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Sophie's Choice

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Three stories are told: a young Southerner wants to become a writer; a turbulent love-hate affair between a brilliant Jew and a beautiful Polish woman; and of an awful wound in that woman's past--one that impels both Sophie and Nathan toward destruction.

562 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1979

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About the author

William Styron

81 books771 followers
William Styron (1925–2006), born in Newport News, Virginia, was one of the greatest American writers of his generation. Styron published his first book, Lie Down in Darkness, at age twenty-six and went on to write such influential works as the controversial and Pulitzer Prize–winning The Confessions of Nat Turner and the international bestseller Sophie’s Choice.

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Profile Image for Julie G .
857 reviews2,630 followers
June 28, 2018
We are like lutes once held by God.
Being away from His warm body
fully explains our constant yearning
.
--Hafiz

I started Sophie's Choice in a busy hotel lobby, awaiting my visiting sister's arrival, having no idea I was going to be immediately introduced to a 22-year-old Southerner named Stingo and the first of his many erections.

His erections? What?

I went into this read almost “blind,” knowing only that the author, William Styron, received the Pulitzer for fiction in 1968 for The Confessions of Nat Turner and that this novel, Sophie's Choice (published in 1979) would attract more attention as a movie than a book. Most of us would come to think of Meryl Streep as Sophie whether we saw the film or not. (I didn't).

So, back to the busy lobby, where I'm sweating out the first of Stingo's erections and looking around the room, wondering if anyone has any idea what I'm reading (they didn't), and even though I was tickled beyond belief to find humor and sexuality in a book that I thought took place in Poland during the Holocaust, I was also totally confused.

Wait, this is funny? (So funny!)

This is sexy? (Oh, SO sexy!)

But, I thought this was about Meryl Streep (er, I mean Sophie Zawistowska) and her making some awful choice during the Holocaust?!

Yes, it's about that, too, but it's also about Stingo, the 22-year-old virgin in 1947 who just CAN'T GET LAID.

Poor Stingo. Before I knew it, I was on every date with him, from the pious Christian virgins to the overanalyzed Jewish cock teases (his words), with him for every deplorable hand job and every salivating moment when he wondered. . . will it happen tonight??

By the time the voluptuous, highly sexualized Sophie enters his life. . . you can't help but think. . . Oh, it's her, it's got to be her!

And while you're spending most of your time wondering if Stingo is FINALLY going to get lucky with Sophie, you then meet Sophie's beau, Nathan Landau, and, even though Nathan “was utterly, fatally glamorous,” you realize that he's in the way of Stingo's sexual dreams, which puts him in the way of the plot. . . but, wait. . . what is the plot anyway?

What starts to unravel, ever so cleverly, ever so smoothly, is that Stingo losing his virginity is NOT the plot.

And, man, can Mr. Styron reveal a big picture.

Turns out that Mr. Styron is using sex as a metaphor; that all of our yearning for physical intimacy represents our bigger desire to be One, and yet the irony is. . . our excessive procreation then creates a crowded planet that disrupts us and divides us and causes things like genocide and war.

Groan.

We are so complicated, we humans. We walk through most of our days and nights dazed and confused, barely conscious of what we are or our true potential.

As Sophie says to Stingo, as they are standing on a beach, observing a small crowd, “Those strange creepy people, all picking at their little. . . scabs.”

Yes, scabs. Most of what we pick at are scabs.

But, this book, this writer, does a tremendous job of showing his reader so much, and so much more than scabs. He held on to the complicated reins of these plot lines like a master, and even though this is a long and sometimes heavy book, he always found a way to perk me back up with some cookies and juice.

The “cookies and juice” in this story were the sex scenes, and the novel concludes with one of the most decadent, well-written scenes between a man and a woman that I've ever encountered. I actually had to ask my children to please leave the room and then I had to hover above the air-conditioner vent for a few minutes (I'm not kidding). Holy, holy.

But, folks, a lot of bad shit happens here on this planet, and we can do a lot worse to each other than participate in consensual sex between adults. Some might even argue that it's a gift, given to us by God.

And you beside me, blessèd now while sirens sing to us, stealthily weave us into day. . .

And, in case it isn't clear. . . I loved this beautiful book.
Profile Image for Vit Babenco.
1,374 reviews3,192 followers
April 4, 2022
The world seems to be made of triangles… Of love triangles… And the narrator is an apex of one of such triangles…
There is truth and there are lies – and we walk the tortuous paths of our lives in between.
Perhaps I should say she indulged in certain evasions which at the time were necessary in order for her to retain her composure. Or maybe her sanity. I certainly don’t accuse her, for from the point of view of hindsight her untruths seem fathomable beyond need of apology.

So it is with Sophie’s Choice – there is truth and there are lies.
And to get to the truth one must peel off so many layers of lies.
This was not judgment day – only morning. Morning: excellent and fair.

Life isn’t a straight line one can move along without asking questions – one must choose at the crossroads and discern bitter truths behind the ostensibly shining excellence.
10 reviews2 followers
April 1, 2008
It seems a lot of people have a problem with the prose being pretentious and overwritten. However, I had a big problem with the unfolding of the plot. This was a strange book for me because I really wanted to like it and even thought I liked it after I was finished. It took me about a week to think back and realize, Wait! That was a crappy book.

Problem number 1: I personally found Sophie to be an unbeleivable character. I just thought she was not-fascinating and contradictory, like, not in the way people are in real life. I'll spare you the tedium of elaborating. You can take my word for it or not but the worst is yet to come.

Personally, I found Nathan to be a very realistic, frightening character. I know people like him in real life.

But, Problem number 2: Styron tells this story from the first-person perspective of someone who has already gathered all the information, heard everyone's side of the story and studied World War Two. In other words, he seems to be telling the story in the wrong form. There are a lot of flashbacks and "Sophie's Choice" isn't revealed to us until the rest of the present-time turmoil is underway as well. As a reader, I've never felt more manipulated. The narrator, Stingo, reveals stuff little by little but only in a way that is sure to make everything more meladramatic and painful. It seems done not to prove a point but to give the book some tragic affect though it comes off beyond contrived.

Not only did I feel manipulated, but I just didn't seem realistic how much information Stingo knew about Sophie, no matter how close they were. I'm not just talking about personal information, because we all have friends who tell us personal things but he tells parts of Sophie's story as though he were inside her head. It just felt like a huge narrative mistake ... more something to be expected of a book with an unreliable narrator, though we're supposed to put our full trust and faith in this narrator.

Problem 3: It feels like Styron was trying to make a book that studied too many subjects at once. It's okay to tackle multiple subjects, but he doesn't handle any of them. He's trying to study psychosis and addiction, death, life, war, peace, prison camps, nazi mentality, anti-semitism, growing up, sexuality, sexuality, more sexuality wrapped into every other subject until it doesn't make any coherent sense anymore.

I only decided to read this after Lie Down in Darkness which is infinitely better. I'm surprised that this is considered a great American novel and would never recommend it.
Profile Image for Jeffrey Keeten.
Author 2 books247k followers
October 24, 2019
”Mercifully, I was at the age when reading was still a passion and thus, save for a happy marriage, the best state possible in which to keep absolute loneliness at bay. I could not have made it through those evenings otherwise. But I was an abandoned reader and, besides, outlandishly eclectic, with an affinity for the written word--almost any written word--that was so excitable that it verged on the erotic. I mean this literally, and were it not for the fact that I have compared notes with a few others who have confessed to sharing with me in their youth this particular sensibility, I know I would now be risking scorn or incredulity by stating that I can recall the time when the prospect of half an hour’s dalliance with a Classified Telephone Directory caused me a slight but nonetheless noticeable tumescence.”

 photo William Styron young_zpsn0wmvfqg.jpg
The young William Styron.

The prospect for me of parting the pages of a new book produces a similar feeling to parting the warm thighs of a new lover. The anticipation and thrill of the beginning of a new adventure, whether it is swimming through the pages of a book or wrestling between the silk sheets of a bed, should produce the same tingles and let loose the same sparks of grand passion. Reading is a love affair.

If you don’t feel this way, I’m sorry. I’ll offer you the same advice that I offered a married woman who once confessed to me that she didn’t enjoy sex. My reply was...are you sure you are doing it right? Maybe too many of you are picking the wrong lovers, or maybe you don’t have the proper reading resume to make the connections that produce grand passion, or maybe your mind is too closed off and you need to let it roam free.

Do keep trying.

This is a novel of lust and tragedy. At several points in the narrative, there is a merging together of the tragedy of unfulfilled wishes tinged by memories that can’t stay forgotten. This is really two novels, twinned together as the past intersects with the present. One part is of the trials and tribulations of Sophie Zawistowska, a Polish citizen who becomes the guest of the Nazis at Auschwitz-Birkenau during World War Two, and the other part is of the struggles of a young Southern writer in Brooklyn, New York, who is attempting to write the great American novel.

Stingo first meets Sophie and her lover Nathan Landau while boarding at The Pink Palace. He doesn’t so much meet them as hear them. They are in the room above him fornicating like amphetamine drugged rabbits. There is nothing more excruciating to a person suffering from inflamed, unmitigated passion than to be forced to eavesdrop on the lustful consummations of the successful sexual conquests of others. When one is in this state, it is easy to give in to brooding self-pity and start believing that everyone in the world is getting laid except for him. Stingo is twenty-two and not only suffering from excessive horniess but also suffering from a malady that most men, especially, wish to rid themselves of as soon as possible...virginity.

His yearning to breach the defenses of a woman’s virtue and finally end his involuntary celibacy is an all consuming desire that is even starting to adversely affect his ability to produce his masterpiece. ”I still yearned passionately to produce the novel which had been for so long captive in my brain. It was only that, having written down the first few fine paragraphs, I could not produce any others, or--to approximate Gertrude Stein’s remark about a lesser writer of the Lost Generation--I had the syrup but it wouldn’t pour.” Yes, Stingo has sap issues, if you know what I mean.

William Styron infuses autobiography into this book under the guise of fiction. It is almost impossible for me to separate the young Styron from the sexually frustrated Stingo. Styron was a master at describing lust, verging on purple prose at times, but yet managing to capture in lush detail the true nature of hormonal driven desire. Here he describes Stingo noticing the rather innocent ramblings of his neighbor that inspired such wonderful flights of salacious yearning.

”Alone for an instant, blond Mavis Hunnicutt would appear in the garden, dressed in a blouse and tight flowered slacks; after pausing for a peek up at the opalescent evening sky, she would give an odd and bewitching toss of her lovely hair and then bend down to pluck tulips from the flowerbed. In this adorable stance, she could not know what she did to the loneliest junior editor in New York. My lust was incredible--something prehensile, a groping snout of desire, slithering down the begrimed walls of the wretched old building, uncoiling itself across a fence, moving with haste serpentine and indecent to a point just short of her upturned rump, where in silent metamorphosis it blazingly flowered into the embodiment of myself, priapic, ravenous, yet under hair-trigger control.”

Stingo might be a bit optimistic about the prospect of possessing any control if his fantasy, by some miracle, had ever manifested itself into reality. Chances are he would have been slinking back to his room with his tail between his legs, elated at finally successfully having sex, but burning with shame that he had failed to put in a good showing. In fact, he may have been left at the starting gate, having shot his wad before the starter’s pistol could even fire. Elation and shame, after all, are frequent companions during the early days of male sexual experience.

He becomes best friends with Nathan and Sophie and soon finds himself caught up in their passionate affair. Their arguments prove as epic as their bouts of sexual passions. Stingo soon finds himself riding their emotional rollercoaster of cloud dwelling amorousness followed by dark, abhorrent, abusive quarrels that leave him shaken to the core of his belief in their enduring relationship.

Stingo, like most of us, really does want the beautiful love story.

Of course, riding side saddle during his Nick Carraway observations of Sophie and Nathan is his enduring love/lust for Sophie. She is lovely, not only in appearance, but in character. She is the type of woman for whom, if we are lucky enough to know her, most of us, male and female, would harbor our own infatuation. And then there is this constant, visible testament to her past: ”And once again I was conscious of that pitiless blue toothbite of a tattoo on her forearm.”

During the many times that Nathan and Sophie are split up, Stingo gets exclusive time with Sophie, listening to her pour out her frustrations and fears that her love for Nathan will end in tragedy, but she also shares with Stingo the horrid story of her time incarcerated by the Nazis. The things she is asked to do. The decisions she is forced to make are beyond what any human should ever have to do. Hearing the story of her past adds poignancy in his desire for her. It evokes in Stingo the longing to give her a safe, happy life that will make up for the life that war took from her.

William Styron/Stingo has written a masterpiece. The honesty and humor about Stingo’s galloping sexual desire coupled with the tragedies of Sophie’s life take the reader up and down the emotional scale with laughter one moment followed by the brimming of tears. We experience Stingo’s inept, humorous conquests as he searches for a woman liberated enough to allow him ”to taste in a calm, exploratory way those varieties of bodily experience which until now had existed in my head like a vast and orgiastic, incessantly thumbed encyclopedia of lust.” Stingo also constantly suffers from his disloyal desire for Sophie while also hoping that somehow she and Nathan will figure out a way to be together. Mental health is explored in detail as well, a subject close and dear to Styron as he struggled his whole life from dark depressions.

 photo William_Styron_zps9tfeliyz.jpg
The older William Styron.

This book is unforgettable. I have a feeling I will be able to recall scenes in vivid technicolor from this novel for the rest of my life. How can I ever forget Stingo, Sophie, and Nathan? Their lives have become so much a part of my life I can almost swear that I have moved into The Pink Palace for a time and listened to their Olympian bouts of lovemaking, punctuated with the thumping of the headboard and the susurrus of the bedsprings, by the groans of Stingo’s growing frustrations.

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com
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June 9, 2021
I should probably begin by stating that my copy of Sophie's Choice has taken up residence under my stairs, in a plastic box, next to where all of the other dire books I have been unfortunate enough to read, are currently residing too, until I am able to donate them to the book farm, or anywhere apart from under my roof.

This book took me way too long to read than I'm happy with, and the sole reason for that is;

It was a terrible book.

I had been aching to get to this book, and after reading the intriguing premise (I usually enjoy Holocaust themed writing) I was expecting to experience a vast array of overwhelming emotions. But, of course, there wasn't a vast array of emotions at all. There was only one, and that was of anger.

The theme of The Holocaust was handled pathetically in this book. There was flowery, irritating writing without an ounce of feeling, and this caused me to feel nothing for the Holocaust survivor, Sophie. She was a character that I grew to dislike more as the story went on, and I blame that on the choice of narrative.

Styron can write, certainly, but he has the most irritating prose that I have ever experienced. Instead of writing about something that took place in simple, but effective terms, he has to do one better, and stick a goddamn bow on it. Sometimes I can allow for that, but as the plot was weak already, the writing style only added to my vexation.

Stingo, our mid-twenties narrator, is a writer, and enjoys spending his days moping around his work, thinking about sex, thinking about his constant erection( masturbating at the same time) and then, when he meets Sophie, a Holocaust survivor, all he is able to think about is taking her to his bed. I can tell you fellow readers, I know more about Stingo's lonely penis, than I do about The Holocaust.

What this lacked, was another POV. Why couldn't we hear things from Sophie's perspective? After all, she is the main character of this story, is she not? When Stingo finally discovers the evils that Sophie was subjected to at the concentration camps, he vows he will make her story known to the world, but he's that dizzy with lust and the wanting of getting her into bed, causes that to never happen.

There are many themes in this book, including The Holocaust and mental health, but they are just not explored or elaborated on. They pop up, and then they just pass through the characters and the plot, like ships in the night, and instead we are treated to a description of Stingo and his raging erection once again.

The book also angers me, because I feel like Sophie wasn't given a voice. When she told Stingo about her life, I felt like she wasn't allowed to speak without him interrupting her, or telling her she knows exactly how she feels. How the hell can he possibly know that? It made me feel like Sophie was just a prop in order for Styron to get his personal opinions on paper.

It is a real shame that this book was written in such a strange, and detached way, and if more work was put into Sophie, and by that I mean actually allowing her to be a character, this may have turned out quite differently.
Profile Image for Candi.
598 reviews4,534 followers
July 19, 2020
“The landscape and the living figures of that summer, as in some umber-smeared snapshot found in the brittle black pages of an old album, had become more dusty and indistinct as time for me unspooled with negligent haste into my own middle age, yet that summer’s agony still cried out for explanation.”

Humor, Brooklyn, mental illness, eroticism, and the Holocaust. Sounds like an unlikely concoction for a novel, doesn’t it? This was totally unexpected! The only knowledge I had going into this is that it was a wildly popular film about World War II starring Meryl Streep, and that it would involve some troubling ‘choice’ of some sort. What I walked away from was a deeply moving, brilliantly written, sometimes overblown, story about three people whose lives converge during the summer of 1947.

“I was fated to get ensnared, like some hapless June bug, in the incredible spider’s nest of emotions that made up the relation between Sophie and Nathan…”

In one way, this is a coming of age novel. Stingo is a twenty-two year old aspiring writer who has moved to Brooklyn after being dismissed from McGraw-Hill. He is plagued by the stigma of male virginity as well as a wicked case of persistent tumescence. The decision to narrate this story from Stingo’s point of view at first both puzzled and intrigued me. I expected this to be from Sophie’s perspective or from some omniscient narrator. It didn’t take long for me to grab onto Stingo and go along for the ride with him. When Stingo moves into The Pink Palace, a rooming house in a primarily Jewish neighborhood, he is a bit out of his element. However, it’s not long before he’s wholly caught up in the sexually charged atmosphere of two of his fellow boarders, the bright but volatile Nathan Landau, and the beautiful and tragic Sophie Zawistowski.

"… I encountered Sophie in the flesh for the first time and fell, if not instantaneously, then swiftly and fathomlessly in love with her. It was a love which, as time wore on that summer, I realized had many reasons for laying claim to my existence.”

What I loved best about this novel were the moments we spent with Stingo, Nathan and Sophie in the here and now. There is something very satisfying to me as a reader about a magnetic story of unrequited love, a passionate love affair, a genuine friendship, and compelling dialogue. This is what I found between this trio. As Sophie becomes comfortable in Stingo’s company, she unveils another strand of the plot. We hear about her past as she relates it to him. Of course, like many narratives, we, like Stingo, don’t get the whole truth at once. Her time spent in Auschwitz is revealed to us, but on her own terms. It’s a painful story and one that will not be fully confessed until you reach the finish line.

“… it is now clear to me that a hideous sense of guilt always chiefly governed the reassessments she was forced to make of her past. I also came to see that she tended to view her own recent history through a filter of self-loathing—apparently not a rare phenomenon among those who had undergone her particular ordeal.”

The plot alternates then between the present day and a series of flashbacks. While important and necessary to Sophie’s story and her frame of mind, I found the flashbacks to be less compelling than the whole. They were drawn out to the point I felt taken out of the story and had to set it aside and read something else. It’s not often I can say that about Holocaust fiction. I wish these sections had been edited a bit more; I suspect the impact would have been even greater. Furthermore, I couldn’t put my finger on it at first, but what I came to realize by the end was that I felt slightly manipulated by the author. I know this is likely an unpopular opinion, but I started to recall the agony of reading a completely different novel – A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. And while I’m whining a bit, I might as well add one more complaint here and get it over with. I was not a fan of the author’s voice coming through Stingo. Yep, I said it. At the beginning it was just a little irritant in the back of my mind, but by the last few pages of the book I was oddly provoked! From what I understand, this novel is partially autobiographical and once discovered I couldn’t separate Stingo from Styron.

Having said all that, I’m simply trying to explain why what I thought initially would be a five star novel moved down a notch into 4 star territory. Regardless, it’s a book I would highly recommend to anyone. It’s exceptional and unforgettable. I am once again left reflecting on the nature of humankind. I thought about the ordinariness of both the perpetrators and the victims of the pure evil that was the Holocaust. No one person is completely demonized or glorified. Sophie is not painted as a noble innocent yet we are wholly drawn to her and can more easily empathize with her as a result. Her pain and her joy are palpable throughout. How does one make it from one day to the next when all faith is lost?

“The most profound statement yet made about Auschwitz was not a statement at all, but a response. The query: ‘At Auschwitz, tell me, where was God?’ And the answer: ‘Where was man?’”
October 16, 2018
«Η επιλογή της Σόφι» είναι ένα λογοτεχνικό υπέραριστούργημα, μια εκθαμβωτική απεικόνιση της λυρικής και ισχυρής γραφής, σε συνδυασμό με μια εξίσου εκθαμβωτική παρουσίαση μιας βαθιάς και συμπονετικής κατανόησης της ανθρώπινης καρδιάς, στα θεμέλια της οποίας θάβεται και στοιχειώνει την ύπαρξη, η αύρα της ψυχής.

Υπέροχο, πραγματικά, απερίσπαστα συγκλονιστικό βιβλίο, απο αυτά που δεν ξεχνάς ποτέ, απο αυτά που αγαπάς κάθε σελίδα ξεχωριστά.
Πως κατάφερε ο Styron να υφάνει όλα αυτά τα νήματα στο υφάδι της πανανθρώπινης λήθης μέσα στο μυαλό της παγκόσμιας ιστορίας που συνεχίζει να γράφεται με αίμα και δάκρυα, είναι ένα απόλυτο θαύμα.

Κι αν γράφτηκε με βάση το ολοκαύτωμα, τα ναζιστικά στρατόπεδα συγκέντρωσης και τις κληρονομιές θανάτου και βουβής υποτέλειας που απόκτησε η ανθρωπότητα μετά απο εκατομμύρια νεκρά και ζωντανά πτώματα, η διεισδυτικότητα της πένας του συνεχίζει σε όλο και πιο απύθμενα βάθη.
Εκεί όπου ο άνθρωπος συναντάει τον εαυτό του και τρομάζει και καταφεύγει στην κατάθλιψη για να περισώσει ελάχιστη, ασήμαντη ποσότητα ανθρωπιάς και συνείδησης, αρρωσταίνοντας την ψυχή του με τις ολέθριες απεικονίσεις μιας φρικτής πραγματικότητας, στις οποίες συμμετείχε έστω κι ως θεατής.
Φτάνεις στην εσχατιά που η μοναδική σου ελπίδα παραπέμπει στο θεό, σε έναν θεό που πέθανε, σε έναν θεό που δεν υπήρξε ποτέ, μα τον αναζητάς με απόγνωση και παράνοια.
Τον αναζητάς και τον κατηγορείς για όλα τα μαρτυρία της φύσης, για όλους τους εφιάλτες που ξύπνησαν μέσα απο την ποίηση των παραλογισμών και των ουσιωδών παρανομιών εις βάρος της ζωής.
Καταγγέλλεις και μισείς με πάθος τον δημιουργό της Πλάσης, όταν στο ιερό και άγονο ξερονήσι των στρατοπέδων δημιουργούνται κοινωνίες υπάκουες και μνησίκακες. Όταν στο συγκεντρωτικό εγκληματικό καταυλισμό κάθε εξουσίας αντιλαμβάνεσαι πως απωτερος σκοπός δεν είναι ο αφανισμός.
Η μυρωδιά του θανάτου που αναγκαστικά εισπνέεις δεν ειναι η ουσία του εξουσιαστικού έργου.
Αυτά απλώς σε προωθούν με απόλυτη ακρίβεια στην συνάφεια μεταξύ αυτοκαταπίεσης και αυτοσυντήρησης.

Έτσι, παύεις να αναζητάς το θεό, ανήκεις σε συλλογικές κοινωνίες υποτέλειας και εξαναγκασμού με βασικό χαρακτηριστικό την αδίστακτη αδιαφορία για όλα.
Κι αν κάποια στιγμή γονατίσεις στο μνήμα του θεού και σοκαριστείς απο τα μνημεία εξόντωσης που στολίζουν τον κόσμο σου, τότε που αισθάνεσαι την ανυπαρξία της θεϊκής βοήθειας, μα αναζητάς ουρλιάζοντας την ανθρώπινη παρέμβαση, τότε τρελαίνεσαι.
Το ερώτημα μπροστά στις επιτύμβιες πλάκες της υφηλίου, σε όλες τις ιστορικές περιόδους αλλάζει υπόσταση, αλλάζει υποκείμενο, αντικείμενο και κατηγορούμενο, γίνεται σοκαριστικά κατανοητό.

Δεν ρωτάμε πλέον πού ήταν ο Θεός μπροστά στη νοσηρή κόλαση της πανανθρώπινης τραγωδίας, αλλά πού ήταν ο Άνθρωπος, οι Άνθρωποι... για να αποτρέψουν, να σώσουν να βοηθήσουν.
Δεν υπάρχει απάντηση, κι όποιος τη βρήκε, προτίμησε να ξεχάσει πριν αυτοκτονήσει.

Έτσι, βαδίζει ο Styron μέσα στην ιστορία του, με νοσηρές θεματικές και εκκλήσεις προς την ανθρώπινη συνείδηση. Αποκαλύπτει, εξαιρεί, παραλληλίζει, καταγράφει και αφηγείται, με αναφορές και στοιχεία των πιο έντονων συναισθημάτων, καταστάσεων, γεγονότων και πράξεων της φυλής των όντων με νου και ψυχή.
Καμία διαφορά ανάμεσα στους νέγρους σκλάβους της Αμερικής του αγροτικού νότου και των θυμάτων των ναζί. Η φυλή και η πίστη, η κληρονομιά της δουλείας και του ρατσισμού, ο Βορράς και ο Νότος, οι Εβραίοι και οι φασίστες, η ηθική πικρία και η σεξουαλική απελευθέρωση, η πρόκληση για ζωή και οι θρησκευτικές πεποιθήσεις. Ο έρωτας και η σχιζοφρένεια της λογικής, τραύματα, εμπειρίες, αισθήματα, μύηση, επιλογή, θρίαμβος, παράνοια.

Ισοδύναμα μεγέθη κακού σε κάθε χώρα, σε κάθε γωνιά φυσικής νομοτέλειας.
Στην πραγματικότητα ο συγγραφέας μεταδίδει ιστορία μορφοποιημένη σε χαρακτήρες.
Κυριολεκτικά, χτίζει όλες τις άρρωστες τελειότητες που καταλήγουν σε κάθε ελληνική αρχαία τραγωδία που το παρελθόν κρέμεται απειλητικά πάνω απο την αφήγηση.

Οι πρωταγωνιστές του βιβλίου είναι γυμνοί εσωτερικά και εξωτερικά, ζουν, υπάρχουν, πορεύονται, αγαπιούνται, δημιουργούν ανεξίτηλες ιστορίες.
Είναι παγιδευμένοι, διπολικά θαυμάσια θύματα στο βωμό της ενοχής του επιζώντων.
Συντετριμμένοι και νικητές σε έναν χαμένο αγώνα, επιμένουν να επιπλέουν πλήρως στην δική τους πομπώδη, αυταρχική επιθυμία. Στην δική τους επιλογή ...Αυτοί είναι πραγματικοί άνθρωποι που ζουν ανοιχτά κάτω απο τη σκιά της λήθης και των περιορισμών τους.
Λένε τις ιστορίες τους, τις ζουν πρωταγωνιστικά και η δύναμη αυτού του βιβλίου έγκειται στο γεγονός πως μέσα απο αυτές τις ιστορίες λέγεται και η ιστορία του καθενός μας.
Ένα πυκνογραμμένο μυθιστόρημα, με βαθύ εξερευνητικό έργο στην υποβάθμιση της ανθρώπινης ζωής.
Ένας διαλογισμός για το κεντρικό κακό του αιώνα που πέρασε μέσω τριών χαρακτήρων. Μέσα απο τρεις χαρακτήρες γεννιούνται άπειρες ιστορίες σε διαφορετικά χωροχρονικά σημεία.
Υφαίνονται αναμνήσεις και εικόνες με κοινό παρονομαστή τη φρίκη, το μίσος, την εξάρτηση και την αποδοχή της φιλοσοφίας για επιδιώξεις «Τελικών Λύσεων».
Η παραβίαση της ανθρώπινης ζωής, οι επιλογές που σε τυλίγουν σαν τα παγωμένα ρούχα της λυτρωτικής άγριας ψευτιάς, η νίκη του φασισμού σε κάθε έκφανση, καταδεικνύει οδυνηρά πως επικρατούν πάντα τα επακόλουθα απο κάθε ολοκαύτωμα που διέπραξε και επέτρεψε η ανθρωπότητα. Τοσο σε συλλογικό όσο και σε προσωπικό επίπεδο.

Η επιλογή της Σόφι!
Πόσο πιο σπαραξικάρδια και οδυνηρή θα μπορούσε να είναι αυτή η «επιλογή», πόσο αδιανόητη και εφιαλτική, ειλικρινά δεν το χωράει ανθρώπινος νους.
Είναι αυτή η επιλογή που δεν χαρίζεται σε όλους, που σου τυχαίνει μόνο αν ανήκεις στους ιερά καταραμένους, στους αγωνιστές του αδιανόητου, στην ύπαρξη του καθαρού κακού, σε αυτούς που διδάχτηκαν το σκοτάδι, την ευθραστότητα και τη δύναμη της ανθρώπινης ψυχής.
Αν κάνεις την «επιλογή» αναπόφευκτα θριαμβεύει η παραπλάνηση της καταδικασμένης ελπίδας και η παράνοια. Το σίγουρο ειναι πως αν βρεθείς μπροστά σε αυτή την επιλογή βυθίζεσαι εκούσια σε μια ερεβώδη λησμονιά και δεν ξέρεις αν χάθηκες μέσα στον ίδιο σου τον εαυτό ή αν πέρασες στην αγκαλιά του θανάτου. Άλλωστε είσαι στην ανυπαρξία, όσο κι αν ουρλιάζεις κανείς δεν θα σε ακούσει, κι αν ακουστείς ειναι μάταιο, η «επιλογή» έχει γίνει. Κάπως έτσι έρχεται η περιδίνηση και το ένα καταραμένο γεγονός μετά το άλλο.

Δεν είμαι σε θέση να εντάξω αυτό το αριστούργημα σε κάποια κατηγορία.
Το μεγαλείο του φανερώνει τα μυστικά του σταδιακά σαν να ξεφλουδίζεται η μία επιφάνεια κάτω απο την άλλη.
Ο υπαινιγμός της φρίκης και του καταραμένου έρωτα αποκαλύπτεται εξ αρχής, μα η ένταση, η εξέλιξη, και οι αποκαλύψεις θερμαίνονται και βαθαίνουν καθώς ο αναγνώστης γνωρίζει καλύτερα τους ανθρώπους.

Πρόκειται για ένα μυθιστόρημα ζωής, που ισορροπεί σε μια στιγμή παγιδευμένη απο τα τραύματα του παρελθόντος και διχασμένη απο την αβεβαιότητα του μέλλοντος. Μια πολλαπλή προοπτική σε ένα ηθικό πρίσμα που διαχωρίζει ολα τα είδη των θεμάτων της ζωής.
Μια «επιλογή» μετά την οποία δεν φοβάσαι. Ο μόνος τρόπος για να εξαργυρώσεις την πιο τρομερή επιλογή της ζωής σου είναι να ακολουθήσεις όποιον δεν σου υπόσχεται τίποτα παρά θάνατο.

* Αν φτάσατε ως εδώ διαβάζοντας την κριτική μου σας ευχαριστώ απο καρδιάς.
Αν φοβηθήκατε το σεντόνι που ανάρτησα και απλώς ρίξατε μια ματιά και πάλι σας ευχαριστώ.
Αν δεν τη διαβάσατε καν σας αγαπώ. Και σας υπόσχομαι να είμαι όσο γίνεται πιο σύντομη στην γραπτή έκφραση και αναλυση των αναγνωστικών μου «επιλογών».

ΥΣ. Όταν πρόκειται για τον ερωτισμό που μου εμπνέουν τα βιβλία δεν τηρώ σχεδόν ποτέ τις υποσχέσεις μου.

💎

Καλή ανάγνωση.
Πολλούς ασπασμούς.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,568 reviews55.5k followers
September 24, 2020
Sophie's Choice, William Styron

Sophie's Choice is a 1979 novel by American author William Styron. It concerns the relationships between three people sharing a boarding house in Brooklyn: Stingo, a young aspiring writer from the South, and the Jewish scientist Nathan Landau and his lover Sophie, a Polish Catholic survivor of the German Nazi concentration camps, whom he befriends. The novel was the basis of a 1982 film of the same name.

Stingo, a novelist who is recalling the summer when he began his first novel, has been fired from his low-level reader's job at the publisher McGraw-Hill and has moved into a cheap boarding house in Brooklyn, where he hopes to devote some months to his writing.

While he is working on his novel, he is drawn into the lives of the lovers Nathan Landau and Sophie Zawistowska, fellow boarders at the house, who are involved in an intense and difficult relationship.

Sophie is beautiful, Polish, and Catholic, and a survivor of the Holocaust and Nazi concentration camps; Nathan is a Jewish-American, and, purportedly, a genius. Although Nathan claims to be a Harvard graduate and a cellular biologist with a pharmaceutical company, it is later revealed that this is a fabrication.

Almost no one (including Sophie and Stingo) knows that Nathan has paranoid schizophrenia. He sometimes behaves quite normally and generously, but there are times when he becomes frighteningly jealous, violent, abusive and delusional. As the story progresses, Sophie tells Stingo of her past.

She describes her violently anti-Semitic father, a law professor in Kraków; her unwillingness to help him spread his ideas; her arrest by the Nazis; and particularly, her brief stint as a stenographer-typist in the home of Rudolf Höss, the commander of Auschwitz, where she was interned.

She specifically relates her attempts to seduce Höss in an effort to persuade him that her blond, blue-eyed, German-speaking son should be allowed to leave the camp and enter the Lebensborn program, in which he would be raised as a German child.

She failed in this attempt and, ultimately, never learned of her son's fate. Only at the end of the book does the reader also learn what became of Sophie's daughter, named Eva. Later, Nathan's delusions have led him to believe that Stingo is having an affair with Sophie, and he threatens to kill them both. ...

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز یازدهم ماه آگوست سال 2018میلادی

عنوان: انتخاب سوفی؛ نویسنده: ویلیام استایرن؛ مترجمها: آرش رضاپور، افشین رضاپور؛ ویراستار فهیمه زاهدی؛ تهران نشر هنوز‏‫٬ 1396؛ ‬در 832ص؛ شابک 9786006047461؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان امریکایی - سده 20م

انتخاب سوفی معروف‌ترين اثر «ويليام استايرن» و يكی از جنجالی‌ترين رمان‌های جهان درباره‌ ی هولوكاست است؛ بسياری از نويسندگان، از جمله «كارلوس فوئنتس» و «نورمن ميلر»، به ستايش از داستان پرداخته اند؛ در اين كتاب عشق و مرگ و احساس گناه در هم تنيده شده‌ اند؛ تا خوانشگران را نیز از هزارتويی پر حادثه عبور دهند، و در پایان آنها را به بينشی تلخ، اما واقع‌گرايانه درباره‌ ی ماهيت شر برسانند؛

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 02/07/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Aaron Mccloud.
3 reviews12 followers
May 27, 2007
William Styron's "Sophie's Choice" has to stand as one of the 20th century's great American novels. Based very loosely on his own experiences in the late 1940s in New York, Styron makes himself into a writer called Stingo who moves into a boarding house in Brooklyn, where he meets a Polish emigré named Sophie and her dangerously unpredictable lover, Nathan. With great delicacy and restraint, Styron traces the evolution of the friendship and love that entangles these three and which has stunning consequences.

For those who have only seen the 1985 movie starring Meryl Streep (and for which she deservedly won the Best Actress Oscar), do yourself a favor and read the book. The movie was indeed wonderful, but the book is so much richer and more detailed and Styron's mastery of this compelling narrative is marvelous to behold. For those who have NOT seen the film, you will assume that "Sophie's Choice" has to do with Nathan and Stingo. Heartbreakingly, it both does and does not.

Styron has an incredible gift for injecting humor into dark situations. He makes Stingo an inordinately horny, frustrated, pained, wise-cracking man in his early 20s--Stingo leaps off the pages as fully formed and utterly human. Nathan too, in a much different way, is three-dimensional and fiery with life. Sophie is rendered in more delicate tones than the two men, which makes the final chapters of the book all the more powerful. We see what she has withstood and what she has given up and it is inescapably heartbreaking.

The book's ending is utterly right and the inexorable product of all that has gone before it. Styron has taken an enormously complex panoply of subjects--young manhood, post-WWII New York, mental illness, obsession, guilt, and more--and structured them into one of the most un-put-downable novels you will ever read.
Profile Image for Lawyer.
384 reviews822 followers
September 29, 2014
Sophie's Choice: William Styron's Novel of Choices, Hobson's and Otherwise

This novel was chosen by members of On the Southern Literary Trail as a group read for September, 2014.

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Sophie's Choice, First Ed., First Prtg., William Styron, Random House, New York, New York, 1979

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The gate to Auschwitz, where those in charge choose who lives and who dies

Life is but a series of choices, is it not? Some easy, quickly made, given no further thought. Others are more difficult. We worry about the outcome, the consequences. After much thought, we arrive at a choice, live with it, find we worried over nothing, or become haunted by consequences we never envisioned. Call it free will.

When we are very young life is much simpler, is it not? Our decisions are made for us. By our parents, our caretakers. Perhaps caregivers sounds better. We do not know about the idea of free will, so we do not worry about it. We just take what comes. We are grateful if we have kind parents and caregivers. No, that's not right, we are simply happy because that is what we learn to expect. Many children learn to expect nothing good to happen. Neither the happy children or the sad children have a choice in the matter. It is simply the way it is.

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A child who expected nothing good to happen, from the film "Schindler's List

But Sophie's Choice by William Styron deals with choices made principally by his title character in a setting where the choices are given under duress, which are choices not freely made, or choices which have no satisfactory outcome, the classic Hobson's choice. Sophie is an Aryan, not Jewish. However, she is Polish. The Nazi regime despises the Poles as they did the mentally ill, physically imperfect, the gypsies, homosexuals, and dissident intellectuals. All will go to the camps. And all will only leave up through the chimneys of the crematoria.

Styron's method of telling Sophie's story is a master stroke of plotting. Rather than resort to the omniscient "god" like narrator, Styron inserts himself into the story as his younger self. "Call me Stingo." Echoing the words of Herman Melville,"Call me Ishmael," Styron relates key facts of his life as a young manuscript reader at McGraw-Hill Publishing who aspires to become a writer. Following his brief stay there, he is terminated. He must move to more affordable lodging.

His search lands him in a boarding house in 1947 Brooklyn, a time when trees still grew there. The older Styron writes of himself as a younger more callow figure. Stingo tells us,

“To make matters worse, I was out of a job and had very little money and was self-exiled to Flatbush—like others of my countrymen, another lean and lonesome Southerner wandering amid the Kingdom of the Jews.”


Oh, yes. Stingo is a Southerner. A Virginian, born and bred, with a degree from Duke University. Not only is he close to impoverished and lonesome, he is lonesome for female company. Among his scant belongings is an unopened box of condoms upon which he casts a wistful look from time to time.

Stingo's feverish libido is fired by the nightly sounds of unbridled and enthusiastic celebrations of the ars amatoria from the room above his. It is difficult to sleep, to even think. To write is impossible. Bed springs squeak and a head board beats against a wall with a steadily increasing rhythm. There are brief interludes of silence and then the sounds of the circle of life slowly begin again rising to crescendoing heights. It drives Stingo to distraction.

Then we meet the unabashed coupling couple. One Nathan Landau and Miss Sophie Zawistowska. Nathan is Jewish. Sophie is not. She is a Polish Catholic who survived internment at Auschwitz.

Stingo walks into the boarding house to find the couple arguing. Not all is well with the two lovers upstairs.

At the house Sophie and Nathan were embroiled in combat just outside the door of my room...

"Don't give me any of that, you hear," I hear him yell. "You're a liar! You're a miserable lying cunt, do you hear me? A cunt!...[T]hat's what you are, you moron--a two-timing, double-crossing cunt! Spreading that twat of yours for a cheap, chiseling quack doctor. Oh, God!" he howled, and his voice rose in wild uncontained rage. "Let me out of here before I murder you--you whore!


Then Nathan turned his attention on Stingo.

"You're from the South," he said.. "Morris told me you were from the South. Said your name's Stingo. Yetta needs a Southerner in her house to fit in with all the other funnies...Too bad I won't be around for a lively conversation, but I'm getting out of here. It would have been nice to talk with you...We'd have had great fun, shootin' the shit, you and I. We could have talked about sports. I mean Southern sports. Like lynching niggers--or coons, I think you call them down there...Too bad. Old Nathan's got to hit the road. Maybe in another life, Cracker, we'll get together. So long, Cracker! See you in another life."


Odd, how those who are the targets of prejudice are among the most intolerant, is it not so?

Stingo immediately goes to comfort Sophie. However, his feelings are conflicted. Although his choice is to comfort her, his wish is to possess her. He is captured by her beauty. And Styron will make it clear through the novel that men are frequently drawn to Sophie by her beauty.

One important thing that the reader must realize is that Styron is dealing with two time frames. He is dealing with the present in which he is writing the book. He is dealing with the present of 1947 in which the action actually occurs. It is through this distancing that Styron is able to set up throughout the novel moments of foreshadowing. It must never be forgotten that Old Stingo/Styron knows how this tale ends. It is a flashback within a flashback.

Styron gradually reveals to us that Nathan Landau is brilliant, wealthy, but mentally ill. He is capable of great charm, care, and generosity. Nathan has chosen upon meeting Sophie who is still suffering from the after effects of her internment in Auschwitz to bring her back to health and save her life. He takes her to his brother Larry who is a physician who treats her and refers her to other physicians. Upon their meeting Sophie suffers from scurvy, has endured typhus, scarlet fever, and malnutrition. She has lost her teeth.

Nathan has provided perfect dentures for her. Clothing. Most important to Sophie, music in the form of the latest model phonograph and records, extremely expensive in that day. And Nathan restored her eroticism to her the sense of which was totally lost to her in Auschwitz.

Nathan will also make the positive choice to befriend Stingo. Stingo will become part of a threesome, included in Nathan's and Sophie's adventures. Nathan will come to praise Stingo's writing giving him the confidence to complete what will become his first novel, Styron's Lie Down in Darkness. The novels most charming moments are when the three are together on one of Nathan's elaborately planned adventures. It has the sense of Truffaut's "Jules et Jim."

Old Stingo will recall,

“There are friends one makes at a youthful age in whom one simply rejoices, for whom one possesses a love and loyalty mysteriously lacking in the friendships made in after-years, no matter how genuine.”


Oddly enough, Nathan's misgivings about Stingo were not totally inaccurate. Stingo has his share of Southern guilt with which to live. It seems that his family once had a slave named Artiste and he was put out to work. The value of that work was a large sum of money which came into his father's possession. His father sent Stingo his share of that burden of Southern history. It was that largesse that allowed him to continue to live in Brooklyn and write. The reveal of this information instantly brought a comparison of Stingo to Quentin Compson. "I don't hate it," Quentin said, quickly, at once, immediately; "I don't hate it," he said. "I don't hate it he thought, panting in the cold air, the iron New England dark: I don't. I don't! I don't hate it! I don't hate it!" Absalom, Absalom!, by William Faulkner.

Nathan chooses to self medicate with amphetamines and cocaine. An employee at Pfizer Laboratories, he easily obtains what he needs. The "Bennies" the cocaine make him fly. It is when he begins to crash that his Mr. Hyde personality appears. Sophie can only hope that barbiturates can ease him into sleep before he emotionally abuses her or physically harms her.

It is during those periods of time that Nathan abandons Sophie that Stingo becomes her confidant. Though she has lost her faith in the horror of Auschwitz, she treats Stingo as the priest in the confessional. Stingo is a safe confidant. John Steinbeck reminded us in East of Eden, “Perhaps the best conversationalist in the world is the man who helps others to talk.” Stingo helped Sophie to talk. It is in Sophie's narration to Stingo that we are gradually led to Sophie's Choice. Old Stingo/Styron repeatedly reveals bits and pieces that lead us to believe that it was horrible indeed. It was.

In a novel as dark as this a reader is grateful for any brief respite of humor. Styron provides it here in young Stingo's pursuit of sexual satisfaction. There is the divine Leslie Lapidus who loves to talk dirty, and can talk the talk with expertise but cannot bring herself to do the deed. She envisions Stingo with his Southern accent as some Cavalier officer of the Confederate army.

“I mean, I don't know much about the Civil War, but whenever I think of that time—I mean, ever since Gone With the Wind I've had these fantasies about those generals, those gorgeous young Southern generals with their tawny mustaches and beards, and hair in ringlets, on horseback. And those beautiful girls in crinoline and pantalettes. You would never know that they ever fucked, from all you're able to read." She paused and squeezed my hand. "I mean, doesn't it just do something to you to think of one of those ravishing girls with that crinoline all in a fabulous tangle, and one of those gorgeous young officers—I mean, both of them fucking like crazy?"

"Oh yes," I said with a shiver, "oh yes, it does. It enlarges one's sense of history.”


Then there's Sally Ann, the Baptist, she of the stalwart hand. She leaves Stingo wrung out like a limp wash rag. Stingo complains he could have done that better himself.

But we must return to Nathan, Sophie, Stingo, and Auschwitz.

The last time Nathan broke with reality, he threatened to murder Sophie and Stingo. He believed they had made love. He was wrong about that.

Stingo was determined to save Sophie from Nathan. He persuaded her to go with him to a farm owned by his father in Virginia. It was on that trip Sophie revealed her choice at Auschwitz. It was on that trip that Sophie made love to Stingo. And she asked if there was a Berlitz language school near there so she might learn to write in English.

"There are so many things that people still don't know about that place!" she said fiercely. "There are so many things I haven't even told you Stingo, and I've told you so much. You know, about how the whole place was covered with the smell of burning Jews, day and night. I've told you that. But I never even told you hardly anythng about Birkenau, when they begun to starve me to death and I go so sick I almost died...Or..." And here she paused, gazed into space, then said, "There are so many terrible things I could tell. But maybe I could write it as a novel, you see, if I learned to write English good, and then I could make people understood how the Nazis made you do things you never believed you could...I was so afraid! They made me afraid of everything! Why don't I tell the truth about myself? Why don't I write it down in a book that I was a terrible coward, that I was a filthy collaboratrice that I done everything that was bad just to save myself?" She made a savage moan, so loud above the racket of the train that heads turned nearby and eyes rolled. "Oh, Stingo, I can't stand living with these things!"

Viktor E. Frankl wrote in Man's Search for Meaning “Those who have a 'why' to live, can bear with almost any 'how'.” Perhaps Sophie lost her why at Auschwitz.

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Birkenau: Those who do not have a why to live cannot bear any how. Is it not so?

Now we come to one Thomas Hobson who was an English Stable Keeper around 1600. He always required his customers to take the horse nearest the door or none at all. It came to be known as Hobson's choice, meaning what appears to be a free choice which offers no option at all. That was Sophie's choice. Was it not so?

Let us allow young Stingo to have the last word, shall we?

“Someday I will understand Auschwitz. This was a brave statement but innocently absurd. No one will ever understand Auschwitz. What I might have set down with more accuracy would have been: Someday I will write about Sophie's life..., and thereby help demonstrate how absolute evil is never extinguished from the world. Auschwitz itself remains inexplicable. The most profound statement yet made about Auschwitz was not a statement at all, but a response.

The query: "At Auschwitz, tell me, where was God?"

And the answer: "Where was man?”


I have mentioned the work of Viktor Frankl. This novel stands on equal footing with Night by Elie Wiesel, The Last of the Just by André Schwarz-Bart, and Schindler's List byThomas Keneally.

William Styron won the National Book Award for Fiction in 1980. He was a finalist for the National Critics Circle Award. However, reviews were mixed. Styron was criticized for having taken on a topic to huge to be taken on in any manner other than silence, ignoring earlier works in existence and widely recognized. A narrower criticism was based on Styron having selected a Polish Catholic as his central character as the Holocaust's purpose was deemed the extermination of the Jewish Race. Styron responded in an essay in the New York Times that the Holocaust transcended anti-Semitism, that “its ultimate depravity lay in the fact that it was anti-human,” he wrote. “Anti-life.”

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All who suffered under the Third Reich suffered universally. Was it not so?


Other Materials

The Lebensborn Program

Old Stingo's Soundtrack for Sophie

This soundtrack is composed from the imagination of the author.
Elisaveth Schwarzkopff sings with Edwin Fischer Brahms 11 Lieder, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=juMt1...

Mozart's Piano Concerto 27 in B Flat Major, his last Piano Concerto, composed in 1791, the year of his death. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c9gvT...

J.S. Bach, CantataJesu, Joy of Man's Desiring, Leopold Stokowski, directing in 1992. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S6OgZ...

Now, the maturing Stingo builds his tribute.

Samuel Barber: Agnus Dei (Adagio for strings) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KkObn... Performed by the Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge, UK.

Puccini's Chrisantemi, the Chrysanthemums, an old piece but only recently rediscovered. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=buPv_...

Aaron Copland. "Our Town." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YHABz...
Profile Image for Dolors.
516 reviews2,139 followers
October 22, 2017
“Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me;
The carriage held but just ourselves
And Immortality.” Emily Dickinson

Styron brings the Brooklyn of the forties and its flourishing intellectualism back to life through the eyes of three characters, whose irreconcilable pasts find a common ground in the sweeping vision of optimistic America, distancing the narrative from stereotyped clichés and with the inimitable diction of a true Southern voice.
A lush, descriptive prose soaked in an acerbic humorous tone with tinges of dark eroticism that partially conceals the profoundest of grief interweaves the ongoing contradictions of a Southerner’s life in the North and the collision between the remains of corrosive Puritanism and the rise of a newborn liberal society with intermittent and not always trustworthy flashbacks of mutilated lives and immeasurable suffering inflicted with perverse arbitrary during the Holocaust.

Sophie, a Polish Catholic seeking refuge in the plentiful land of opportunities after being released from Auschwitz, is plagued by guilt and self-condemnation for the “unheroic” choice of sticking to the leftovers of her life rather than risking it by being politically involved for the sake of human justice. Hers is tragic story mined with shame, fear and bewilderment over the aberrations perpetrated on her with no rational cause or logical explanation. Her sole crime: being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Her everlasting punishment: the unbearable loss impregnated with the odor of burning human flesh that chokes her faltering recollections of an irredeemable past that not even the possibility of a bright future can dissipate.
But when she crosses paths with Nathan, a mercurial charmer with a volatile mood and a brilliant mind who as a Jew regards himself as an authority on anguish and suffering, Sophie’s desolation dissolves into his frenetic lovemaking and obsessive tendencies. Nathan has chosen to make of collective calamity his personal crusade while prejudice runs ironically deep through his veins.
Stingo, an aspiring writer from Virginia and Styron’s alter-ego, witnesses Sophie and Nathan’s downfall and meta-narrates the doomed path they create with their decisions while nurturing a platonic adoration for this tormented woman who merely subsists in the sinister limbo provided by sexual obliteration, destructive self-loathing and auto-inflicted penitence.
“That death-force is gone, finished, kaput! So now love me, Sophie. Love me. Love me! Love life!” pleads a panicky Stingo trying to undo Sophie’s ultimate Choice and to urge her to listen to the plaintive melody of life that was silenced by the roaring devastation of war and unnameable monstrosity.

With composed momentum and exuberant phrasing pregnant with vivid literary and classical music references Styron directs a dichotomous dialogue between the fragile lightness of harmony and the aberrant darkness of mass destruction, the purgative power of love and the menace of its delirious addiction, the flickering candle of hope and the smothering smell of death.
Is life a hideous symphony played by the grotesque absurdity of serendipitous horror or the result of conscientious choices made in the fetid sinkhole of the world of the living dead, where waves of piercing agony wash all the recesses of memory, coming and going with the rhythm of cathartic writing?
How can those who survived the banality of evil endure the burden of the gift of life when so many perished amidst dehumanized barbarity?
Do individual choices matter in collective madness? When man is plunged into realms that transcend reason, sanity or faith and the very notion of existence becomes a ludicrous thought? When an unknown God turns his back on him and wipes out the flow of his love on all living things?
“For did not Auschwitz effectively block the flow of that titanic love, like some fatal embolism in the bloodstream of mankind”?

Distilling on paper the very tissues of his own conflicted being, Styron navigates the murky waters of mankind’s soul and the virulent currents of its morality to confront individual choices versus collective responsibility and the catastrophic propensity of human beings to dominate each other that goes beyond circumstance, gender, nationalities or religion.
Did Sophie ever have a real choice?
She asks: “At Auschwitz, tell me, where was God”?
Styron replies: “Where was man?”
I read to try to understand, but some things like the expendability of human life are inexplicable to me, yet I find solace in authors like Styron who made the choice of staring unblinkingly at the abyss of evilness and still found enough courage to exorcize pain through expiatory writing, which might eventually lead not to fruitless reproach but to collective healing, “excellent and fair”, like the brand new morning.
Profile Image for Michael Finocchiaro.
Author 2 books5,414 followers
April 5, 2022
Devastating. That is the one word that comes to mind when trying to summarize the suffering that Sophie goes through during this book. I liked the narrator and detested Nathan, but the true story here is Sophie. Her experiences before and during WWII in Warsaw and Auschwitz are harrowing. Having visited Auschwitz two years ago, I think there was a little bit of inaccuracy as to what could be seen from Haus Höss (the Arbeit sign, for example, is not visible from that part of the compound to name one example). Nonetheless, the details about the life in the camp are realistic and align with the reading I have done (Primo Levi, Elie Weisel, etc) and is a gruesome reminded of why all forms of fascism should be condemned and fought tooth and nail in order to avoid a repeat of the brutality suffered by literally millions of Jews, Poles, gypsies, and homosexuals in the Nazi Death Camps.

-(some near spoilers ahead)-
I found the idea of the choices that Sophie makes during the book very poignant. There is something close to hopelessness when we see that each of her choices - whether she is trying to protect her children, or just one child, or to leave… - are all ultimately the wrong choices because death follows nearly every time in one form or another. And yet, had she chosen otherwise, nothing would really have changed. I think the question comes down to whether Sophie is able to evolve from choice to choice, and I felt that the real tragedy here is that she does not evolve except that she is finally able to unburden her soul to Stingo before making her final choice. Styron is certainly showing us his own impuissance when faced with trying to understand and cope with the idea of a genocide that happened during his lifetime. The idea of the absurdity of simultaneity was really interesting in that sense, and he goes back to that several times.

As for the book, it is very well-written with some good stories and humor threw in towards the beginning of the book before it takes its tragic turn. It is written in a semi-autobiographical format and makes reference to this period when Styron really was working on his first book and looking forward to writing his third book about Nat Turner (for which he won the 1968 Pulitzer Prize).

The Academy Award-winning film from 1982 cast the effervescent Meryl Streep as a stunning and unforgettable Sophie with a young Kevin Klein in his first big-screen appearance as Nathan. It is very respectful of the bookmaking only minor editorial changes to fit the 35mm format. The viewer gets 2 1/2h of primarily staged sets, but a few sequences from a (rather inaccurate) depiction of Auschwitz. It is not the greatest film adaptation of a major novel (I would place Gone with the Wind, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and To Kill a Mockingbird above it), but it is an absolute classic and a must-see due to the over the top performance by the greatest actress of her generation, Meryl Streep.
Profile Image for Andrew.
565 reviews116 followers
December 24, 2020
I stuck with it out of curiosity, not so much to find out what her choice was, but because this is supposedly an important American novel and I kept waiting for the "Aha!" moment when it would finally get good. Unfortunately it was just way too long. I now know what it's like to suffer from too much foreshadowing. It was so tiresome reading hint after ominous hint about what was going to happen.

The narration was clumsy and over-explanatory. Do you really have to recap an event that you just narrated 50 pages anterior? Did Styron think the audience too dumb to remember the episode well enough to comprehend an explicit allusion or (god forbid) an oblique reference? Do you really have to hammer home over and over again how frustrated he is to not be having sex, just to build up one of the last scenes? I'll grant that it might have been intentional to create a narrator so unsympathetic and annoying, but the result was irritation and a strong urge to quit the book completely.

Another problem with the voice was Sophie's narrative about Auschwitz. There were several moments when you saw the quotes around the paragraphs, indicating she was talking, but it was grammatically perfect. It was, as I already said, clumsy, and I can only suppose it was poor planning. Styron clearly wanted to eat his cake and have it too.

There were some pretty passages mixed in. Most of the good stuff revolved around the Auschwitz narrative and the observations it afforded Styron to make about human nature and the nature of hellish war. There were some good analogies, particularly the rats-in-a-barrel (Jews) vs. rats-in-a-burning-building (all other victims).

Of course, this reaffirms my opinion that it could have been a much better book by cutting 2-300 pages. I'm just going to assume that most of the "staggering," and "masterful" touches to this work (two adjectives employed in the praise section of the edition I read) were over my head.

Not Bad Movie & Book Reviews.

@pointblaek
Profile Image for Matt.
899 reviews28k followers
April 26, 2016
The term “Sophie’s Choice,” which derives from a critical plot point in William Styron’s eponymous novel, has become a prominent American idiom. You’ve probably heard it in your daily life. It was the subject of a relatively well-received movie starring Meryl Streep. Certainly, you’ve come across it if you’re a fan of The Simpsons. (A Sophie’s Choice joke is the kicker to Season 10, Episode 5’s “When You Dish Upon a Star”).

Despite its prevalence in the cultural landscape, I’m not going to assume you know the parameters of the choice. (I’ve been wrong – cough Moby Dick cough – in my spoiler assumptions before). I will say, though, that knowing those details won’t in any way effect your enjoyment of this novel. I’ve known the twist for years; the mistake I made was in thinking it was the essence of Sophie’s Choice.

It is not.

Sophie’s Choice is nearly overwhelming. It is wildly ambitious, chronically unfocused, irritating and ostentatious, precisely detailed, overly-written, soaring, gutter-dwelling, psychologically acute, digressionary, complex, utterly narcissistic, and an absolute masterpiece.

This book is the best kind of sprawling mess there is. It is all over the place, as though Styron’s many and obvious talents just spilled out on the page and spread in every direction. This book made me laugh. It made me cringe. Part of it made me embarrassed for Styron (or the editor). Other parts made me extremely envious. Classics are usually works of art you must wrestle with. This is a classic.

The story is set in post-war New York City (beautifully wrought) in 1947. It is narrated in the first person by a young, transplanted southerner who calls himself Stingo. It bears mentioning, I suppose, that Stingo is a thinly veiled version of Styron himself. Like Styron, Stingo came north from the Tidewater to pursue writerly ambitions. Like Styron, Stingo works at McGraw-Hill. Both are terminated from that position by the same act of defiance. Stingo is working on a novel that bears more than a passing resemblance to Styron’s Lie Down in Darkness. Stingo also – no surprises here – is fascinated by Nat Turner, and eventually writes a novel about him.

Stingo – though not ever, I assume, Styron – meets two remarkable people while staying at a NYC boarding house. They are Nathan, a young, brilliant Jewish man who works at Pfizer; and Sophie, a Polish woman who survived the camp at Auschwitz.

From the start, Stingo is both intensely attracted to the couple (especially Sophie) and repelled by the violent tumultuousness they openly display. Living beneath them, he hears them making love and fighting, both with passionate intensity. Very shortly, he becomes obsessed with them.

The plot, such as it is, is the gradual revealing of the many secrets shared by Sophie and Nathan (including, obviously, Sophie’s titular selection). To say that things are moving towards a single dramatic peak, however, isn’t really accurate. This book is a meander more than anything, equal parts frustrating and breathtaking.

Early on, for instance, Stingo takes a fair amount of time to describe to us the publishing job – reading manuscripts and writing summaries – that he is shortly to lose. Included in these passages are a number of “excerpts” from Stingo’s work product, highlighting Stingo’s darkly humorous critiques. What do these pages have to do with anything? Absolutely nothing. But that is the book’s modus. It goes where it wants, when it wants. Towards the end, right when the endgame begins, Stingo/Styron pulls back on the reins for a curious four-page interlude in which Stingo bemoans his courtship with Mary-Alice, a girl who only gave him hand-jobs (rest assured each hand-job is described).

Your tolerance, and response, to Sophie’s Choice is going to depend on your tolerance of Stingo. He is a navel gazer of the first order. There are dueling tragedies at play in this novel. First, the tragedy of the Holocaust, as symbolized by Sophie and Nathan. And second, the tragedy of Stingo’s virginity, represented by numerous lengthy set-pieces in which Stingo tries – but fails – to get laid.

All tragedy is local, I suppose.

It should also be noted that Stingo/Styron is among the more verbose storytellers you’ll encounter. There is never a moment in this novel in which Styron uses one word when five words will do; for that matter, he won’t use one normal word when one obscure one can be used. (See, e.g., the use of avoirdupois).

The Confessions of Nat Turner is Styron’s most controversial novel, delving as it does into the mind of a slave. I’ve only just started Confessions, but I cannot imagine it topping Sophie’s Choice is terms of sheer audacity. Many times while reading I actually paused to ponder: did he really just do that? The Holocaust within this novel’s world is just one of many realities that bleed into each other. Styron does make any effort to partition of the all-time deadly-serious Auschwitz scenes from the Stingo-is-sexually-frustrated scenes. Instead, Styron veers from one to the other with a cavalier sense of I don’t give a damn.

The passage of time allows for human tragedy to become literary drama. The Holocaust has not been immune to this. Even so, the friction between the fictional and real-life elements that Styron mixes is so jarring that it can uncomfortably draw attention to itself. There are two incredible, lengthy set pieces within Auschwitz, one of which includes a razor-intense encounter with Commandant Rudolf Hoess. There is also a marathon sex scene that goes on for three pages.

If this review seems conflicted, it’s because I am conflicted. I was conflicted while reading it. Page to page, my forbearance towards Styron spiked and dipped. When I put the book down, though, it didn't leave me right away. It lingered on into the next book I started, which felt pallid and lifeless after the lapel-grasping of Sophie’s Choice. This is a book that resonates. It is mad and loopy; it is powerful and passionate. It is the kind of book that I want to read again for the first time.
Profile Image for Pedro .
184 reviews376 followers
July 29, 2020
Just after I turned this novel’s last page I felt slightly conflicted about the way I felt about it and also about how to rate it. My “problem” with it had nothing to do with anything else but its structure and how much had been told using flashbacks and by shifting perspectives. I always tend to find these narrative devices kind of manipulative, distracting and most of the times unnecessary.

But here, with this one, somehow the writing saved it all for me and I read those (long) flashbacks (nearly) as compulsively as the rest of it.

Some imagery from this novel is going to stay with me (possibly) for the rest of my life. I know it. I know perfectly well the effects of good writing on my brain. Scenes from it are now mixed up with my memories and dreams like they’re my own or like I’ve experienced them myself.

The moment I “met” Sophie (and Nathan) is one of those moments I know I will never forget. And how can I ever forget Sophie’s bedroom after so many visits?! Manhattan, Brooklyn, the ocean and the way it reflected the light. The wind blowing from it; Its coolness. The sand, the dunes and the beers. Oh, the dunes... And Sophie, of course. Always Sophie.

Sophie’s body, passion, accent, mispronounced words, her hair and her eyes in the mirror. Her stories, voice, pain, dreams, worst nightmares and lies. Sophie’s past, her family, friends and enemies, strength, faults and, obviously, her choice.

A beautifully written but (slightly) conflicting novel about lust and love, broken dreams, loss and the horrors of war.

After some thought, and because I don’t come across good writing and a well developed cast of characters like these as often as I’d like, I’m rating it 4.5 stars, but I’ve rounded it up to 5. An extra half star just for Sophie.
Profile Image for sAmAnE.
459 reviews73 followers
March 4, 2022
یک روز آشویتس را درک خواهم کرد. این جمله‌ی متهورانه ولی پوچ بود. هیچ‌کس آشویتس را درک نخواهد کرد. درست‌تر این بود که بنویسم: روزی درباره‌ی زندگی و مرگ سوفی خواهم نوشت و نشان خواهم داد که چطور شرارت مطلق هرگز از روی زمین محو نخواهد شد.
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کتاب انتخاب سوفی بی‌شک یکی از کتاب‌هایی است ��ه هیچ‌وقت از یاد نمی‌برم. از همون صفحات اول که شروع به خواندن کرد سبک نوشتار نویسنده من جذب کرد و علی‌رغم حجم بالای کتاب (۸۰۶ صفحه) زمین گذاشتن آن حقیقتا برایم سخت بود.
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روایتگر پسری بیست و دو ساله است که رویای نویسندگی را در سر دارد. استینگو اهل ویرجینیاست. در یکی از سفرهایش با سوفی و ناتان آشنا می‌شود. سوفی از گذشته‌ی تلخ خودش و چگونگی آشنایی با ناتان برای استینگو می‌گوید و هر لحظه استینگو بیشتر عاشق سوفی می‌شود. ولی حقایقی از زندگی سوفی رو می‌شود که بودن ان‌ها را با هم غیر ممکن می‌سازد که یکی از مهم‌ترین آن‌ها تجربه‌ی تلخ سوفی در اردوگاه‌های ‌های آشویتس و حضور ناتان در زندگی اوست. رمان وقایع تاریخی و اجتماعی از پایان جنگ و آنچه بر یهودیان و حتی غیر یهودیان گذشته است، را بیان می‌کند با قلمی روان و جذاب و گیرا. در ماجرای کتاب بیشتر از آن‌چه که از هولوکاست می‌توانیم بفهمیم؛ با این موضوع مواجهیم که چه بر سر غیریهودیان آمده.
Profile Image for Lori  Keeton.
437 reviews85 followers
July 11, 2022

If ever there was a novel that would grab onto a reader and not let go, it would be Sophie’s Choice. It is a hauntingly uncomfortable tale that mingles together some very heavy themes and topics as well as unusual settings and makes it work, somehow. To say that the story Styron created moved me beyond words, is an understatement. I was caught up in the narrator Stingo’s self-absorbed passions and carnal thoughts and it made me squirm. This southern girl was brought up that way though and I just needed to figure out how this was going to fit into a tragic story of the Holocaust. It really seemed impossible.

This is not a book to review the plot and talk about the details. This is one that a reader will be ok with understanding the outline and then letting all of the pieces fall into place for themselves. This story centers on three people in a Brooklyn boarding house and their chaotic and complicated relationship with each other. Stingo is an aspiring writer, motivated by his desires to write a successful novel and lose his virginity, who becomes obsessed with his fellow boarders. Polish Catholic immigrant, Sophie Zawistowska survived imprisonment at Auschwitz and is now living in New York. Her story intertwines with her ongoing love affair with the volatile Jewish American scientist Nathan Landau. The southerner, Stingo, develops a close bond with Sophie who begins to tell him the story of her past from the war and of her deportation, imprisonment and survival. Her story is a slow revelation of secrets or untruths becoming truths.

This novel brings about many questions concerning guilt. It looks at the differences in how people handle it: those who feel personally responsible and those who don’t. The guilt of being a survivor. The novel seeks to illumine how guilt can horrifically lead to self-destruction. Be prepared to be emotionally gutted, confused, and drained from the intense situations these characters find themselves in.

The most profound statement yet made about Auschwitz was not a statement at all, but a response. The query: ‘At Auschwitz, tell me, where was God?’ And the answer: ‘Where was man?’”

Styron gives us a chilling story of the after-effects of the Holocaust rather than of the abominations of war. There are definitely instances of the reality of concentration camps here, but the focus is on the consequences of the experiences. He weaves historical events and people so delicately into Sophie’s story as well as into Stingo’s southern heritage. Interestingly, Styron plays an autobiographical role through Stingo’s character.

The prose is philosophical yet intimate. There are lengthy passages but not a drudge to read at all. We are privy to lots of details - and I mean A LOT of details. You might find yourself wondering when the story is going to come together but the meandering style works here with so many facets to weave together, even some humor.

What to say about the sex? There is a lot of it here and of thinking about it, talking about it, and dreaming about it.

As I said in the beginning, this is a book that just wouldn’t let go regardless of how it made me feel while reading it. I ran the gamut of emotions. This is a novel that will cause many hours of reflection over the evils of humanity and just exactly how much pain a person can endure.
Profile Image for Tim Null.
68 reviews46 followers
November 6, 2022
I read this decades ago, but I remember that Styron didn't convince me that this was the choice Sophie would choose.
Profile Image for K.D. Absolutely.
1,820 reviews
June 19, 2012
It was good that I missed the Oscar-nominated movie adaptation of this book when it was shown in 1985. My curiosity to find out what exactly was the meaning of the "choice" in the title, kept me leafing through the pages until it was revealed towards the end. There are actually two. Sophie, the beautiful Polish (non-Nazi) Holocaust survivor has to choose who to end up with between her two lovers, the Jewish Nathan Landau who is a crazy junkie but who brought her to America and the struggling American, Stingo who is also the narrator of the story. The other Sophie's choice should be hidden as it is the best part of the book. So if you have neither seen the movie nor read this book, please do not click this: That is an awful, awful choice that no parent would like to make as the options are both unbearable. Burn in hell, you Nazis.

This is my first Styron and I am impressed. His prose is not really exceptional but it is very readable. He has just the tendency to be overly melodramatic like Pat Conroy's The Prince of Tides but at least his characters are multi-dimensional. There are only 3 main characters in this book but I could almost feel them rising up from the pages of this book. There are no clear heroes and villains among them. Styron just presented them as they are and so the first choice - who is the better man - should have been very hard for Sophie. In the end, I thought that her decision is unwise but having it the other way around would not result to the same impact that Styron probably wanted his readers to feel.

My favorite character is Sophie and her best part is in the scene when she told Stingo that she steals menus from restaurants because she likes to take them home as souvenirs. This was Styron's way of showing the quirkiness of her character at the start then he totally transformed her afterwards by showing what she has to endure in living with Nathan and in the end, revealing what she had to go through in order to come in the US and fleeing her war-torn country, Poland.

The theme is racism in all fronts: blunt vs subtle, past vs present, external vs. internal. Blunt, past and external is the Holocaust that happened in Europe. Subtle, present, internal are the many forms of racial discrimination that are still happening, in the US and even in other countries, even here in the Philippines.

My only little complaint is the too much of use of F word and too much sex scenes that they could muddle the meaning of the story because sometimes I felt I was reading an erotica. I thought that Styron went a little overboard on these. Otherwise, it is a story with a strong message, heart-wrenching plot, well-developed characters and shocking ending that would be enough reason for you to continue reading. This is a long 626-page read but it is definitely worth your time.

I should read Styron's more popular work, The Confessions of Nat Turner soon. He is so good I can't wait to have a second serving.
Profile Image for Alex.
1,419 reviews4,279 followers
August 5, 2018
Styron gets knocked for two reasons. The first is that he's an appropriater: in his Pulitzer-winning Confessions of Nat Turner, he appropriated the famous slave revolutionary's story, and here he's taken the Holocaust. As he's neither black nor Jewish, some black and Jewish people are like wtf are you doing with my history. The second knock is that he writes clear and exciting prose with a lot of fancy words, leading Martin Amis to call him a "thesaurus of florid commonplaces."

"In my career as a writer," says Stingo, Sophie's Choice's narrator, "I have always been attracted to morbid themes - suicide, rape, murder, military life, marriage, slavery." (I love that marriage is just slipped in there.) Stingo is about to write a novel about Nat Turner, so it's not a stretch to call him a stand-in for Styron. James Baldwin, a friend and defender, said that "He writes out of reasons similar to mine - about something that hurt him and frightened him."

What hurts and frightens Styron is evil, and Sophie's Choice is about evil. He's shaken by the reality of it. Stingo figures out exactly what he was doing on the morning that Sophie arrived at Auschwitz: eating a banana on a beautiful day in North Carolina. This is his point, repeated often: at any given moment, while you're living your mundane life, someone in the world is capable of the deepest evil. American slavery looms over the story. Styron would like us to remember that we're sitting around in a country built on genocide, acting all horrified about what Nazis did. Stingo is supported in part by a treasure found in an ancestor's basement; the treasure is the proceeds from the sale of a slave.

The third character in the book is Nathan, Sophie's lover, and he embodies this human schizophrenia literally. He's unstable: often charming, occasionally careening into violent madness. Here's humanity according to Styron. In the end, Did I mention that this book is a bummer?

What was happening that morning as Sophie, our destroyed heroine, arrived at Auschwitz was the deepest evil Styron can think of. You probably know what the choice was, right? I'd never read the book or seen the movie but I've been using it as a joke for years: "Should we get burritos or fried chicken for lunch?" "Oh no, this is like Sophie's Choice." The ending of this book upset me so badly that I feel awful for ever making that joke. I've rarely been so crushed by a novel.

Styron is less interested in Sophie's choice than in the fact that she was forced to make it. Here's the worst thing in the world, he says. Styron didn't make the choice up; he got it from Hannah Arendt, who says she got it from Camus. But could it happen? Of course it could; if we can't prove this exact story, we have ample proof of stories like it. Who could do it? Could you do it? Could someone be doing it right now?

Styron believes that evil can happen anywhere, any time, to anyone. It could be happening now, as you read this review. Maybe you're eating a banana. You are not intrinsically better than slaveowners or Nazis. You're lucky that as yet you haven't had to decide whether to resist or submit. He asks:

The query: "At Auschwitz, tell me, where was God?"

And the answer: "Where was man?”

Styron would like us to make sure we're prepared to be there.
Profile Image for Maziyar Yf.
452 reviews204 followers
October 12, 2019
انتخاب سوفی اثر ویلیام استایرن کتابی ایست در باره هولوکاست ، با یک تفاوت عمده : قربانی آلمان ها دیگر یک فرد یهودی نیست ، سوفی یک کاتولیک لهستانی ایست و در خانواده ای متعصب بزرگ شده است . پدر سوفی هم یک استاد دانشگاه و به شدت ضد یهود است ، شاید از نظر نفرت از یهودیها فرقی با نازی ها نداشته باشد ، پس سوفی در آشویتس چه کار میکند ؟
در حقیقت تفاوت کتاب با کتابهای مشابه در همین است منظور نویسنده دیگر بخشی از بشریت نیست ، این قضیه هولوکاست متوجه کل بشریت و انسان هاست و از هر طبقه ای از آنان قربانی گرفته است ، چه یک ضد یهودی متعصب (پدر سوفی ) که به جرم استاد دانشگاه بودن ! اعدام می شود و چه خود سوفی که به جرم بردن گوشت برای مادر مریض خود به آشویتس فرستاده می شود . در دنیای سوفی آشویتس رفته همه چیز وارونه است ، مانند خود داستان که استینگو ، جوانی که به همسایگی سوفی برای زندگی آمده پس از مشاهده شماره خالکوبی شده و کنجکاوی در مورد راز سوفی ، داستان را به شکل فلش بک بازگو می کند ، در بهشتی به نام آمریکا که کیلومترها از جهنم اروپا فاصله دارد . اما این تمام داستان سوفی نیست ، سوفی در اصل انسان فرصت طلبی ایست ، کسی ایست که برای نجات جان خود دست به هر کار غیر اخلاقی می زند . از جمله هنگام ورود به آشویتس هنگامی که افسر نازی ، سوفی که دخترخود را بغل گرفته و دست پسر خود را در دست ، مورد آزار کلامی قرار میدهد سوفی از زبان آلمانی فصیح خود استفاده می کند که بگوید یهودی نیست ، اما این حرف به ضرر او تمام می شود و افسر آلمانی به عنوان مرحمت یک شانس به او می دهد ، یکی از بچه هایش را به انتخاب سوفی با خود به اردوگاه برده وآن یکی روانه کوره گاز شود . آیا پس از چنین انتخابی از سوفی چیزی به جا می ماند ؟
بازی برای سوفی فرصت طلب بد شانس هنوز ادامه دارد ، پسر سوفی هم که مادر به یمن انتخاب خود به او حیات مجدد بخشیده ، نازیها از سوفی جدا می کنند و به اردوگاه خاصی برای آموزش زندگی آریایی فرستاده می شود . سوفی نگون بخت عملا با انتخاب خود هر دو فرزند خویش را از دست داده است .
اما نویسنده آقای ویلیام استایرن برای سوفی معجزه ای مقدر کرده است ، سوفی که به زبان آلمانی کاملا مسلط است در دفتر فرمانده اردوگاه کار می کند ، در اتفاقی شبیه معجزه و بسیار بعید از دستگاه اداری نازیها ، فرمانده بی تاب در وصال سوفی ایست ، اما ناگهان به خود می آید و پی می برد که رابطه با اسیر چه عاقبتی دارد . سوفی نگون بخت که به دنبال یافتن و نجات پسر خود است نوشته های ضد یهودی پدر خود که در تمام این مدت قایم کرده است به فرمانده نشان می دهد تا به او ثابت کند او هم به اندازه نازیها ضد یهود است ، طبیعی ایست که فرمانده اهمیتی به سوفی و کاغذ هایش نمی دهد و سوفی تا آخر عمر بی خبر از وضعیت پسر خود می ماند .
اما این پایان داستان سوفی نیست ، او که از پس از پایان جنگ از جهنم سوزان اروپا گریخته و به بهشت آمریکا آمده ، دست سرنوشت او را تا آمریکا هم دنبال می کند ، او هنوز تاوان کافی نداده است ، پس باید در دام عشق مردی مبتلا به بیماری بسیار پیشرفته خیال بافی بیفتد و نتواند از فکر وخیال این عشق بیمار خود خارج شود ، در کنار او مانده تا با هم خود کشی کنند .
Profile Image for Cheryl.
464 reviews580 followers
May 28, 2014
Confessional monologues to serve as counter narratives.
Flashbacks from an American boarding house to Auschwitz.
An intriguing love triangle.
Secrets and lies unfolding with each new chapter.
Sex, written with meticulousness.

This is how Styron gets you to stick with this intricately woven and stylistically stupendous novel.
For synchronous with the stunning effect she made on my eyes as she stood there arrested in the doorway--blinking at the gloom, her flaxen hair drenched in the evening gold--I listened to myself give a thin but quite audible and breathless half-hiccup. I was still moronically in love with her.

Madness redefined. This is madness traced from characters’ thoughts, placed delicately on the page, and transformed into drama. Psychosexual drama. The trauma experienced by a Polish woman at Auschwitz, the ideological dilemmas a Southerner-turned-New Yorker and writer must confront, the double life an intellectual Northerner must live, are all compiled to highlight the psychological feat of this novel. It is a book about “1947, that cradle year of psychoanalysis in postwar America.”

There is only so much you can say about a book that almost everyone has read or seen on the big screen.

But I will say this. Even with the angst and stupidity and trauma and depression and anxiety and ideology and drunken stupor and disdain of life and craft and art, each character seems to grow. With each turn of the page, something new develops, some story unwinds, some secret is revealed. This is what I liked most about this book—even with the sad ending. Plus, the telling signs that a book has deeply influenced me: when I start to see the characters in real people, when I’m sad to return the book to the library because I’m certain that it is one I must own, when I’m reminded of some writing technique and I think, Styron!

There is something neurotic, melancholic and strangely pleasing about this novel—even with its gilded prose and festooned paragraphs that at first strikes you as a writer trying too hard. Yes, here, tremendous effort was put forth to write an ambitious novel. Here, the effort was successful.

Now I must see the movie…



Profile Image for Erika.
375 reviews46 followers
August 24, 2014
Well, I finished it. And I despised every moment of it, from the writing to the characters. Maybe I just don't understand or appreciate a writing style such as Styron's, but I just found it incredibly tedious and tiresome to wade through all of Stingo's incessant (and lust-fueled) rambling. I hated him and in turn ended up absolutely hating Sophie and Nathan. When you reach the climatic point in the novel and you don't feel even the slightest twinge of anything other than, thank god this means it is almost over, then you know that you should just call it a day and admit failure.

So, yes. Sophie's Choice. Huge, gigantic and miserable no go for me.
Profile Image for Amber.
13 reviews
September 11, 2008
By the time I learned the "true" story and the big reveal I just didn't care anymore. It is horrible that this is based on millions of true stories but this particular story could have been more succinct.
Profile Image for Elise.
834 reviews62 followers
November 10, 2013
I finally finished it, yes all 600 pages, and my reaction to "Sophie's Choice" is mixed. I spent years urged by friends to read this book, but I was afraid of what I would find in its pages, especially being a mom. It turns out my fears were completely unfounded.

This book is not at all what I thought it would be--a moving story of one woman's time at Auschwitz and the awful things she endures there as a mother. That description covers only about 10% of what happens in this novel. "Sophie's Choice," first of all, was a recollection told mostly through the perspective of Stingo, an aspiring writer who befriends Sohpie and her abusive Jewish boyfriend, Nathan, in 1947 Brooklyn, NY, where they all live in the same apartment complex. At first, I found the young 20-something, Stingo, annoying because of his obsession with trying to get laid. But then, after I started to get further into the novel, I became grateful for the comic relief that his perspective offered. However, it was also painfully obvious that Stingo was indeed William Styron, so the perspective was at times overly self-indulgent and out of place. That said, I am well aware that Stingo is here to represent the naive American juxtaposed with the worldly wise and world weary European perspective of Sophie (a Polish Catholic), and that Stingo brings with him the American South's dark chapter of the history of slavery to parallel the Holocaust. But frankly, as one more than familiar with these themes, one who specializes in American literature, did Styron really have to be so redundant about it? This book was screaming for a good editor to lop off at least 200 pages from it's heft, most of which didn't add to the narrative, especially the parts that read like Stingo's dissertation, secondary sources about the Holocaust and all.

The other problem I have with this narrative is characterization, especially the characters of both Sophie and Nathan. There is so much missing from Sophie's characterization (maybe because she is viewed through the eyes of horny Stingo), and it keeps me from being fully emotionally connected to her throughout the narrative, and this for me is the novel's major shortcoming. And frankly, I just despised Nathan. I know Sophie is a masochistic victim who lived through some serious horrors. I know she made some choices she will never forgive herself for in the past, and so Nathan is the punishment she has inflicted on herself. But what the hell is Nathan's problem (besides the ones I won't mention here because I believe spoilers have no place in a book review)? He is an American born Jew, born into wealth and privilege, enough wealth that he can actually help himself to get better. Some of the scenes between Sophie and Nathan were more disturbing and horrific than the ones that took place at Auschwitz. Is that really what Styron hoped to accomplish?

This story is as much about lies as it is about choices, lies that we hide behind to protect ourselves. So what happens when we confess the truth? That is a question worth thinking about. In spite of the fact that this book is very well written with regard to Styron's use of language and the rhythm of his prose (thus, the 3 star rating), there was just too much hype preceding the book. Likewise, there was way too much build up in the book itself regarding the nature of Sophie's actual "choice" too. Then when he finally gets there, Styron glosses over it, and that was the one place I would have liked him to linger. That detracted from the emotional effect of it, at least for this reader. Now I look forward to seeing the film. Hopefully, it cleaned up some of Styron's messes.
Profile Image for Marquise.
1,660 reviews228 followers
March 1, 2017
For a story premise that's catchy and original, this is one Dreck of an execution, as bad as to induce anger at encountering this poor handling of a serious theme.

As this is a classic novel, surely there's hundreds of reviews better and more articulate than mine, so I'll only list my main grievances, and do so as succintly as possible:

Prose: Frankly, this was one of the most pedantic and overwritten proses I've ever found; so pretentious and wordy it makes it difficult to concentrate on the plot. If there's a simple, clear and perfectly lovely way to say something, you can bet Styron will twist it to sound as grand and preciosist as he can. If there's a common and well-known term for something, you can be sure Styron will find a dozen synonyms to use and abuse so he can repeat the same things with different words, the more syllabes it has and the rarer it is in common usage, the better.

Being fair, there's a (small) chance that this is deliberate on the author's part, because the protagonist, Stingo, is an aspiring writer with a wince-inducing case of literary snobbery and an even worse case of needing to prove his intellectual worth and superiority. Proof? Pay attention to the chapters where the main character's working as an manuscript reader/editor at McGraw-Hill, where the letters of rejection he hands out would rival some of the most pretentious replies from real-life editors an aspiring writer can find nowadays. Somehow, I doubt it's just a literary device. I'm sure it's an authorial trait, and that Stingo is just a barely-fictionalised Styron goes to reinforce my suspicion.

Dialogue: Melodramatic, in parts long-winded to an unnatural extent, and suffering from the same excess of pretentiousness as the prose. It would have been credible if only Stingo were the one to speak in such a manner.

Story: If you thought the title Sophie's Choice was any indication of the contents, then you were misled like probably everyone. This isn't the story of a Polish concentration camp survivor called Sophie who was subjected to a diabolically cruel mind-game while at Auschwitz, like it would be logical to assume from the cover. Instead, this is the story of a twenty-something youngster who spends his days thinking 90% about sex, 8% about his literary aspirations, 1% of the great and oh so accomplished writers he reads and quotes, 0.5% about patronising lectures on morals over slavery and evil, an 0.5% about taking an unstable Holocaust survivor into his bed.

I can't even begin to enumerate the ways in which this is such a stupid structure to tell a story like that. Stingo is the only voice in the novel, his POV is the only one we get, and his own ideas, his own feelings and needs are what overwhelmingly colour the narration. Sophie, whose story is supposed to be the driving plot point, is merely an object, a device to allow Stingo (and by extension William Styron) to pontificate on a myriad topics he cannot possibly know. Which is another huge issue, because although Stingo starts out stating he's going to tell Sophie's story to explore the dangers and threats of human evil, in the end he's run over by his lust for this woman and so enthralled by her and her toxic and abusive relationship with Nathan to bother to really go in-depth into any topic. All those lofty and grand themes he wants to explore are just perfunctorily noted and mentioned in passing, and instead we're subjected to long, detailed and very in-depth explorations of the joys of coitus and the sexual frustration and lust that rule his life.

To make things even more poorly handled and lacking in credibility, when Sophie does tell him the tale of her time in Auschwitz, which she tells in spaced and fragmented ways over a period of time, Stingo (that is, Styron) doesn't allow her to have her own voice and pass on her story unmolested. No! Stingo has to serve as a filter for her, interjecting all the time to add his own commentary and to tell things like feelings, thought processes and body-awareness that he has absolutely NO WAY of knowing. Because he narrates like he's in Sophie's head, thinking her thoughts and feeling her emotions! How exactly does that ring credible?

Styron could've quite easily given Sophie her own POV. It's no wonder accusations of appropriation are thrown his way, and I'd not say it's because he's a WASP writing about the Shoah, for I maintain any writer has the right to write about topics that aren't his own country, or race, or gender. That's the beauty of literature. The problem is that he's taken Sophie to be a mere mouthpiece for his ideology and his thoughts. No, scratch that, she's not even a mouthpiece; that'd be Stingo, she's merely a device to allow the mouthpiece to express his thoughts, and not a character.

Another thing that I found distracting was the author's tendency to use sexuality for shock. And I'm not speaking of Stingo specifically, as for him being oversexed is practically how he's been conceived by the writer. I'm thinking of Sophie, and how in her parts it's used as a shock tactic outside of her relationship with Nathan (where it does make sense why she's like she is), both consensual and non-consensual, and with both genders.

Characterisation: To sum up the three main characters, it goes like this:
Stingo = Author self-insert.
Sophie = Writing device with a people name.
Nathan = Third wheel.

Wrap-Up: By the time Sophie's "choice" is revealed in the penultimate chapter, interest has waned so much it's hardly shocking. Or not shocking at all, if you were able to guess from the clues spread all over the novel since the beginning. That's another flaw: the author has stretched the story of Sophie's hard choice for too long, dropping the breadcrumbs little by little as he wrote only to find when he's finally arrived to destination that he no longer has any loaf of bread.

Styron just squanders the potential emotional impact by excessive delay. And on top of it, when he finally reveals what Sophie's choice was about, he further diminishes its impact with two details: one, that the choice was forced on Sophie not by the person that the build-up to the reveal would've indicated was the most logical suspect to do precisely that to her but by another I'm going to put inside spoiler brackets.

In sum, the premise deserved a more deft narrative structure. It's really good, and by itself would've convinced me to rate this book higher, but the negatives just outweighted the originality and interest in the story.
Profile Image for Himanshu.
73 reviews223 followers
September 17, 2019
A Study in Faithlessness of Hope

OK, first let's get something over with. A young amateur (not so Southern) writer comes to Brooklyn, meets a Polish émigré, falls straight away in love with her. But this Holocaust victim, tattooed on her hand, in her heart and soul, Auschwitz's purgatory, is hopelessly in a nondetachable love, lust, anguish, masochistic, and redeeming relationship with a Northern Jew. And this prejudiced yet genius of a charmer, suffers from fatal capricious fits. Having found a friend/brother/mentor in this Golem, our writer finds himself amidst this tempest of a threesome. Oh and also, being a 22 year old hapless virgin, he is quite horny, plus there's a lot of heart-wrenching stuff from the holocaust which we all have heard about. All of this might sound like an avaricious formula of a super hit plot from Styron, thus finding in it a large section of haters which, quite frankly and obviously, misses the complete picture. Because really, there's a lot more and through this wanting review, I attempt to venture into some of that.

After turning the last page of this book, like many others, I too was left with an emptiness, but the strange thing about it was that I didn't feel like filling it with anything. Especially hope, the hypocritical, stalker of a wily worm hope which creeps in like a disguised devil to fill you up with a sense of redemption, holding in abeyance the banal devil this life is. So, inevitably when the gruesome reality strikes, destroying all hope, you find yourself stranded and deserted, because with all your might you were holding onto this faith, but now you've lost it, only to find it creeping in again.

Not all of us have to face such ordeal with life, but Sophie had to. Being a survivor of one of the darkest chapters in the history of mankind, Auschwitz, there are some traits which we would all expect in her: Anxiety, paranoia, inferiority complex, melancholy, apathy, they are all there, but there's love too. Mad, unreasonable love for her savior Nathan, who loves her the same and claims her to be his own. But, the humbug stability that Sophie yearns for, is never to be found. You know why? Because of hope, that someday everything will be alright knowing in her heart that that's not possible, rendering herself ever on the verge of ending her perdurable life, which seemed so irrelevant, precarious, merciless.

“I have learned to cry again and I think perhaps that means I am a human being again. Perhaps that at least. A piece of human being but yes, a human being.” - Sophie

Perhaps, she was not a human being before, because what she saw and went through was not human? NOT HUMAN? We really need to understand that it's only humans who are capable of such atrocities and it's only humans who can endure them. As Styron rightly puts it “For did not Auschwitz effectively block the flow of that titanic love, like some fatal embolism in the bloodstream of mankind”?

One of the things I particularly liked about this book is the first person narrative of the amatuer 22 year old Stingo, because perhaps the facts that he hadn't seen much of this brute world, had carried the guilt of his ancestral slavery, had found first real friends in Sophie and Nathan, altogether gave an indispensable fresh voice to this tragic tale. Of course, the credit goes to the brilliance of William Styron.

In the last few pages, Styron reveals the choice that Sophie had to make and live with. The choice that drives her remaining life with unendurable guilt because she really couldn't choose. “Don’t make me choose, I can’t choose.”. But after all she did choose: to breathe, to salvage, to hope that someday the meaning of it all will reveal itself and she will "understand". .

While I'm pretty sure, I'm never going to meet people like Sophie, Nathan, or Stingo, but having known them in these last few days, they will forever be the three unforgettable strangers I almost "understood".
Profile Image for Ieva Andriuskeviciene.
212 reviews108 followers
February 25, 2021
Knygą ilgai turėjau lentynoje ir atidėliojau kaip labai sudėtingą. Oi kaip klydau!

1947ieji, Stingo, jaunas ambicingas rašytojas neturėdamas daug pinigų, atvykęs iš pietų (tai labai akcentuojama ir savotiškai šaipomasi) į Niujorką. Brooklyne jis išsinuomoja kambarį “Pink palace” vadinamame name su spalvingais charakteriais.

Čia prasideda jo draugystė su ekscentriška porele: žydų intekektualas dirbantis Pfizer (labai į temą šiuo metu) ir lenkaitė katalikė Sophie grįžusi is Aušvico. Stingo po truputi narplioja jų meilės istoriją ir Sophie išyvenimus.

Knyga savyje talpina tiek daug. Tai draugystės istorija, tragiškos lemties, meilės, holokausto, kančios ir savidestrukcijos. Netgi atsitiktinumo? Mane visą knygą kamavo jausmas lyg Sophie visose gyvenimo situacijose atsidūrė atsitiktinai, lyg nekaltai lyg aplinkybių auka. Ji net nebuvo žydė, kaip ji atsidūrė Aušvice?


Knyga parašyta pirmu asmenu, dažnai Stingo keripiasi į mus “skaitytojau” kaip tarpininkas pasakojantis Sophie istorija. Kuri kartais pameluoja, kartais pasako tiesą. Pakeičia savo poziciją kaip jai patogiau. Sakyčiau stipriai manipuliuoja. Kas ji? Ar nekalta auka atsitiktinai aplinkybėmis susiklosčius pakliuvus į pragarą? Ar vis dėl to viskas visai kitaip nei mums atrodo? Manipuliuojama dėl išgyvenimo. Nes grįžus iš Aušvico istorija nepasibaigia. Lieka gėda ir kaltė. Labai patiko mintis, kad su kalte gyventi gali, daug blogiau yra su gėda. Jos neatsikratysi.
Tekstas vyniojasi kaip siūlų kamuolys. Atrodo lyg nuobodu pasidaro tada kabliukas ir negali padėti. Viskas audringai banguoja.


Knygoje labai gerai išlaikoma intriga, neaišku ką meluoja Sofija, kas jai atsitiko. Ji užima tokį infantilų nekaltą vaidmenį. Pradžioje tikrai eina lėtokai, niekas neaišku, tekstas šviesus, lengvas netgi linksmas. Skyrius po skyriaus narpliojasi veikėjų charakteriai kurie visi ypatingai stiprūs. Tai koks tas SOPHIE PASIRINKIMAS??? Ką ji ten ir kodėl turėji rinktis? Anglų kalboje sophie’s choice tapęs bendriniu išsireiškimu, reiškiančiu pasirinkimą kuriame abu rezultatai yra vienodai blogi. Tikrai paskutinis trečdalis knygos mane labai sukrėtė. Taip makabriškai lengvai aprašomi žiaurumai. Net nedetalizuojant, atpasakojat.

Iš esmės labai susišaukė su skandalingu Little life. Destrukcija, kančia, draugystė. Tik čia ji ne beprasmė, pagrįsta. Daug destrukcijos kaip LL tik nesikoncentruojama į ją, o daugiau į priežastis. Ir taip, šitą knygą galime vadinti ode draugystei. Skirtingai nuo LL


Ar rekomenduoju? Tik tam kas mėgsta lėtus skaitinius. 600 su viršum puslapių. Jei jums patiko visi Aušvico tatuiruotojai ir bibliotekininkės, tikrai nepatiks Sophie. Nėra čia žiaurumų nuo pirmo puslapio. Nei detalių aprašymų. Daugiau pasekmės kaip su tuo gyventi. Ir ar tikrai verta gyventi?

Perskaičius peržiūrėjau filmą. Jauna meryl Streep gavo oskarą už Sophie vaidmenį. 2.5 valandos malonumo. Puikiau atskleisti knygą kaži ar įmanoma.

Lentynoje garbingai gulės prie geriausių knygų apie holokausta. Šalia “Šindlerio sąrašo” ir “Skaitovo”
Profile Image for Kamilė | Bukinistė.
225 reviews104 followers
July 8, 2021
Jei papasakočiau apie ką ši knyga, tai ir pati nesiviliočiau ja skaityti - Antrojo pasaulinio karo istorija, Aušvicas (tada) ir jau geras dešimtmetis po to (dabar) - kaip banalu ir šimtą kartų girdėta? Gerai, kad knygas kažkaip renkuosi intuityviai ir beveik niekada neskaitau jų aprašymų. Kitaip vat gal būčiau ėmus ir praleidus šią nerealiai gerai parašytą knygą.
Čia tikrai tas vienas retų pavyzdžių, kai tada ir dabar sudėliotas meistriškai; net nepastebi, kaip natūraliai veiksmas persikelia į praeitį, arba sugrįžta į šiandieną. O įdomiausia tai, jog visos šios istorijos pasakotojas (ir tuo pačiu šios knygos veikėjas) lygiai taip pat, kaip skaitytojas, nėra buvęs toje praeityje, kuri mums iš lėto atskleidžiama. Na čia nėra to visažinio pasakotojo, kuris norėtų tave apmauti ar suklaidinti. Tai dar kartą patikinu, kad neišgirsite jokios Sofi močiutės istorijos, netikėtai iškilusios dėl palėpėje rasto laiško ar kandžių suėsto karininko švarko.

Kitas meistrystės įrodymas, jog abi istorijos, tiek vykusi tada, tiek vykstanti dabar buvo vienodai įtraukiančios - apie abi jas galvodavau net užvertusi knygą, laukdavau, kada galėsiu grįžti pas knygos veikėjus. Jeigu praeitis labiau traukė savo istorijos linija, siužeto posūkiais, paslaptimis, tai dabartis buvo jausmų, charakterių, išgyvenimų puokštė, modernus tekstas, pilnas literatūrinių nuorodų, pulsuojantis tiek jaunu naivumu, tiek skaudžia branda - chaotiškas balansas, paverčiantis istoriją idealiai išpildytu pasakojimu.

Ir galų gale - charakteriai - visi tokie skirtingi, tačiau tokie gyvi ir įtaigūs, tikri žmonės, su paslaptimis, kurias bijo ištarti ne tik garsiai, bet slepiasi nuo jų net savo mintyse, trokštantys neįmanomo arba tiek nedaug, pasimetantys, atrandantys, tikintys ir įtarūs, pasiaukojantys ir savanaudžiai, daugiasluoksniai ir įvairialypiai - visai tokie, kaip realiame gyvenime: nenudailinti, neiškirpti tarsi iš popieriaus, atrodo, tikrai nužengę iš mūsų pačių tarpo.

Išties puiki knyga, sudėjusi mintis čia, galvoju, jog visgi patiko dar labiau, nei kad tik užvertus paskutinį puslapį. O knygos, kurios auga tavyje, užuot išblankusios, vos paėmus skaityti kitą istoriją - žinoma, yra pačios geriausios.
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