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Guided Tours of Hell: Novellas
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Guided Tours of Hell: Novellas

3.47  ·  Rating details ·  279 Ratings  ·  24 Reviews
The less-than-innocents abroad in these short novels are Americans in Europe, involved in what turn out to be pleasure tours of hell: shocking, bewildering trips that change forever their ideas about history, reality, politics, sex -- their entire lives.

In the title novella, a third-rate American playwright named Landau attends a literary conference in Prague, where an org
Paperback, 256 pages
Published September 3rd 2002 by Harper Perennial (first published January 1st 1997)
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Andrew Wusler
Aug 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing
A really smart, satisfying read.
Both of the stories deal with Americans abroad in Europe for reasons of cultural tourism. Both protagonists grapple with darkness and severity, they see whorehouses, catacombs, animal slaughter, the gas chamber of a concentration camp...
I'm not sure if there's a clear mode to these pieces- that America lacks the tormented past of the dark ages and of the holocaust is likely something to bear in mind. Is there greater freedom to experience the visceral poles abroa
Jim Coughenour
Jul 28, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: darkandfunny
Francine Prose is bad – which means she's very good. These two novellas about Not-Quite-Innocents Abroad (the other one is called, deliciously, "Three Pigs in Five Days") are as sly and anti-sentimental as only a writer's writer can be. In these two tales, she reminds me of Rachel Ingalls in her wry, less-fantastic mode – by which I mean a high compliment!

Joan Gelfand
Sep 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This was my first introduction to Francine Prose. Though I've read about her in the NYT and other erudite publications, this was my first foray into her work. I love her! She's hard hitting, no BS, gut wrenchingly honest and very funny.
Arja Salafranca
Jun 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
The title novella Guided Tours of Hell was disappointing - but the second novella, Three Pigs in Five Days, was an incredible exploration of a doomed relationship. One of the best and most moving novellas I've ever read. Still reeling from its power.
Jul 13, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017
Two novellas of contemporary life, the past and how it can haunt us to this day.
One involving the Holocaust, and its ability to affect those near it. the second longer story centers on the paranoia of love and potentially losing it. or the allusion that it's strong, perhaps.

or possibly these are primarily about jealousy/envy and how we want what we don't have or perceive we have. and our perception of what may or may not be going on about us.
Mar 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
2 novellas full of literary allusions and introspection. The imagery and writing are fairly good. I don't think I will want to read this book again, but am glad that I read it.
"Guided Tours of Hell" was an uncomfortable read for its banality. Perhaps that the author's point: even camp survivors as they live on and age become ordinary people with everyday concerns and petty attitudes. This is supposed to contrast with having "lived through hell" and therefore says something about time, memory, etc. Perhaps a reader remote from the subject (as I am close to it, having studied and worked with Holocaust history and testimonies for 15+ years) would appreciate it better tha ...more
Oct 07, 2007 rated it liked it
This is actually two novellas, Guided Tours of Hell and Three Pigs in Five Days. It's definitely not Prose's best work.

The first novella is shorter and better: a group of Kafka scholars is visiting a concentration camp. Jiri is the star, this jerk who survived a concentration camp, and who probably invented half of the stories he tells about it, but no one dares to call him on it, or point out what an asshole he is, because he's a Holocaust survivor. I liked it, but the ending was kind of unsati
Vincent Odhiambo
Feb 09, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: own
The overriding impression one gets from Francine Prose, after sifting through the narrative, is a contempt for Charles Fourier and his ilk, she practically pisses all over the notion of strong female characters. Sadly in both stories the women, are cast as hopeless souls constantly yearning for the crutch of a male figure however base the man might be.
Her writing is unmistakably good and this is her only work I have had the chance to go through; not enough to appraise her views on gender and it'
Sutter Lee
Nov 20, 2014 rated it liked it
Skipped the first, not in mood to visit concentration camp, having done so once, nor was I interested in the petty jealousy of narrator toward a fellow Kafka scholar.
I enjoyed the second novella, Three Pigs in Five Days, more than any other Prose I've read or attempted to read. A good tromp thru Paris. Main character weak, as if written by a man who didn't think much of women. Her insecurities enough to make me scream, altho I could, sorry to say, relate to some of them. Some of the chapters I'v
Mar 20, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: abandoned
After slogging through the first novella about a Kafka conference attendee visiting a Nazi death camp, with all the characters in his group unlikeable, I turned to the first page of the second novella, "Three Pigs in Five Days." As in three pigs slaughtered in five days. I abandoned the book after the first paragraph.

If I don't feel something sympathetic for at least one character, I just can't hold on, no matter who intricate the web woven.
Nov 19, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
These two novellas of Americans abroad confront the history of genocide. Reading them was a bit like visiting Dante's circles of hell. You can find your way in, but, unless you're Dante, you'll never find your way out. Prose seems to be condemning humanity to endless tours of hell and endless mind games. Survival will not change or ennoble us. Reading these two stories has not changed or ennobled me.
Camille Cusumano
Nov 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book is two novellas, the first shares the book's title. The second one, Three Pigs in Four Days, I loved. Read it in Paris. Nina, the protag, has her brilliant epiphany there in the City of Light on a tour of Bastille-era places. Brilliant character development. Felt as if Prose had experienced this sort of enlightenment in regard to a guy, just as Nina did. We all know a Leo, the antagonist.
son pham
Sep 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
There is no doubt in my mind that Francine Prose is this generation's female version of Chekov. In both of these stories, what she manages to do "again" is that by the end of the story, there is a realization of "truth" not only to the protagonist of each story but also for ourselves. We learn something about the human condition just as the characters do too.
Feb 27, 2008 rated it liked it
Neither of the main characters in his novella are remotely likeable, yet you still find yourself rooting for them due to the sheer awfulness of everything else. I found it interesting that both trips took place in Europe -- must one leave the US to find hell?
Mar 07, 2011 rated it it was ok
Guided tours through the dark grimy layers of minds. Interesting and dedicated to putting it as it is. It took some time to get used to, but was captivating enough to get me back to where I left it in between the reading.
Mar 18, 2013 rated it it was ok
There's a weird undercurrent of revulsion toward (ostentatiously holocaust-referencing) Jewish men. From unsympathetic (pathetic) protagonists.
Feb 22, 2013 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
this book is somehow stealing all of the happiness from me. putting it down to find some sunshine and think about good things in life.
Dawn McGowan
Mar 21, 2008 rated it it was ok
Strange, but highly imaginative. Too imaginative really. And depressing..
Sep 15, 2012 rated it liked it
Two whiny and misanthropic novellas-- great title.
Oct 02, 2012 rated it liked it
2 novellas. I only read the first one and enjoyed it. A small criticism: the motifs were a bit overdone as was the tension between characters. Thanks Tuck for the book! I love the title too.
Jan 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
two novellas: Guided Tours of Hell and Three Pigs in Five Days; excellent, elegant prose
Chris Craddock
Jul 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Pretty good. I like Francine Prose. Blue Angel and Goldengrove are my favorite novels by her so far. Will write reviews of all her books that I have read soon.
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Francine Prose (born in 1947 in Brooklyn, New York) is an American novelist. She graduated from Radcliffe College in 1968, and received a Guggenheim fellowship in 1991. She has sat on the board of judges for the PEN/Newman's Own Award, and her novel Blue Angel, a satire about sexual harassment on college campuses, was a finalist for the National Book Award. She is now teaching at Bard College.

More about Francine Prose...
“We don't know what we'd do. Nobody knows what accident of fate or DNA or character will determine how we act when the shit hits the fan.” 9 likes
More quotes…