it contains.
I liked The Invention of Ana the further I got into it. At first, I worried that it would be another novel in which a woman’s unique voice is co-opted by a male narrator. That turned out not to be the case, as the hearing of Ana’s story is an important part of the experience of this book. I also loved the way this book plays around with lost time and identity. This book is stunning.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss, for review consideration. It will be released 13 February 2018