Like an Edenic Adam birthed from the clay, our narrator rises to his feet from the muck—reborn, or something like that. Unbeknownst to him, he's on a desperate search for Harmada, the capital city of an unnamed nation and the land of his former glory. Harmada traces the life of this nameless man on a voyage that takes him from aimless outcast to revered director of avant-garde theater, from asylum patient to father to God, conjuring along the way essential questions about the power of art and storytelling, the vanity of glory, and the meaning of freedom.
...reads like a surreal reenactment of Les Misérables set in an imagined city ... Highly erotic and full of such gems, Noll’s novel explores the powerlessness of feeling both disoriented and aroused ... The novel itself shifts and morphs on every page; its occasional extended scenes comprised either of monologues that circumnavigate the world in one breath, or stretches of witty banter between two characters reminiscent of bunraku puppet plays ... Identifying this figure as the city’s founder, Brazilian literary scholar Idelber Avelar suggests that the conclusion of Harmada serves as a meeting between myth and history. Readers, however, are not privy to what is myth and what is history. All they know by the end is that causality does not direct this novel ... What remains with the reader of this novel, in which anything could have happened, is precisely this sense of unknowability.
...provocative and outlandish ... The book flows with the logic of dreams, the scenes altering as suddenly and inscrutably as the narrator’s explosive urges ... The plot meanders so unpredictably that it leaves readers bewildered but never disinterested. But, as this is a portrait of a man’s alienation amid a search for joy, its disorientation might just be the point.
The writing is excellent and strange in the fashion of much of the Argentinian fabulists, but there’s no real point to it. Another somewhat mystic parable about middle-aged crazy and our search for meaning in a world that has lost its way.