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Schopenhauer's Telescope

3.72 of 5 stars 3.72  ·  rating details  ·  270 ratings  ·  23 reviews
In an unnamed European village, in the middle of a civil war, one man digs while another watches over him. Slowly, they begin to talk. Over the course of the afternoon, as snow falls and truckloads of villagers are corralled in the next field, we discover why they are there-not just who they are but also how sinister events in the country have led them to be separated by a ...more
Hardcover, 306 pages
Published July 15th 2003 by Counterpoint LLC (first published 2003)
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Dec 12, 2007 Anne rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: any thinking person
I loved this book, even though it seemed rather opaque at first. After all, how can one man digging a hole while another watches possibly prove to be more than an extended exercise in absurdism. Yet, this book reaches into moral and philosophical corners I could not have envisioned. A great deal of contemporary fiction is so predictable, but even when I could discern the character's path, I could not anticipate fully its import or heft. Take some time to savor it.

Donovan's debut novel, long-listed for the Booker, is set in a field somewhere in Europe, on a wintry day during a war. One character, identified only as the Teacher, is watching the other character, the Baker, dig a hole the size of a mass grave - a Sisyphean task given the rate at which snow is falling. Over the course of the day, the two have a philosophical dialogue about genocide and war, the nature of evil and the reliability and usefulness of recorded history, and we learn a little more ...more
Theresa Sjoquist
Schopenhauer's Telescope

Gerard Donovan (Scribner)

Schopenhauer's Telescope is Gerard Donovan's first novel. Best keep your own 'scope trained for more of this author's work because it is burgeoning with promise.

Schopenhauer's Telescope presents a conversation between two men. One is digging a large hole in the ground in the frozen Northern European ground. The other is watching him. The cold snow-laced wind intensifies as the afternoon wears on into dusk and the hole grows larger. We learn that
A long philosophical ramble, set somewhere in the former Yugoslavia I would guess, between two men, one digging what we assume is his own grave, the other a teacher. The suspense, such as it is, centers on who will die (almost everyone) and who will survive (surprising), but really the heart of this novel is its search for meaning in an interchange of ideas. The teacher and the baker (no actual names) talk about damned near everything. Schopenhauer's Telescope, by the way, views the present situ ...more
G. Donovan is my new discovery ! His writing is beautiful, intense and profound! Five huge huge stars!
I wanted to give this book a higher score - I felt like I should like it more than I actually did. It was well written, and there were some interesting changes in narrative, but I just wasn't that drawn in by it. I didn't find the philosophical exploration of what evil might be to be that well done.
Aug 07, 2007 Bryan rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: liked
This was a great book, and featured some of the most interesting dialogue I have ever read. It has been a year since I have read it, but I still think about it often. The Baker character is incredibly apathetic... like Capt Spock only hateful!
Tyler Jones
Wonderful book. Reading the other reviews has me sad that a large majority failed to see the two philosophies at work that were inherently built into the characters of the Teacher and the Baker. The narration jumps from the memories of the Baker and the real time interactions with the Teacher which I found refreshing. Upon reading the book again I found even more depth and meaning and I strongly recommend anyone who owns the book to enjoy a trip from cover to cover again.
Amateurish mess. I guess the main story is not that bad an idea (althogh a bit too movie-like), but the book just doesn't work; or else I don't get it. The dialogue is an incoherent mix of irrelevant trivia and the characters are so badly drawn they come across as schizophrenic.
I give it two stars because at least it is different, readable, and the chapters are short, which I liked.
Good. Maybe a bit long in the tooth as the author offers a series of ways to engage, seemingly based on different philosophical lines of inquiry. It turns into a bit of a intellectual dance, which was fun, but I soon tired of all the banter. This is the criticism of the 'teacher' in the book: he was constantly speaking because "silence is failure in the classroom."
Eerie but very good!
The author is clearly erudite and well read and finds a fascinating way to spin a yarn as well as some philosophy and history well-woven into the mix. It's a book that keeps you on your toes.

My favorite chapter is the one about 'holes' and now that I have finished the book I believe I will return to that one to read again.

A novel based mainly on a duologue requires a great effort from the author to keep interested he reader. And although Gerard Donovan managed to keep me interested to read until the end, I admit that I skipped some parts which seemed superfluous. The twist at the end which explains why two men are in a snowy field digging a grave is quite good
This book is amazing, it's a beautiful chilling and perpetually interesting story with an ending that is entirely satisfying. The plot is deep and often dark it is complex enough to maintain your fascination and yet simple enough not to lose you along the way. With no hesitation at all I wholeheartedly recommend this book.
Jerry Hall
Got this book at a library sale. Didn't expect to like it but surprisingly enjoyed it. Thought the court scene lost it's way a bit but the ending was good. Liked revisiting some philosophy - it's been a while.
David Scott
I thought this was going to be a long philosophical take on war and the evil of men, but it was very easy to get into. Gerard Donovan's various methods of storytelling made it a very enjoyable read.
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this book is boring, maybe at like the last five pages is when it gets a little interesting, but that depends on what you think is interesting..
interesting philosophical but never quite great. doesn't mean it isn't worth a read though it certainly is
Algo tenía que me hizo terminar de leerlo, pero no recuerdo mucho de el, paso sin pena ni gloria. :(
Atila Demirkasımoğlu
İyi ve güçlü bir kitap. Bir başyapıt değil! O kadar gücü yok, ama güçlü yanları var.
Kerry O'Connor
An altogether amazing look into the mind of a psycho. Unutterably brilliant.
Story progression/development: 5
Characterization: 5
Conflict: 3.5
Conclusion: 4

Additional Thoughts:
I've never read a book more captivating than this one.
Told only through the two characters of the Baker and the Teacher, it captures the essence of war and its casualties and also the tolls it takes on two very different people who represent two very different outlooks on the value of human life.
I think what I found most striking is the fact that the entire story is centered around the digging of
Damian Bannon
Damian Bannon is currently reading it
Jul 05, 2015
Sarai Lillie
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Gerard Donovan is an acclaimed Irish-born novelist, photographer and poet currently living in Plymouth, England, working as a lecturer at the University of Plymouth.

Donovan attracted immediate critical acclaim with his debut novel Schopenhauer's Telescope, which was long-listed for the Man Booker Prize in 2003. His subsequent novels include Doctor Salt (2005), Julius Winsome (2006), and, most rece
More about Gerard Donovan...
Julius Winsome Sunless Young IrelandersStories: Stories Country of the Grand 365 Days in Ireland 2014 Wall Calendar

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“The only test, Baker, is how not to erase ourselves from the map. Our history is that things don't last. Every generation creates the right monsters to destroy itself.” 4 likes
“I saw the patterns of history and thought that a human might be eighty per cent chemicals, eighteen per cent his past, and two per cent feeling, creatures of habit. Which makes psychiatrists really pharmacists who have to listen longer.” 1 likes
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