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Parallel Stories: A Novel

3.65 of 5 stars 3.65  ·  rating details  ·  217 ratings  ·  48 reviews
In 1989, the memorable year when the Wall came down, a university student in Berlin on his early morning run finds a corpse lying on a park bench and alerts the authorities. This classic police-procedural scene opens an extraordinary novel, a masterwork that traces the fate of myriad Europeans - Hungarians, Jews, Germans, Gypsies - across the treacherous years of the mid-t ...more
Paperback, 1133 pages
Published November 27th 2012 by Picador (first published 2005)
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The flammable human colloid gathered in the ditches, fat and marrow arranged in fine layers according to their relative density; the religion teach or the retired banker watched as fires burst to life with fat and flames flaring up from the depths.

This particular scene is not indicative of the spiralling core of Parallel Stories. The novel's soul is of a softer vice, one more suggestive, dispiriting and, often, spermy.

The action occurs largely in Budapest and Berlin, though other destinations in
"Parallel straight lines are straight lines which, being in the same plane and being produced indefinitely in both directions, do not meet one another in either direction."
-Euclid, The Elements

A fitting title, Parallel Stories. This myriad of characters endures through the same torrents of history, somehow, but they never really meet. This big brick is already getting comparisons to War and Peace, and I felt compelled to see for myself.

Adorno is famous for saying there can be no art after the Ho
Vital Statistics
Number of pages: 1133
Length of audio version: 1 day, 18 hours, 48 minutes
Weight of hardcover edition: 3.3 pounds
Number of significant characters: 34+
Longest chapter title: Through the Entrance to His Secret Life
Number of instances of the word "foreskin": 34
Number of instances of the word "Nazi": 25
Words most commonly appearing in context with "frenum": "taut", "sensitive", "torn"
Level of necessity to construct an ongoing dramatis personae: utmost
Link to a great article about this
Tod Wodicka
REVIEW published in The National, November 4th, 2011.

Henry James famously referred to the spate of unwieldy, enormous, world-engulfing 19th century novels that once flooded the literary world, and Tolstoy's War and Peace specifically, as "loose, baggy monsters". Such monsters are now pretty much a genre. Perhaps it's simply that word - monster - but what critic can resist giving the giant novel that kind of label? And, let's face it, books featuring hundreds of characters, squirrelly plot lines
I like big books. The breadth of the story, the intricate plots and characters, and even the sheer physical size of the book are all daunting. But it's the challenge I love. Truth be told, I majored in English because I wanted to be able to really read Gravity's Rainbow (I still can't). House of Leaves, Underworld, Wings of the Dove, Infinite Jest, and my-all-time favorite, The Recognitions, were not easy reads, and many times I slammed the books shut, frustrated, confused, and completely lost, ...more
Joseph Nicolello
"It's a lot of hooey, the whole text, every bit of it, said the man standing stark naked in the doorway."

Decaying Angels: An Unenthusiastically Incomplete Assessment Concerning Parallel Stories With Occasional Additional Commentary From Stephen Dedalus

'What syllabus of intellectual pursuits was simultaneously possible?'

'Snapshot photography, comparative study of religions, folklore relative to various amatory and superstitious practices, contemplation of the celestial constellations.'

Edward Rathke
--And it was for me, and I love it, and even five months since finishing it, I’m still talking about it, thinking about it, pushing it at people, trying to get them to just read even a few pages, trying to figure out how he did the things he does in this novel. He does so many things, and so many of them shouldn’t work, shouldn’t even be possible for a book so large with so many character. But he does and I truly believe Parallel Stories is the most impressive novel I’ve ever read, more than Uly ...more
For a more detailed review of Parallel Stories, I'll insist that you read Tod's review here on Goodreads and Scott Esposito's wonderful review—and one with which I agree wholeheartedly—in the Barnes & Noble Review.

Nádas has certainly written a monumental exploration of time, history, belonging, estrangement, and how the personal and the political affect individuals and their relationships with others. Roughly speaking, Parallel Stories centralizes the Lippy-Lehr and the Dohring families, exp
Clinton Smith
In my continuing fascination with lengthy novels by non-US authors, here's Parallel Stories.
It would be most accurate to say that, while there are tenuous links between the different stories in this book, there are several different sort of "parallel novels" working within the longer novel. The sleeve description of the book, to a large extent, is inaccurate as to whom the principal characters are, and seems to provide the inaccurate presumption that the book is primarily about the political mov
after several weeks of reading, rereading, going back and forth and extensively using the search button on my epub version which i alternated with the print version, I finished (at least temporarily and tentatively since this is a book to be reread quite a few times) the novel.

I plan to have a full review on FBC soon so again several points for now;

- the book is extremely dense and jumps between pov's, narrative forms, tenses, characters, so it is best read as a collection of vignettes; some sh
Impressive in it's scope and enjoyable in the wonderful writing, but I still found this to be a confusing book to read. Though I do think it is a skill that some writers can help readers to understand complexity, I do not think writing is flawed simply because a writer does not do that. Nádas definitely doesn't. There are so many threads, characters, switches in time, that it is a struggle to understand what is going on and why. I never did get a complete handle on the book, but perhaps I didn't ...more
Aug 31, 2014 Susan rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Susan by: New York Times notable book
Shelves: novels, bailed
This obsessively observed narrative is a novel of ideas. The first idea that comes to mind, when a cyclist reports his discovery of a corpse, is whether lack of connection to human beings is tantamount to murder or simply urban self absorption, weirdness, and petty malice.

The second question is what post-Holocaust art looks like. This is another aspect of the city, where people are too close, stifled, with obscene relations in public baths, for example, visible and audible, and worst all, pervas
I only got about 80 pages into this before having to put it down for good. It was just too much for me, too much random jumping from scene to scene within a paragraph. Too much talk of bodily functions for no purpose. Too off-putting for me and FAR too long to waste my time trying to persevere.

This was not for me.
Ich glaube es kaum, ich habe es geschafft. 1724 Seiten sind gelesen - und die waren nun wirklich keine Wonne. Wer immer sich an dieses Buch heranwagt, der/dem sollte klar sein, dass es sich um keine durchgängige Geschichte handelt. Einzelne Personen bzw. Familien tauchen zwar immer wieder auf, doch stets wird auch die Gelegenheit genutzt, den Spuren anderer Personen zu folgen. Hauptsächlich ereignen sich die Begebenheiten in Ungarn zu Ende der 60er Jahre und kurz oder während des Ungarnaufstande ...more
I've given this four stars, but I suppose at least one of those stars is just for the way Nádas has helped bring Hungarian literature to the West...and for offering up depictions of Hungary since the 1930s--- always a topic I'm fascinated with. It's a sprawling book, and Nádas lays out an intertwined set of stories and characters that sometimes fascinate and intrigue. But he seems at times to lose track of what he's doing, to have welded together storylines with shallow and hackneyed links. Hung ...more
A meandering, inconsistent book. The very concept of parallelism implies that the lines/stories are without end, and that's the most invoked as you slog through the tepid, drawn-out clinical descriptions of sex in the central section of the book. It's a shame, really, that, since the book is constructed like a sandwich, this constitutes the meaty section of the book. The top slice comes in an intriguing psychological mystery thriller and the bottom slice delves into fascinating tableaux from var ...more
Absolutely hated this book, or at least the portion that I read. There is not a single reason to recommend Parallel Stories. The writing is not attractive, the narrative strands are extremely difficult to follow, and the stories themselves are tedious at best and revolting at worst. A profound disappointment.
Based on other reviews I read of this novel, I felt I would be gaining some interesting, intelligent, and well thought out insights into how the people of Hungary dealt with the atrocities committed against them by The Germans during World War Two, and then by The Russians during The Hungarian Revolution of 1956. Sadly, that was not the case. Because, while yes, these moments in history were covered; so,so,so much of this novel revolved around the degenerate,deviant, and perverse sexual acts of ...more
I don't give up on books lightly, but I have hated this one from the beginning and only lasted as far as page 150 out of sheer bloodymindedness. If you like plot less, meandering, barely organized verbal diarrhoea then this is the book for you. Make sure to bring along a superhuman attention span and a healthy tolerance for ill-defined and frequently switching narrators. Reading this book is like walking backwards through unpleasant smelling tar, towards a horizon that never gets any closer, whi ...more
Despite a stellar an inimitable style, tension, brilliant characterization, fascinating settings, and everything to recommend it, I can't continue with Parallel Stories now. Sometime in the last few pages, the balance tipped. Yesterday, I was highly impressed that I could read 10 pages about a fictional character's experience in an underwear store without becoming bored or annoyed. But there is far too much energy invested here in minute descriptions of things like bodily excretions (liquid, gas ...more
Jun 17, 2012 Katalin marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: on-pause
At p.105
Oh my goodness! I almost forgot why it has always been hard for me to read some contemporary Hungarian literature as well as to watch some contemporary Hungarian movies! This is going to be a hard one! It's because some of the naturalistic descriptions are so lively I just almost had to throw up. But I guess that's the point. I have compared some passages in Hungarian with the Enlgish translation and the language is a whole lot more shocking in Hungarian! It's almost like the English la
I'm a sucker for humongous novels; Gravity's Rainbow, Infinite Jest, 1Q84, 2666, War and Peace, and so forth. This enormous book, though, I haven't found to my taste; and after reading about 200 of its 1100 pages, I won't be finishing it.

Nadas' style is to minutely and dispassionately record every fluctuation of a character's emotions and thoughts. In so doing, he stretches a scene out to lengths that I found insufferable. In one scene, three friends chat and joke around with each other at a poo
Het is bijna onmogelijk een recensie of samenvatting van dit boek te geven. Iedere recensie, die je erover kan lezen, geeft weer een ander beeld van dit boek. Ik denk er zelf ook anders over dan de meeste mensen, die het gelezen hebben. Het is prachtig geschreven en - denk ik - ook heel goed vertaald. Het geeft een beeld van Hongarije en ook wel Duitsland van de afgelopen 60 jaar. Hongarije en de Hongaren komen er niet best van af. Veel recensenten klagen over de vele seks, althans beschrijvinge ...more
Jim Leckband
The blurb that Goodreads has for this book says that it is a "a masterwork that traces the fate of myriad Europeans". "Masterwork"...maybe it will seen to be. "Myriad Europeans"...oh, yes, Myriad is true, so true. "Fate"? Now that I quibble with. We don't learn the fate of hardly any of the myriad characters in the book. If anyone needs resolution after slogging through the campaign of 1130 pages of a book, they are in for a serious letdown.

The only way that I got through it is that sentence to
Chad Post
I have no idea how to process the experience of listening to this 58-hour audiobook. There are many moments in here that are brilliant, where the prose functions like a musical score, flashing from one moment in time and one p.o.v. to another p.o.v. separated by decades in a way that's both captivating and meaningful. There are also times where I realized I would have to reread this entire 1100-page book to really "get" all the connections and intricacies. (Doesn't help that I know shit-all abou ...more
Dense, humorless, and starkly beautiful. I was frustrated at first with the sudden jumps back and forth in time and/or perspective with no breaks in the text, but I finally reasoned that it's meant to add to the reader's disorientation. (And with the great amount of description and exposition, you *will* feel some disorientation.) There are no happy endings, no neat tie-ups for any of the characters, but given the settings and the time frames and the characters' histories and relationships and d ...more
Jonathan yates
In general one of my favorite things about literature is a book that is going to be like this, a book that is very complicated, is very beautiful and has at the end i hope a point, but this just coalesces into a a story that makes no sense no matter how hard i tried, i tried reading the book sober and alone, i tried reading the book drinking at a bar, i tried to make it make some sense, but it just seems like a long meditation on peeing on each other
so at the end of 750 pages i put the book down

Not for everyone, but if you can get past the first fifty pages then you'll love it. Nadas clings to neither his narrative or his characters; introducing new people right up to the final chapter and unceremoniously dropping major players with no warning. Do not attempt to read this book if you demand conventionality as you'll find little of it here, instead there is a portrait of compulsion (largely sexual) and the otherworldly elements which force our desicions beyond the realm of reason. Fasci
After more than three weeks of careful reading, concentrating and deep thinking, it's over. Absolutely amazing, and the best part of the book is that it's completely unresolved, and could easily go on for another 1000 pages. But don't expect a sequel: a major theme is incompleteness and loss amid all the inhuman destructiveness of the 20th century. A clean resolution to the book would imply that we could conveniently sum-up those years and and render them harmless. Nádas knows, personally and pa ...more
After three months, finished this today. Time to go back to page one (and this time make copious notes of who is who; when is when; where is where; etc.). Felt the same way as when I finally made it through "Ulysses" the first time - if I was better acquainted with the country's history (Ireland / Hungary) it would have made the read a bit clearer. But, I made it through to the end (end, well since most of the threads in the novel don't end) , not sure I reached it. A puzzling, frustrating, tire ...more
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Hungarian novelist, essayist, and dramatist, a major central European literary figure. Nádas made his international breakthrough with the monumental novel A Book of Memories (1986), a psychological novel following the tradition of Proust, Thomas Mann, and magic realism.

Péter Nádas was born in Budapest, as the son of a high-ranking party functionary. Nádas's grandfather, Moritz Grünfeld, changed h
More about Péter Nádas...
A Book of Memories The End of a Family Story Own Death A Lovely Tale of Photography Love

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“Hardly anything remained of which he could speak aloud.” 4 likes
“By fantasizing one builds a more predictable world, and then one has no time to notice what is really happening, because of the din made by one's expectations crashing down.” 3 likes
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