Powers published this stunning debut novel at the age of 28. An actual photo taken by August Sander, the Austrian photographer of the common man, of three farmers walking down a road in western Europe in August 1914 serves as the centerpiece for a meditation on history (especially the Great War) and its undercurrents, mass production (Henry Ford is a character in the story), photography, solitude and loss. A young computer designer in 1980s Boston tries to track down the truths behind the photo as well as flirting with a waitress downtown. There is much sophisticated playing with words as well as ideas, and Powers indulges a facility with aphorisms in this book more than his others ("History is the army of occupation, and we are all collaborators") as well as his usual wise-guy lines ("I used to be a Catholic, but I found I could get all the suffering I needed by going in to work").
This report prepared by David Loftus