Todd Crawshaw's Reviews > Homer & Langley

Homer & Langley by E.L. Doctorow
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's review
Sep 06, 11

Like Voltaire's great novel Candide, here too we find the encapsulated travails of a lifetime, a consolidated journey of two brothers, one going blind as a teenager and becoming introspective, the other devoutly existential in his manic quest to document the essence of mankind's repetitious plight. A madness that begins when this older brother goes off to fight in the Great War and is damaged by mustard gas and returns home an embittered recluse. Unlike the story of Candide, where the protagonist naively wanders the world discovering its wonders and horrors to arrive at his epiphany, these brothers never venture far from their Fifth Avenue Mansion. The entire 20th Century seems to find its way into their home – technological changes, cultural shifts, ideological currents – washing through their front door before receding and leaving remnants of each historic event like flotsam and accumulated debris which eventually drowns and buries them alive. The story is sad, funny, bittersweet, and profound. A fictionalized epic tale inspired by true events. Perhaps an apt description of our own lives – that amalgamated version which we maintain, though reconstructed, somewhat falsified, yet told as truth in retrospect to others (and to ourselves).

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