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The Messiah of Stockholm

3.51 of 5 stars 3.51  ·  rating details  ·  338 ratings  ·  52 reviews
Heralded author Cynthia Ozick sets her new novel in contemporary Stockholm, where a group of Jewish refugees from Poland weave an intricate web of intrigue and fantasy around a book reviewer's contention that he is the son of a legendary writer killed by the Nazis.
Hardcover, First Edition, 144 pages
Published February 12th 1987 by Alfred a Knopf (first published 1987)
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William1
In Stockholm of 1980 or so a man is living in a tiny cold water flat. He writes reviews for a local newspaper of modest circulation. He is a refugee from war-torn Poland and, he says, the son of that Polish genius -- shot by a Nazi in the streets of Drohobycz Poland in 1942 -- Bruno Schulz. He is obsessed with his father's legacy, most notably the lost manuscript known to us today as The Messiah. He befriends a bookseller in town, a Mrs. Eklund, with whom he shares his literary obsessions, and v ...more
Ian Klappenskoff
Sublime Quandary

This is the most sublime novel. Yet, I can't recall when such a sublime work has ever placed me in such a quandary.

If you're the sort of reader who can cry in "The Name of the Rose", because the Library burned to the ground, then this book is for you.

If you believe that the sum total of human wisdom and culture can be contained in its literature, art, film and music, and that the loss of these cultural works is a tragedy, then this book is for you.

If you grieve at the loss of Bru
...more
K.D. Absolutely
Mar 08, 2014 K.D. Absolutely rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: 501 Must Read Books (Modern Fiction)
I appreciate the stylish modernist writing. I also saw myself in the character of the main protagonist Lars Andeming a 40-something book reviewer for a Stockholm daily. I read books everyday letting them up only when I am in the office, at the gym or inside the church. When at home, I almost always read except when I sleep (but you know sometimes I see pages and texts of a book in my dream), eating, doing household chores, talking to my loved ones (I close the book when they try to communicate t ...more
Lee
At times, a really enjoyable bit of brunoschulzophilia, a hysterical realist precursor focused on the famously lost manuscript of The Messiah but mainly about lost fathers and impossible surrogates. At other times, an overly literary dullard. A great idea but the execution felt too much like a New Yorker cartoon that someone who laughs in silent exclamation marks might find funny but everyone else just gapes at it. Hypnotic if often hard to focus on, well formed, absolutely informed, with every ...more
James
At three in the afternoon—the hour when, all over the world, the Literary stewpot boils over, when gossip in the book-reviewing departments of newspapers is most untamed and swarming, and when the autumn sky over Stockholm begins to draw down a translucent dusk (an eggshell shielding a blue-black yolk) across the spired and watery town—at this lachrymose yet exalted hour, Lars Andemening could be found in bed, napping. Not that there was anyone to look for him there.
The question that burns in
...more
Tim C
This book was like. Was like a series of short sentences. Staccato, fragments, broken, torn, poignant, left hanging and unresolved. It's plot was leaden and loomed like a giant dark angel with slowly out-stretching filigree wings, charcoal dusted, spreading out, unfolding, ever so slowly. Its repetitions, oh, its repetitions! Circling, prowling, conspiring, never to resolve into anything concrete or substantial. 'That very text - the thing itself, the words, the syllables, the letters!' Illusion ...more
Margaret
Apr 26, 2014 Margaret rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Margaret by: William1
What an odd little book this is. The main character, Lars Andemening, a Polish-born orphan adopted by Swedish parents, works as a part-time book reviewer for a Swedish newspaper where he is ranked third of three reviewers. His reviews, focusing on major eastern European authors, are dark and dense, and not at all popular with the newspaper’s readers. He lives in a tiny apartment and spends most of his time napping under a pile of quilts. He’s been married twice and has a daughter, but all of tho ...more
Lysergius
The Messiah of Stockholm, is a witty literary tale set in Stockholm. The guiding light of the novel, is Polish writer Bruno Schulz. Schulz was killed during World War II, leaving behind only a few works.

The novel centres around Lars Andemening, forty-something and not much of a success in life. Twice married, a very minor figure in the literary world, book reviewer for one of Sweden's lesser dailies. A war refugee Lars was raised by a Swedish couple. He has convinced himself that his father was
...more
John
On the face of it, this should have been the ideal novel for me, sucker as I am for fictions about books, bookstores, writing, literary conundra and the like, especially if they have some element of fantastication. Lars is a lowly book reviewer in Stockholm convinced that he owed his orphan childhood to having been brought here from Poland as a refugee from the Nazis, after his father, Jewish literary genius Bruno Schulz, was gunned down during a massacre in the ghetto. Schulz published just two ...more
Marja
Although the story itself is gripping, and the writing has an almost magical tone (or perhaps precisely because of these qualities), it seemed impossible not to read this story as a massive allegory of the creative person's obsessive urge to create, the causticity of the ambition and the impossibility of original creation. Usually, writers writing about writing bore me half to death, but with Ozick the question of writing is wound so tight with questions of identity and the meniality of the ever ...more
Katherine
"The elevator was an inconvenience that could accommodate two persons, on condition that one of them was suitably skeletal" (10).
"There were heaps of books on every surface. The mice made an orderly meal of them, prefaces for appetizers and indexes for dessert" (10).
"It came of being partly Finnish on his mother's side--you wouldn't expect a sunny disposition in a Finn. 'Spits in his own soup,' Gunnar persisited" (12).
"O the chimneys of armpits, moist and burning under wool" (18).
"His rings bla
...more
Spencer
Terrific--Cynthia Ozick can do it all. Snappy dialogue that's witty but not artificial, wry humor, language at once gorgeous and disturbing, indelible characters, a perfect sense of rhythm and mood. She treats sentimentality and despair with equal amounts of skepticism. The story loses steam at the climax, but if you're a fan of Nabokov or A.S. Byatt's Possession, Ozick may be your next favorite author.
Roger
If you're a fan of Bruno Schulz ("The Street of Crocodiles," "Sanitorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass") then this book will at least be an interesting read. Overall, I felt that the idea was much more intriguing than the final product, but it has moments of beauty and -- somewhat blasphemously -- an attempt at a writing of "The Messiah," Schulz's lost text.
zespri
Lars is a book reviewer for a Stockholm newspaper. He is also convinced he is the lost son of Bruno Schulz, a Polish author who was shot by the Nazis before his last work, 'the Messiah' was published.

Lars is obsessed with his supposed 'father', and he tries to trace the lost manuscript. He is helped in his search by an elderly bookshop owner who is also interested in the work of Bruno Schulz.

When everything turns on its head, Lars seems to come to his senses, and his sense of belonging and self
...more
Barbara
I followed the "action" of the novel but the language was so convoluted & circuitous only willpower kept me with it, despite it being a short book. Strikes me that I'm too Midwestern, straight forward & yo the point, to revel in this as reviewers have, although I usually enjoy evocative language. This just made me feel most of the time that I was as tangled in the bedclothes as the main character, not quite awake & not quite asleep. That may be the point, but was not a sensation I pa ...more
Leigh
I would not have picked this book up on my own, but it was my bookclub's selection for this month. I can't say that I enjoyed it overall. It tends to ramble, and becomes more wordy than necessary, causing the flow of the story to slow. The one thing I did enjoy was the author's use of language, and creativity...I just wish there had been more meat to the story. I found the book rather lacking by the end.
Joshua
Good story, interesting themes, but overwritten at times. I felt the author tried a touch too hard with her language, making it sometime confusing, and other times a touch overwrought. Still had some great moments, though.
Esteban Brena
Read her because David Foster Wallace highly recommended her in an interview, and God it was a short and oh so sweet novel.
Ozick's got a prose concise and beautiful, akin to Updike's, but way less showy: try and imagine Emily Dickinson writing novels and you'll be nearer to the quality of Ozick's words.
I've just read a book by Andrés Neuman with a line that says something like "restrained lyricism makes magic. Rein-free lyricism just tricks" (I'm sure I didn't translate that correctly, sorry) an
...more
Tessa
All the language in here is distilled to its most potent expression. The plot is intentionally (I assume) confusing at times, and at times overly explicated. A sad and gorgeously written book.
Emily
I appreciate what this book was trying to do, but the writing just didn't quite work for me. It wasn't bad, but it definitely was not good, and I was quite bored while reading.
Jennyb
Beautiful writing... about nothing at all. I'd have checked out in the middle of this mess if it weren't so short.
Trina
VERY slow and boring read for me. It took everything I had to finish it....
tia
I miss Bruno Schulz more and more everyday.
Neah
The beautiful use of language was what I liked the most. The book brings up topics as illusion, writing, becoming a whole person... I really enjoyed the last several pages as the beginning of the novel was slow and I caught myself skipping a few pages out of boredom.
There are some nice metaphors and conversations. I also loved the way Ozick writes about Stockholm though that was the only development I actually liked.
Overall, a beautiful but at times difficult to understand prose and not muc
...more
Warren
interesting, but too wordy.
Христина Мирчева
Ето книга, която ми се ще да е повече от 162 стр. едър шрифт. Гръбчето не лъже, че е нейният шедьовър. Така съм се чувствала само с романите на Иън Макюън. Вече съм на 41-ва: "Нямаше нужда от нея, можеше да се справи сам. Зачете - можеше да чете! - как бащата в "Кометата" пъха един микроскоп в димоотвода на комина и проучва звездната светлина, която е проникнала в покрития със сажди мрак: звездата се състои от един човешки мозък, вътре в който е скрит ембрион. Хайди остана безразлична към идеята ...more
John
Cynthia Ozick is a fabulous writer - this book is gorgeously written, filled with stunning metaphors and incisive observation. And it's very funny. A book particularly worth reading if you are interested in the great Bruno Schulz, author of The Street of Crocodiles, a writer who was murdered by the Nazis in World War Two. Ozick's other novels (Dictation, The Bear Boy) are equally as rigorous and entertaining.
Daniel
At the start this book I was enthralled with its exquisite lyricism, but after I got past chapter four, it dragged horribly. Ozick used too many obscure words, I kept having to refer to my dictionary thus totally losing my thread of what the hell she was going on about. Character wise, Heidi was the only believable one in the entire story. For such a small book this was hard work to get through.
Ashley
An unusual book. I'm not entirely sure what to make of it. The prose is beautiful, though on occassion very difficult to understand. Ozick is undoubtedly a masterful writer, but that fact alone was not enough to make this a very enjoyable read. I often felt, while reading, that there was something lacking. The protagonist never became three-dimensional or sympathetic enough for me to care. This book is relatively short, so the lack of character devleopment in favor of flowery prose is both off-p ...more
Mrs W
Lars Andeming is a World War II orphan. Smuggled from Poland to Sweden as an infant during the war, he has no idea who his family is. He is convinced that he is the son of Bruno Schulz, a (real) Polish writer killed by the Nazis. He has even learned Polish in order to read his father’s writing in its original language. The great mystery of Bruno Schulz is his lost manuscript, The Messiah. When a young woman claiming to be Schulz’s daughter brings forward a manuscript, Lars has to take a deep loo ...more
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Recipient of the first Rea Award for the Short Story (in 1976; other winners Rea honorees include Lorrie Moore, John Updike, Alice Munro), an American Academy of Arts and Letters Mildred and Harold Strauss Living Award, and the PEN/Malamud award in 2008.

Upon publication of her 1983 The Shawl, Edmund White wrote in the New York Times, "Miss Ozick strikes me as the best American writer to have emerg
...more
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“The novella will be called, I think, “The Messiah of Stockholm.” It takes place in Stockholm. I’d better say no more, or the Muse will wipe it out.” 2 likes
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