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Celestial Harmonies

3.64 of 5 stars 3.64  ·  rating details  ·  258 ratings  ·  28 reviews
Harmonia Caelestis is the product of a decade of labour: a monumental, part-autobiographical family history. If Helping Verbs of the Heart was an homage to his mother, then this is a memorial to his father. It is actually two works in one. Book 1, "Numbered Sentences from the Life of the Esterházy Family", comprises 371 paragraphs, some elusively succinct, others pages lon ...more
Hardcover, 841 pages
Published April 5th 2004 by Flamingo (first published January 1st 1994)
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Community Reviews

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K.D. Absolutely
Aug 31, 2011 K.D. Absolutely rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2004-2010)
Celestial Harmonies: (1990) All the world’s a stage art and pageantry in the Renaissance and baroque.
Especially in its first part, reading Celestial Harmonies is like reading snippets from the life of demi-gods up there in Mount Olympus. The first person fragmented narrative goes anywhere you don’t know what the narrator will tell you next. It could be the chandelier, the contents of the treasure drawer, how much does the king-father loves his mother or his mistress, how the king father searches
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
When my brother's knee was injured while into competitive sports (naks!) he was operated on at the St. Luke's Medical Center in Quezon City. On the day of his discharge from the hospital he requested me to pick him up as he couldn't then drive by himself.

I was able to immediately free myself from my other commitments that day so I drove to the hospital about an hour early. Not wanting to wait too long, I decided to drop by the Booksale store nearby. As I entered the store the first book I saw wa
Hungarians are sexy motherfuckers. I have never read more heartbreak and hilarity in a single work.
This review needs some context. Péter Esterházy was born in 1950 in Budapest to one of the most notable noble families of former Austro-Hungarian monarchy. This novel is divided in two parts: the first one is a collection of sentences about Esterházy men since the formal foundation of the family around the end of the 16th century, while the second part has a structure more similar to that of a novel and tells the story of Péter himself, his father and his grandfather. I chose this book because I ...more
My word, that was a chore. 841 pages of literary fanciness, jumpy storytelling, and unsympathetic family issues. I have no idea why this book was written the way it was. I'm not a fan of innovative methods and zany structures. I like a good story I can get my teeth into, and that never happens throughout the length of this book. The first section consists of numbered paragraphs, mostly short but sometimes 3-4 pages in length, all about "my father." But "My Father" may be an Esterhazy of any gene ...more
Julia Boechat Machado
Logo percebi que era difícil para um não-húngaro entender o significado do nome Esterházy. Esse nome fazia as pessoas sonharem com nobreza e riqueza, era carregado de tradição e história - tudo mesclado com a história da própria Hungria. Os Esterházy eram os patrões de Haydn, os condes que mandaram construir em um lugar ermo o Palácio Esterháza, conhecido como a Versalhes húngara. O avô de Péter Esterházy, Móric Esterházy, era primeiro ministro e um dos maiores proprietários de terras do país. E ...more
When I read a fiction book, I don't expect too much from it. A decent plot and halfway developed characters are really all I need. Hand me an 800 pages plus fiction book, an, by golly, both plot and characters have better be spectacular. Sadly, this book gave a semi-autobiographical, semi-fictional bunch of unconnected thoughts with characters that weren't developed any farther than "This was my aunt. She like coffee" or some such factoid that had nothing to do with the story itself. Not a very ...more
I don't like giving a respected work only one star. It leaves me feelings of guilt and inadequacy: if this book is so well liked, it must be that I am an intellectual pygmy for not appreciating it. It can't be the author's fault - it must be me. But shelving my inferiority complex and my damaging ignorance of Hungarian history, I'm really not convinced this is any good. The first section, 371 numbered sentences, jump-cutting random moments from the history of the author's own illustrious noble f ...more
Elizabeth Moffat
I have to admit, I struggled with this book and did not finish it. I gave it two stars for the writing style but realised that it wasn't for me. It felt rather disjointed in a way I did not like.
An astonishing torque of history, memory and language.
Peter Esterhazy's "Celestial Harmonies" is a difficult book for me to rate. I went into it knowing little to nothing about Hungarian history and nothing at all of the Esterhazy family, which apparently was full of filthy rich landowners until the Communists arrived, eager to take the ostentatious Esterhazys down a peg.

The novel tells its story in two very separate parts -- the first half in short vignettes telling tales about decades of Esterhazy men, which appears to be a mixture of fact and fa
An edited version of this article was first published as Book Review: Celestial Harmonies by Péter Esterházy on

A noble family, and hundreds of years of history. This novel packs more historical events than any other book I have seen, all written from the point of view of the lastest descendant of the Esterházy family. However, finishing this book left me dissatisfied, and wished I didn't pick up this book in the first place. Let me tell you why.

But first, a little attempt at a s
Ik lees dit boek nu voor de 2de keer. Het is in het Duits en was jaren geleden, toen ik weinig Duits las, best moeilijk. Nu heb ik er erg van genoten en kan het aanbevelen (Het is in ieder geval in het Engels vetaald). Het is wel een hele pil, maar opgedeeld in veel kleine stukjes; dat leest makkelijk. De schrijver is een telg uit het beroemde Esterhazy geslacht, die onder de communisten uiteraard alles kwijt geraakt zijn. In de eerste elft van het boek beschtijft hij zijn voorvaderen en noemt d ...more
Marianna Pap
Esterházy's probably one of the cleverest writers I've ever read. It takes a few pages to get used to the first bit of the book full of magical realism, some parts laugh out loud funny (just warning you in case you read it on the bus like me), others a bit disturbing ... To sum it up, I can only quote the translator Judith Sollosy (who has a done a great job with the translation BTW): "I can't help thinking that when the Good Lord created the world in six days and took off for the Bahamas on the ...more
This is a terrible translation to English. In hardcopy, there are many untranslated sentences. Have a computer handy to help with translation.
It was very difficult for me to get through this book; while I appreciate Esterhazy's artistic concept, the weird narration (especially in the first part) made it hard to read. But soon, when I got used to Esterhazy's writing style I started to like the novel and got really hooked in the second part. "Celestial Harmonies" is definitely worth reading, but before you read it try to find and read at least an outline of Hungarian history, it makes the story easier to understand and - what is more im ...more
my boyfriend read this book and could not stop raving about it. i've read other esterhazy books, but this one has always intimidated me -- there's an entire chapter that is simply an inventory of family heirlooms. i haven't researched this book to decipher the fact from fiction in it's creation, but i've decided to set aside laura warholic, which is equally intimidating, and give this one a read. so far so good. esterhazy is a pretty brilliant writer -- i have loved everything i've read thus far ...more
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Jul 19, 2014 Amari marked it as abandoned  ·  review of another edition
Hmm. The second enormous Hungarian novel I've abandoned in a year. I'll need to consider this further, but right now I'd rather simply read something else.

I don't care for the casual tone, though it was the book's structure that was the first major turn-off for me... too self-consciously postmodern.
Sep 10, 2014 Leanna is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
I haven't actually finished this. I started reading it on summer holidays either in university or highschool. So... at LEAST 8 years ago. It's just so dense, I'm honestly not sure I can start again from the beginning. But I still have a bookmark in it, you know- in case one day I decide to delve back in.
Pierwsza część to jakiś totalny chaos. Ciągłe przeskoki między epokami. Nie wiadomo, kim są ojczulek, mateczka czy matka i jaka jest ich stosunek do autora. Raz anegdota jest z okolic XVI w., a zaraz potem następuje anegdota z lat II Wojny Światowej lub lat zaraz po niej.
Addicted to Books
This could've been such a great history of a Hungarian family (the author's) if it had been written in a linear narrative. Instead, he spent almost 850 pages sharing random anecdotes in random order. Sigh.
It may have a great deal to do with my ignorance of Hungarian history and rhetoric style, but I was so confused. What is going on? Why was a whole chapter naming items that were inside a castle?
Wow, this was waaay too much magical realism for me. I liked the semi-autobiographical 2nd half better. The Esterhazy family is interesting enough without magic.
Edward Wakefield
Complex, erudite and hilarious. Wouldn't want to meet the guy though!
I hated this book. .. I don't understand all the positive reviews!
lyrical, typifying, familiar.... but so very slippery....
Jason Ramey
Jason Ramey marked it as to-read
Dec 27, 2014
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One of the most widely known contemporary Hungarian writers. His books are considered to be significant contributions to postwar literature.
More about Péter Esterházy...
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“Bartók. Blame it on Bartók. Or the bossanova.” 5 likes
“History belongs to the victors, legends to the people, fantasy to literature. Only death is certain.” 5 likes
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