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Parallel Stories: A Novel

3.69  ·  Rating Details ·  307 Ratings  ·  61 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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Paul Bryant
Jan 30, 2016 Paul Bryant marked it as assorted-rants-about-stuff  ·  review of another edition

You can’t help but notice that some novels are stupefyingly long, so long that they put you right off. This one is 1,133 pages! Really! I mean, who are they kidding? If you come to that part of your life when you have the time for such a novel you will probably no longer have enough bodily strength to pick it up. A robot or a nurse will have to help.

This kind of annoyed me. Because I thought – wait. Someone – quite a few someones – thought that this novel h
Paul Bryant
Jan 30, 2016 Paul Bryant rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned, novels
My first experiment with absurdly long novels ends in abject failure. I crawl away into a corner, mumbling and drooling.

Okay you have to say that the central of Europe in the 20th Century was no cakewalk in the park on a lovely spring day with friendly poodles and ickle girls in pinafore dresses turning handsprings and bluebirds over the white cliffs of Dover tweeting oh what a beautiful morning. Corrupt aristocracies were replaced by fascism which was replaced by Stalinism. So we get miseryfes
Oct 10, 2014 Jonfaith rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 21, 2015 Geoff marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I'm setting this one aside for now. Gave it 150 pages, but I see no reason to continue on for another thousand. It's an utterly bleak, humorless 19th-century-style Realist novel, told in fairly conventional prose (yes, the book's chronology is fragmented and scattered, but really that's not particularly inventive or difficult, you write 6 small novels and shuffle the chapters like a deck of cards...) - not that Nadas can't write, there are some startling descriptions here, nicely made images - b ...more
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
Nov 05, 2011 Tod Wodicka rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
David M
Jun 19, 2016 David M rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm firmly convinced Mr. Nadas is the greatest living novelist in the western world... This book is, like, really intense. I first read it when it came out in '11, and then stopped reading novels for the next year or so. Everything else seemed sort of... inadequate. Petty, insignificant...

Peace time. Relative prosperity and comfort. A cultured woman has to run to the toilet with a bad case of diarrhea, all the while trying to keep up bourgeois appearances; the discomfort in her body brings her
Feb 03, 2012 Josh rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Abimelech Abimelech
"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.'

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
Edward Rathke
Oct 10, 2012 Edward Rathke rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
--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
Clinton Smith
Jan 27, 2013 Clinton Smith rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 07, 2012 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 01, 2016 Patrick rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
My girlfriend, who was raised in Hungary, bought this book almost three years ago after we went to see another Hungarian author (László Krasznahorkai) speak at City Lights bookstore. At the time, I thought it was a collection of short stories. I briefly opened it and read a bit, but didn't immediately have any intention of reading the book. I hoped she would as she never reads anything these days.

Fast forward to the spring of 2014... I re-injured my back (herniated disc) to the point of being be
Feb 21, 2013 DoctorM rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 31, 2014 Susan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Susan by: New York Times notable book
Shelves: bailed, novels
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
Dec 04, 2011 Kt rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: general-lit
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.
Jul 27, 2015 Dada rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Velik roman, u svakom pogledu. Rado bih ga pročitala još koji put.
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
Aug 30, 2016 christopher rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My god, what a monster. 1,133 pages of hundreds of characters, dense prose, bodily fluids, and dark Eastern European angst. Was it worth it? Yes! I feel like the Nadas was trying to do two things here. The first is to detail how people affect each other even if they don't know each other or actually interact directly and the second is to illustrate how the body and bodily needs (sex, food) affect the social and political sphere. About halfway through the book it starts resembling a giant kinetic ...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
Nov 10, 2011 Mark rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: unfinished
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.
Szilvi Filák
May 03, 2015 Szilvi Filák rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
egyszerűen nem találom a megfelelő szavakat, hogy leírjam, mennyit jelentett ez a regény.
Jan 17, 2016 Vladimir rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
If I could only give it more stars. Ten, twenty, hundred and fifty.
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
Dave Whitaker
Mar 18, 2015 Dave Whitaker rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was one of the most difficult books I've ever read. At 1,133 pages, it took me a long time to read but then I reminded myself that it was like reading 4 or 5 books. When the flu hit, I was able to read over 600 pages in a few days and wrap up the book. I'm not sure how to describe was like a cross between Dostoyevsky, Jean Genet, and Proust. It moves backwards and forwards in time and between multiple characters. Nádas does not use quote marks and traditional dialogue, so it was dif ...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
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
Mar 22, 2015 Joel rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-lit
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
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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...

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“Hardly anything remained of which he could speak aloud.” 5 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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