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Parallel Stories

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3.73  ·  Rating details ·  384 ratings  ·  72 reviews
A New York Times Notable Book for 2011


In 1989, the year the Wall came down, a university student in Berlin on his morning run finds a corpse on a park bench and alerts the authorities. This scene opens a novel of extraordinary scope and depth, a masterwork that traces the fate of myriad Europeans―Hungarians, Jews, Germans, Gypsies―across the treacherous years of the
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Hardcover, First American Edition, 1133 pages
Published October 25th 2011 by Farrar Straus Giroux (first published 2005)
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Average rating 3.73  · 
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Paul Bryant
ABSURDLY LONG NOVELS : MY 2016 PROJECT

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
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Paul Bryant
Jan 30, 2016 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
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Jonfaith
Sep 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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David M
May 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
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Christopher
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
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Geoff
Nov 14, 2011 marked it as to-read
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 - ...more
Tod Wodicka
Aug 08, 2011 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
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Edward
Nov 15, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
What you get with Nádas is a candid, unrestrained portrayal of the seedier aspects of life. His depictions are not glamorous. He is obsessed with bodily functions, and with the mechanics of sex. The fluids, the friction, and all the nasty odours and secretions are described in sensory detail. He has a particular penchant for describing the attributes of the foreskin: its present position as being either relaxed or painfully retracted behind the bulb, its state of cleanliness, its odour, the ...more
Josh
Dec 27, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Proustitute
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,
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Liviu
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
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Christopher Robinson
Here are some disorderly observations upon completion of this wonderful novel.

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Parallel Stories is bleak with a capital B. It's a very long book containing very little actual happiness. Even in the midst of a multi-day sex fest, Agost and Gyongyver still find ample time to brood, self-pity, hate and reflect at length upon the various irritations in their lives, chiefly among them each other. Another character sets out to kill himself by leaping from a bridge but instead, and via quite
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Clinton Smith
Jan 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
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Edward Rathke
Oct 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
--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 ...more
christopher
Aug 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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 Peter 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 ...more
Susan
Dec 04, 2011 rated it liked it
Recommended to Susan by: New York Times notable book
Shelves: novels, bailed
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,
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David
Dec 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
James Murphy
Apr 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Well, it's a difficult sprawl. It's not a casual read. It's more like a project. I believe Peter Nadas may be telling us something about his designs when on p 253 he writes, "Stories about the soul and about social relations scarcely touch each other; rarely is there a direct connection between them; they are two different categories written side by side. At every moment they must be peeled apart. Which is what everybody does, all the time." This can serve as a mini-description of the novel, ...more
Patrick
Jul 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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DoctorM
May 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
Amari
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, ...more
Mark
Aug 28, 2011 rated it did not like it
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.
Kt
Nov 17, 2011 rated it did not like it
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.
bookcasewalls
Jun 17, 2018 rated it liked it
Having spent 3+ months reading this behemoth, I feel I should say something about it, but I hardly know where to start.

I picked up this book with a vague sense in my mind that it might be something like The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littell - a big, sprawling book taking a look at the darkness of twentieth-century Europe. After reading, I can add the notable similarity that there's a lot of shit and sex. But Nádas' book is somehow more expansive: there's no central character and no gesture towards
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Steve
May 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: big-books
But all this happened long ago, writes Péter Nádas , and it might not even be true.

I was halfway through reading Parallel Stories, the monumental novel by Hungarian author Péter Nádas , when I took a two-week trip to Budapest and I didn't want to lug the big book around. When I got back, I couldn't wait to get back into it, and I had learned a lot more about Budapest and Hungary in the meantime.

This astounding novel is all about the twentieth century in Hungary, told through the stories of
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Joel
Apr 06, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
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Chad Post
Jan 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
I have no idea how to process the experience of listening to this 58-hour audiobook. There are many moments in here that are brilliant, where the prose functions like a musical score, flashing from one moment in time and one p.o.v. to another p.o.v. separated by decades in a way that's both captivating and meaningful. There are also times where I realized I would have to reread this entire 1100-page book to really "get" all the connections and intricacies. (Doesn't help that I know shit-all ...more
Cliff
Nov 28, 2011 rated it liked it
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 ...more
Andy Thompson
Feb 27, 2012 marked it as to-read
This Book looks fantastic, I had it checked out from the Library, but got sidetracked by David Foster Wallace. It seems like a worthwhile read though, especially since between the writing and translation it took the lion's share of my natural born life to create.
M.
Apr 06, 2013 rated it liked it
"Remembrance of things Pest"
Full review in the summer issue of the Jewish Quarterly, 2014.
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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
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“Hardly anything remained of which he could speak aloud.” 6 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.” 4 likes
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