Another recent, highly lauded anti-colonial masterpiece. I think of this novel in the context of other stellar books like Brief Wondrous Life of Osc Another recent, highly lauded anti-colonial masterpiece. I think of this novel in the context of other stellar books like Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and The Mersault Investigation as ways of talkin' back by talkin' smack (eloquent smack) to the main power discourses...
And I'm using that kind of academic language deliberately, because Nguyen is an academic by trade and you can tell he has plenty of social/historical/political axes to grind, and grind them he does, but I found the novel (gifted to me without me being more than dimly aware of it) gripping and immersive and sarcastically funny.
I'd also noticed some echoes of Invisible Man and even Portnoy's Complaint. Maybe even some Rushdie with the way the characters talk to each other about their status as Others, while avoiding victimization by keeping their wits about them.
So what is The Sympathizer? Well, it's a spy novel, a loquacious prison confessional, a kind of picaresque, and a direct response to the Othering of the West to the East. Americans tend to call it "The Vietnam War" and the Vietnamese call it "The American War" which means that there's still a legacy of trauma and destruction lingering after all these years. Our unnamed narrator is wrestling with this history even as he is living it out. We follow him from Vietnam to California, on a movie set (modeled after Apocalypse Now, a movie I love and which gets some stringent criticism), interrogation rooms from both sides, and plenty of places in between.
What kept the novel interesting for me was the voice, the vigor of the narrative, and the seemingly effortless way the sentences convey so much information and pacing while at the same time being scathingly satirical. For example: one sinister American military man (based on Westmoreland) who writes an imperial study on why "the Oriental" doesn't "value life" is named Richard Hedd (get it?).
This is a novel with a lifetime of complex moral and historical factors within it, speaking for a certain mentality that courageously collides with the smug complacency of the post-colonial consensus in a way that is darkly vibrant, consistently compelling, funny, and real. Five stars....more
Well, did I ever love this book. I'm a little ashamed to admit that I've never read Jane Austen, not with the attention she surely deserves at least, Well, did I ever love this book. I'm a little ashamed to admit that I've never read Jane Austen, not with the attention she surely deserves at least, but I suspect that all the things she is praised for- her elegance, knowing wit, social anatomizing, sensitivity hidden behind the knowledge that all that glitters ain't gold- might actually be equally found in Edith Wharton.
W. H. Auden praised Austen for showing, through the perpetual marriage plots, "the economic basis of society." It sounds frivolous at first glance: I mean, who cares if so-and-so get hitched at the end of an elaborate courtship? But ah, that's to neglect the fact all things link one to another, and to hold down one thing you hold down the adjoining, as Augie March told us. Finding a suitable husband is a test of all kinds of historical/political/emotional resources, not just gossip fodder for bored aristocrats. Who knew?
Well, Edith Wharton most certainly did.
I didn't, and now I'm glad I took a look. Edith Jones- of "keeping up with the Joneses" fame- was born into a fairly ridiculous amount of wealth and privilege, but was cunning and incisive enough to see through the gaudy veneer of tea times and petticoats and lofty opera boxes, and diagnose with the relentless eye of the born social satirist the intricate play of money and social status among early 1900's New York for the reeking, preening bullshit parade that it is.
Wharton's prose is limpid, lucid, and (if I'm reading it properly) bitingly, knowingly sarcastic. Lily Bart is sharp, ambitious, beautiful, and on the make. Her character isn't necessarily someone whom one feels would be easy to root for and/or identify with, but somehow Wharton weaves her magic and we get behind the socially climbing, snob-in-waiting as the pages and suitors pass. The fact that Lily has it goin' on means that she can snag an affluent dolt to keep her in finery and avoid the "dinginess" her frustrated mother taught her to abhor, but...she knows there's more to life than being arm candy. And there's at least part of the rub.
By the way, while reading up on this book and Wharton in general, I noticed Jonathan Franzen's introduction to a collected Wharton raised a bit of sand throughout the literary world. Basically, Franzen tried to make the point that Wharton's privilege would be off-putting enough to make people not want to read her, but for the fact that she wasn't, um, pretty on the outside. It makes her seem more human, is what Franzen seems to mean. Well. More than a few critics seemed to take quite a bit of umbrage at this, saying that Wharton's looks are no goddamn business of anyone's, thank you very much.
I appreciate this line of argument, and really don't have any strong feelings about Franzen's prose or his cheekbones one way or the other, but I think I see his infelicitous point. At least to the extent of seeing it's thematic relevance, considering the fact that House of Mirth is largely about Lily's relationship to her own looks, and how much social capital her beauty allows her in her social world. Lily knows how the game is played, or at least thinks she does, and so her physical beauty is one of her major attributes within the standards of the upper-crust demimonde. And Wharton totally knows this.
BUT- and here's the real kicker, the move into genius, I'd say- Wharton doesn't make Lily Bart into a cute bubble head with no agency or will of her own. Lily does in fact have a fine head on her shoulders, and a beating heart beneath all the gauze and glamorous outfits. She knows she should get more out of life than just being a kept woman or a lazy, pampered, diffident wife. She wants to be loved, she wants to be in a relationship with someone she can feel equal to, she wants happiness. But can she have it? Is it possible for her? Is is worth the risk? Now we've got the type of conflict that makes for great fiction.
In a way, you could see House of Mirth as a suavely devastating critique of capitalism. Lily's very much a commodity, at various points both with and without her knowledge and approval, and she is in a world where people's time, attention, and deference is very much for sale. There's all kinds of class antagonism here, though the battleground is usually in the minds and hearts of the people involved. To see how some of the characters awkwardly, and at times brutally, misunderstand what's really at stake, and what exactly means what, is to see how deeply their wealth and status has deformed what's left of their souls.
A la Fitzgerald, I'm not so sure that the rich are very different from you and me, and I'm not so sure that they aren't. But what is definitely clear in Wharton's sense of the world is that the very rich are living in a world where everything has an ever-fluctuating exchange value and a market price. To have luxury is the end-all be-all, and after awhile mere aesthetic pleasures fade in the light of the pleasure one takes in ruining somebody's life. I think Edmund Wilson once called Proust the poet of the Heartbreak House of capitalism- I'd like to nominate Edith Wharton for the laureateship- maybe First Lady?
Goodreads Madeline, and others, have pointed out how deliciously frustrating it is to read this novel at times when you see how the characters come SO CLOSE to snatching happiness for themselves and pull away at the last minute, time after time. Lily and Selden are soul-mates, sparring partners, and would of course be perfect for one another. But they can't make that crucial step until it's far, far too late.
The social forces of which they are a part, whether they want to be or not, whether they fully understand it or not, inexorably pull them asunder. Both of them have the idea of what they want, the intelligence to articulate it deep down, but they just don't have the guts to make more than the oh-so-tentative steps towards actually going for it that they miss their respective chances at happiness, which they can only really have together. Who among us could really blame them, since as living people we know that life can only be understood backwards but must be lived forwards?
So it was kind of surprising to me to find, amid the many grace notes and subtle, ironic, elegant touches of Wharton's prose, that the novel which purports to be a comedy of manners is really a tragedy. It's not for nothing that the novel's title is taken from the gloomy wisdom of Ecclesiastes: "The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth." What a great phrase that is.
Some wag once remarked that Edith Wharton wrote like a "masculine" Henry James. Aside from the dubious gender-generalizing, I think I see the point, though I am unfamiliar with the works of her very good friend, The Master. I guess Edith Wharton had bigger balls than most of the literary bigwigs with whom she passed the time of day. One thing's for sure: I'm definitely going to read more of her work and find out just how big they were. ...more
This was the last novel Burgess wrote before he died, sometime in the early 90's. As you might expect, it's raucous, bawdy, and linguistically comple This was the last novel Burgess wrote before he died, sometime in the early 90's. As you might expect, it's raucous, bawdy, and linguistically complex. What you might not expect so much (given the unfortunate fact that most people think of him as merely the Clockwork Guy, which is true indeed but aesthetically unjust) is that it's also erudite, witty, historically informed and philosophically engaged.
There isn't a lot necessarily known for sure about Marlowe, though the quality of his plays and his probable friendship (or more) with Billy Shakes and the mysterious circumstances surrounding his death after a pub brawl in Deptford.
That's the kind of thing that happened all the time in the rowdy and tension-filled Elizabethan era but exactly why Marlowe met his end in only his mid-twenties is very much up for grabs.
Burgess explains in the afterword that he wrote his undergraduate thesis on Marlowe's version of Faustus until the Nazis rudely interrupted him by bombing the bejesus out of Manchester right about the time he graduated.
So the fact that he came all the way around to finish a brilliant writing career by writing up Kit Marlowe is interesting and kind of poignant.
DMiD is a historical novel, sure, but it's also an extended character study of the interesting man and his tumultuous times. A scrappy, brilliant student from humble cobbler stock in Canterbury, Marlowe made it all the way to Cambridge to study theology but got caught up in poetry and playwriting and the anti-Catholic intrigue bubbling over everywhere during the reign of the Virgin Queen. The fact that there isn't a lot of solid evidence about Marlowe means that Burgess can comfortably play with the facts, possibilities and illustrate the projected contour of a controversial life at his informed imagination sees fit.
Marlowe (or Marley or Merlin, nobody quite knows what his true name is) does some sneaky spy business in France, getting some earfuls of anti-Protestant sentiment, argues silently against an unfeeling god, goes back and forth across the channel a couple of times, smokes some funny "tobacco" and really takes to the stuff, has some intense, passionate sex with a prominent male son of the aristocracy, hangs out with his fellow scribblers like Kyd, Webster, Fletcher and- you guessed it- a young upstart from the Midlands by the name of Shakespeare. Marlowe pounds down flagons of wine and gobbles meat pies over arguments amid suspicious henchmen in brothels and taverns across Merry Olde England, affirming a ballsy 17th Century version of secularism wayyy before it was popular, or even physically safe, to do so.
It's quite a tale Burgess has to tell and even though the old fellow had written like crazy for years and lived pretty hard the novel really holds up, some opaque historicizing notwithstanding. it's ribald and engrossing throughout it's briskly readable 300 or so pages.
I'd been wanting to read this one for a while. It was one of the first books I ever added to my to-read pile back in the day when I started making a profile on this site. And when I read Burgesses's excellent Nothing Like The Sun, I bumped DMiD up a few notches. Glad I did.
I notices that it was on a list here in GR-land of books that are neglected, having gotten some less than 500 ratings. It's a shame since in comparison to all the fans of bowler-hatted droogies and volocheks, the readership for this ripping, accessible, vividly written yarn can't hold a candle. The damn thing's even out of print- I had to get a used copy shipped to me from across the pond. A pity.
Brilliant, radical, underrated, economically written in every sense of the word. I'm a big fan of the movie and I enjoyed the book even more, which is Brilliant, radical, underrated, economically written in every sense of the word. I'm a big fan of the movie and I enjoyed the book even more, which is something I'm not necessarily always prone to do.
Powerfully captures the madness and paranoia inherent in the lust for riches, particularly when this takes place amid some hardscrabble vagabonds who don't really have much of a choice in the matter.
And the still-mysterious origins of the author (exiled German anarchist? Mexican scribbler? Moonlighting union man?) only adds another fun layer of enigma (evidently he's the inspiration for Archimboldi in Bolano's 2666) to what is a very accessible, readable, finely-honed tale of bad men in hard times under a pitiless climate.
"Anyone who is willing to work and is serious about it will certainly find a job. Only you must not go to the man who tells you this, for he has no job to offer and doesn't know anyone who knows of a vacancy. This is exactly the reason why he gives you such generous advice, out of brotherly love, and to demonstrate how little he knows the world."...more
(Why big? Why long awaited? Nobody cares, Matt. You write for a tiny Boston-based website and evidently you have less than 300- totally unique and beautiful- review followers on this site. No Kakutani, you...)
Well, yes and no. It's the publishing event of the summer! Everybody's talking about it. That's a good thing, I'd say- I'm glad a piece of seriously literary fiction is the talk of the town, maybe a little like it used to be in the days of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Mailer, Updike, etc.
But like the man said, everybody's talkin' at me, I can't hear a word they're saying, just echoes of my mind.
Why do I say this? Well, I decided not to use this in the Arts Fuse review b/c it really wasn't relevant but I still mention it b/c I love all y'all GR people, all you wonderful people out there in the dark, and you feel it...
Whoo. Ok. Here goes.
I heard about Hallberg's immense good fortune (huge advance, big publishing buzz) and my stomach sank. Not only was it literary jealousy, that ink-eyed monster, which I bet plenty of people around the campfire are feeling these days. Which, in some ways, is fair: it's not like there's a ton of literary spotlight, let alone moolah, to go around. It was something else.
So as you might easily discover, I have written a few things for The Millions, which I'm very proud of. A fine website, that. And in the time since I first contributed anything it's gone on to achieve a certain prominence in the literary community- a somewhat bittersweet feeling all its own. And what's more, this is the THIRD big novel to be released to a certain amount of cultural fanfare by a Millions-affiliated writer in the past couple years. Awesome. This is a little jealousy-inducing, in and of itself, but whatever. Good for them. I'll read the other two (California by Edan Lepucki and Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel) someday when I'm ready. Lepucki was even on fucking Colbert, to get the Colbert bump as a bird-flip to Amazon for bullying indy publishers. Good grief! (Why on earth aren't more fiction writers on shows like that? More bumps!)
Then there's Hallberg. I don't know him or any other Millions writer personally, nor have I communicated with anyone in any way whatsoever. But the fact that Hallberg's novel blew up made me feel a certain shade of sad. I mean, we're roughly the same age (he's I think 2-3 years my senior) and similar reading habits (I've read his stuff in The Millions for years) and similar cultural backgrounds (artsy kids from small towns, Beat- and punk- and philosophy- obsessed) and so on.
I decided to put the crushing jealousy and concomitant self-hate (there really needs to be a word for this kind of feeling- the kind of envy of others that makes you hate yourself in comparison, unless this description is in itself redundant) aside and ask for a review copy. I got one. I opened it up and plunked the big, fat tome on the table in front of me and stared down at it.
I was suddenly filled with mixed emotions. It's not just that I felt jealous of his obvious literary skill, style, and intelligence. It's not just the big pile o' money he got for the book. it's not just the size and ambition on display in the thing. It was me.
It wasn't just the nasty stomach pains I'd been having at that point in the year. it was the fact that, whether I liked it or not, I didn't really have a body of work of my own to show for myself. Sure, I've written some things over the years, but virtually no fiction. Or poetry. Or anything, really. Just ideas. And you know how utterly fascinating THOSE are...
And then you think about how you're too fucking old to be young and "figuring it out" anymore. Reading all the time- which is wonderful- but no substitute (maybe even an escape, at that) for creative production. And your job sucks and your bank account is anemic and your hygiene is questionable and your gf's parents think you're a loser and your friends are starting to wonder if they should stop encouraging you and move into realist mode and your hopes for the future career-wise are dim. And this whole writing thing you try to tell yourself about it is probably bullshit anyway, since pretty much every time you try to Write Something you pretty much have a panic attack and scurry away to surf the web, sometimes jerking off and sometimes trawling through Facebook or Goodreads for the millionth time, or reading the same articles several times over, hating all the successful people, the chosen, the saved, the elect, whose lives are clearly splendid since they've had pieces published in The New Republic and Slate and shit, and hell, even if you did screw your courage to the sticking place and Write Something everybody knows writers don't get paid or get recognition or teaching posts or whatever anyway, and everyone knows your own stuff sucks shit out loud when you go back to read it even if you're the only one who does anyway, so what the fuck?
And then, of course, I change my mind. Fuck you. Meaning me.
Being jealous of this guy Hallberg, or any writer for that matter, is stupid. Jejune. Insipid and insufferable. It's like hating the guy who got to go out with the girl you always kinda had a crush on. It's natural and understandable to a certain extent but really you can't hate on him because...he actually asked her out. He did the work, sucked up whatever anxieties he was feeling, and balls'd up and brought his best game and thus to him the spoils belong.
There are limits to this perspective, as there to all perspectives, because in some ways it's MBA- American Psycho- Sado-Capitalist thinking, and it becomes more complicated in the macro sense regarding matters of ethics and tact and personality but essentially I think the logic holds.
And, specifically with CoF, the dude clearly did the work. Writing sucks for everyone, and he had to do it as much (if not more so) than anybody else. For a long time. And at the end of it was a novel. A long one. Good for him.
Where's your novel, hater boy? Let he who is without prose cast the first tome.
So now that we've gotten over that, let's give this book as attentive a reading as possible and a fucking honest assessment. Because that's what it deserves. And what you deserve. And that's what you would be trying to do anyway, whether the author was your best friend or just another stranger. Because if nothing else, you know how it feels when great reading happens.
And in the meantime, isn't criticism itself a form of art?
It’s safe to say that Martin Amis has never shied away from controversial subjects. Over a three-decade career, the eminent novelist and essayist has consistently delved into prickly subjects like nuclear war (Einstein’s Monsters), Thatcherite greed (Money), terrorism (Yellow Dog) and Stalinist horror (The House of Meetings). After the breakthrough success of The Rachel Papers, his second book bore the title Dead Babies. One critic called Amis a harbinger of what he called “the new unpleasantness.” Amis’s fiction, bleak though it often is, paradoxically remains compelling and pleasurable to read because of how well he writes about dreadful things.
It’s unfortunate that The Zone of Interest, his latest novel, has far more dread in it than beauty. In his best work, Amis can write beautifully about grotesquerie, relying on his technical excellence and caustic humor to carry the reader along. Granted, it would be very difficult for any writer, no matter how talented, to pull off a combination love story and office comedy set within the higher bureaucracy of a concentration camp.
Amis shows some admirable ambition in setting a literary challenge for himself and the reader, attempting to summon emotion and humor out of the least likely of scenarios. Unfortunately, The Zone of Interest isn’t even close to his best work. Most of the rather feeble attempts the novel makes at either romance or comedy crumble under the ominous load of its premise.
The novel’s anti-hero protagonist is Angelus “Golo” Thomsen, nephew to Nazi Party Chancellery Martin Bormann, who has an authoritative but undefined position (“I liase”, he explains) at a concentration camp named Buna- Werke where prisoners produce synthetic rubber for IG Farben as cheap labor. He longs for Hannah, the wife of his particularly boorish camp commander Paul Doll. Golo plans to seduce Hannah away from the dullard Doll, partly because Hannah’s beauty and physical robustness makes her desirable and partly for the perennial appeal of shagging the boss’s wife. Sadly, this is essentially the sum total of the love story plot.
Amis’s decision to write about the Holocaust doesn’t categorically put him in bad taste, or even because he wants to portray highly improbable emotions with a concentration camp as a backdrop. Novelists should be free to write about whatever subject they choose, but the question is not in what one writes about as much as in how well they write about it. If you’re going to try and make a concentration camp funny, or (god help us) romantic, you really must make it work on the page in order to make it worth the reader’s time and imaginative effort. Amis has written a novel dealing with the Holocaust before, the Vonnegut-esque Time’s Arrow, which at least had the saving grace of being innovatively structured and briskly paced.
Characterization has never really been Amis’s strong suit, and the motivation behind Golo’s desire for Hannah is scant at best. Golo falls for Hannah at first sight, but doesn’t seem to give the reader any finer point to his emotions beyond acknowledging her beauty and the surreptitious thrill of insubordinate adultery. One wouldn’t necessarily expect a Nazi to have much of a romantic side, but Golo doesn’t seem to have much else to him aside from the sinister punctiliousness of a bureaucrat in a death camp. Sizing up the sturdily built Hannah, Golo bluntly remarks to himself that she would be “a big fuck”, telling us nothing other than that the real zone of interest, for Golo at least, is found below his belt.
If the reader is expected to believe love- even a truncated understanding of it in nightmarish times- is really at stake for these characters, the fact that Golo himself is barely able to articulate what he feels either to Hannah or the reader is a major narrative weakness. The reader doesn’t get a sense of what Hannah means to Golo at all. Hannah, for her part, despises her psychotic husband but seems to feel nebulous at best towards Golo, adding little to the dramatic tension. Their story eventually leads to a denouement as underwhelming for the reader as it is for Golo.
The rest of The Zone of Interest is a black-as-pitch parody of the desk-chair brutalities of shuffling around the paperwork for the death trains. Different characters calculate the amount of labor that can be extracted from the prisoners in relation to calorie intake, others prefer numbers to words, attend ballet recitals and hold office meetings under a cloud of “cigarette smoke and existential unhappiness.” Doll obliviously gloats over the immanent German victory at Stalingrad. A grisly humor makes an appearance from time to time. As one camp commando says to Golo, cracking a joke to cover up their mutual unease: “well, we’re not savages. At least we’re not eating them.”
Another glaring issue is the style, or lack thereof, which is tantamount to an aesthetic disaster for a stylist like Amis. Amis’s prose is often justly celebrated for its caustic exuberance; his wicked satiric eye is matched only by the Nabokovian zest of his language. Very few contemporary novelists can be as engaging and fun to read while delivering rather devastating indictments on the absurdities of modern life. Unfortunately, none of his literary strengths are on display here. Sentences pass by as if being recorded as blips on a dim radar screen. The prose in Zone is eerily compressed, flattened, and eventually rather numbing in its sense of omnipotent dread.
It’s a shame that Amis decided to handicap himself by rejecting his usual stylistic brio in favor of a prose that explores the banality of evil by being oppressively banal itself. Whenever the novel takes up a particular theme, it drops it without having delved deeply enough into it to have anything to say. Peculiar effort that it is, The Zone of Interest ironically fails as a novel because it breaks the cardinal rule Henry James once made for all fiction, which is that whatever it says or does, it at must at least be interesting. ...more
Punchy, taut, brisk, abrupt, grotesque, surprisingly subtle and rather laconic. To have ridden in the Red Calvary alone, as an Odessan Jew, was defini Punchy, taut, brisk, abrupt, grotesque, surprisingly subtle and rather laconic. To have ridden in the Red Calvary alone, as an Odessan Jew, was definitely an act of tremendous guts- to write about it effectively afterward is even more impressive, of course.
His short story "Guy De Maupassant" is perfect.
He was snuffed out far too early and was tragically intended to be forgotten by the Stalinist state but his prose sears and burns off the page as if even his sentences themselves are fighting to stay alive.
Perfect description of a writer: "with eyeglasses on my nose and autumn in my heart..."...more
Wow, I can totally remember hearing about this in those big-people magazines (Newsweek! Time!) when I was but a pup and seeing it on my living room t Wow, I can totally remember hearing about this in those big-people magazines (Newsweek! Time!) when I was but a pup and seeing it on my living room table and devouring the sucker. Oooh la la! is this what it was like to be on a political campaign? Is this what real political people in the know are all about? Is this what Bill Clinton's like in person?
W-O-A-H. I'd really like to give this a re-read, and soon. It'll be well-nigh Proustian, I wager....more
All the stories are good, mostly previously published in The Saturday Evening Post in the late thirties when he was "stirring the pot" making some qu All the stories are good, mostly previously published in The Saturday Evening Post in the late thirties when he was "stirring the pot" making some quick cash while he worked on Absalom.
Each of the intertwined tales concerns two boys, one white and one black, growing up after the trauma of the Civil War. Colonel Sartoris, the fading patriarch, presides over the desiccated landscape and the ruins of Southern gentility. They work well together, complementing each other and keeping the narrative intact. You can see why the stories sold- they're suspenseful, dramatic, accessible (not so many of Faulkner's infamous ultra-long sentences) and vivid.
And then it all leads up to the final story, the one Faulkner never sold to the magazines: An Odor of Verbena. It's a Masterpiece. I read it with my heart in my throat. When it was finished, I was that good kind of exhausted you get when you read something particularly powerful. It grabbed me by the guts and wouldn't let go until I finished the last sentence. You could have knocked me over with a sneeze.
It's sinister, kinda sexy in a subtly kinky way, hypnotic, tragic, all-too-human but humane, weaving the thematic concerns (I mean the aforementioned "Southern codes of gentility", though it should be remarked that I am not Southern and so just kind of assume I can begin to understand the essential values in this cultural tradition from what I gather out of hearsay and various fictions) of Sound and Absalom (a relatively distilled version of its labyrinthine plot appears as marginal gloss here) as well as elements of Macbeth and Great Expectations.
But never mind all that. Just crack open the tome, enjoy each story on its own worthy merits, and prepare to savor the final tale's sweet, intoxicating, doom-laden aroma for yourself....more
Better than The Handmaid's Tale, in my humble opinion. As good as THT was, there was a sort of self-conscious Orwellian allegory kind of thing going
Better than The Handmaid's Tale, in my humble opinion. As good as THT was, there was a sort of self-conscious Orwellian allegory kind of thing going on that sort of blunted the edges of the very real and very pointed social criticism.
This one's more of a barn burner...plot moves fast, it's really engaging and kind of dark. I remember reading this and completely ignoring the bustling room all around me.
Don't you love it when that happens? It's like a textual cocoon......more
i went into this book with high hopes. Epic theme, interesting exiled author (Viennese Jew fled to the States and wrote this after the trauma of fasc i went into this book with high hopes. Epic theme, interesting exiled author (Viennese Jew fled to the States and wrote this after the trauma of fascism), lyricism, density, blurbs from heavyweights like Hannah Arendt and George Steiner.
Hell, I even decided to read The Aeneid before delving into this one just because it's ridiculous that I hadn't and I wanted to get the backstory. Loved it, by the way, so that was time well spent.
And I'm definitely a fan of the Modernist several-pages-to-a-sentence, subjective immediacy style (Joyce, Faulkner, Woolf, etc)
But this was just...exhausting. Hard to follow at points, intensely abstract, dialectical within the interior monologue (the narrator seems to overhear himself puzzling over the ideas and concepts he approaches) and very innovative and at times deeply powerful and moving but...I just couldn't handle it over the long haul.
I'm not going to say it's Broch's fault, necessarily, hence the three stars, but I also couldn't say that I got everything out of it that I'd hoped. ...more