A Soldier of the Great War
On his last long walk, septuagenarian war hero, deserter, and professor Alessandro Giuliani shares his past with an illiterate young factory worker—spinning a remarkable tale of heart-stopping escapes, of loves unrequited and won, of madmen, dwarfs, and mafiosi. But overshadowing all is his most miraculous and terrible adventure, the Great War—a surreal parade of horrors t...more
I suppose it is always true that we gain from books what we can relate to. The themes that dominate our daily lives in our teens, our 20’s, 30’s, and so forth vary radically. These themes are filters over what we read and absorb, creating a different experience for us each time we read. So i ...more
Helprin's writing technique (at least in this book and Refiner's Fire, which I read a year or so ago) is to tell a sequence of what seem t ...more
This is not like any other war novel I have read, and I've read a number of them. Although you are taken inside the reality of war--in the muddy trenches, in the grasp of grenades, marching with battalions, ...more
100 more pages and I don't want it to end.
Breathtaking. My god ...more
“Alessandro grieved. His punishment was that nothing in the world could touch him. His punishment was that God had put him into battle and preserved him from its dangers.”
In summer 1964, after the operator of a streetcar denies a fare to a young boy, an elder man, Alessandro Guiliani, walks off in protest. Alessandro joins the boy, and in their journey from Rome to a far away village, he tells the boy the story of his life; from his early days living as the s ...more
There is a relentless optimism to all of his stories. ...more
From the Mark Helprin web site (used with permission)
In the summer of 1964, Alessandro Giuliani, an old and partially lame professor of aesthetics —white hair and mustaches, white suit, cane— is thrown off a trolley on the outskirts of Rome after he comes to the defense of a yo ...more
The novel probably deserves more than 3 stars. Parts of it are very moving, and Helprin has important things to say and creates a wonderful, deeply humane character in Alessandro Giuliani. But it was a long, looooong slog. It felt like a 40-mile hike. More chore than fun.
He travels with a young, uneducated young man who he defended. Niccolo is enthralled with the story that Allesandro tells of the war, his part in it, and his loves. ...more
This book was a bestseller when it came out. I have no idea why. It is essentially a collection of 1,500 word anecdotes with a thin film of connecting glue.
Most of what came out of the characters' mouths was implausible. There's an awful lot of inflated dialogue that sounded to me like word ...more
I'm still trying to figure out one of the recurring themes, and I know some symbolism was just lost on me entirely. Still, the book was full of rich stories and vig ...more
Read by me, February, 2009, as a recommendation from Doug Curtis.
This is a novel of beauty and light. Or horror and sorrow. Of loss and redemption. Of boundless love. These themes contract and expand, contract and expand musically, as on an accordion playing a sweet song that sweeps you back into your most tender, precious and painful memories.
This book is so vast and sweeping that I could not summarize it well without rewriting it, almost word ...more