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The Sleepwalkers

(The Sleepwalkers #1-3)

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  1,262 ratings  ·  87 reviews
With his epic trilogy, The Sleepwalkers, Hermann Broch established himself as one of the great innovators of modern literature, a visionary writer-philosopher the equal of James Joyce, Thomas Mann, or Robert Musil. Even as he grounded his narratives in the intimate daily life of Germany, Broch was identifying the oceanic changes that would shortly sweep that life into the ...more
Paperback, 656 pages
Published January 30th 1996 by Vintage (first published 1932)
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 ·  1,262 ratings  ·  87 reviews

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Oct 24, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Hermann Broch is another of those early twentieth century Austro-Hungarian writers whose works I have discovered and devoured over the past decade. Though not as famous as Franz Kafka and Robert Musil, his work is right up there with them in its caliber and depth. His magnum opus was the stunning hallucinatory prose poem The Death of Virgil, but The Sleepwalkers—more in the vein of Musil's A Man Without Qualities—is another extraordinary work of art.

German language novels from the dawn of the mo
Vit Babenco
May 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
There are some books that are not much read but nonetheless they serve as a kind of Bethlehem star for the whole literary movements and The Sleepwalkers is one of those.
“Driven by that extraordinary oppression which falls on every human being when, childhood over, he begins to divine that he is fated to go on in isolation and unaided towards his own death; driven by this extraordinary oppression, which may with justice be called a fear of God, man looks round him for a companion hand in hand wit
Jan 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: yokozunas
I find the compartments that this trilogy is supposed to be fit into–The Romantic, The Anarchist, and The Realist–less worthy of mention than the inner insanity that Broch capably delineates through his three protagonists–Pasenow, Esch, and Huguenau. For me, the human commentary will always take precedence over the historical or social. It is the juxtaposition of that inner insanity with the yielded outer perspective, the surface that rest of the world is given to perceive, that makes one wonder ...more
Oct 30, 2010 rated it it was ok
Hermann Broch was evidently a writer for the literary philosophers or philosophical literati of Central Europe. Hannah Arendt wrote an introduction for the translation I read, and Milan Kundera wrote an essay about him. "The Sleepwalkers" takes on the fragmentation of German culture between 1888 and 1918, with an middle act in 1903. The period is suspiciously close to the period of modern German monarchy, engineered by Bismarck in 1881 and dismantled by revolution in 1918 (Broch wrote the book b ...more
Alejandro Teruel
Mar 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is an extraordinary trilogy of novels written between 1928 and 1932 set in 1888 (“The Romantic”, 1903 (“The Anarchist”) and 1918 (“The Realist”). The trilogy is a profound and disquieting reflection on the dis-integration of values that ushers in the peculiarly logical but ultimately irrational and ferocious twentieth century value-systems. As the trilogy progresses it becomes increasingly complex and the third novel, with its trans-genre pastiche of fiction and philosophical essay, and to ...more
Feb 01, 2021 marked it as will-not-read-or-dnf
Here's a 1-2* rant review of why I DNF'ed at page 24 (it starts on page 9, so really page 15).

The story's foundation is soiled. You absolutely cannot base a character's origin on an unrealistic portrayal of good vs. evil.

The story begins by introducing a characteristically short man who has spider-like movements with his cane — a truly repugnant father — who disrespects and ignores his wife. He takes his son to the casino, which is really more of a strip club, and decides, in front of mil
Tamar Nagel
Jun 08, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: german-austrian
This book had all the signs of being one I would like.. Austrian author with a background in math/science, intellectual, a bit dense, titled "Great European Novel," etc... I was disappointed not because of my high expectations but because the book was alienating to me in a way that the writing of Musil, Bernhard, Zweig, or either one of the Mann brothers is not. This is a bit crude, but essentially it felt like a book written by a dude for dudes about dudes. It was trying too hard, and the deep ...more
Cooper Renner
Feb 05, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Closer to 3.5 stars. I can't claim to have read every word of this lengthy three-part novel, but certainly I read almost all of it. In the third and longest section, Broch interweaves a series of chapters which are at heart theoretical philosophical discussions--the kind of thing that some readers love and which leaves me absolutely unable to keep my eyes on the page. Otherwise, book 3 is far and away the most direct and interesting part of the novel, a careful symphony of characters and lives r ...more
Jul 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
Writing this review already even though I am just a few pages in; but already I can tell this is going to be a fabulous read. The topics treated so far; and the refined, highly-polished prose...this looks like an extremely savory dish. The author has a voice very much like some of my favorite European writers: Thomas Mann and perhaps Stendhal. It's a novel of manners and psychology, a cultural history. Plus, the topic is Germany--the most savage, the most repulsive, the most fascinating of natio ...more
James Henderson
Oct 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mitteleuropa, trilogy
This is the epitome of the "philosophical" novel. In the novel Broch explains the decline of values beginning with Joachim von Pasenow's hesitation between a lower-class mistress and a noble fiance in the first part. The story ends in Joachim's wedding night when both he and Elisabeth are afraid of a possible physical act of love and they finally find deliverance in his falling asleep.
Pasenow is sure of his virtues and their meaning. Esch too knows about such virtues as justice or fidelity but i
Michael David
Jan 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
‘Amid a blurring of all forms, in a twilight of apathetic uncertainty brooding over a ghostly world, man like a lost child gropes his way by the help of a small frail thread of logic through a dream landscape that he calls reality and that is nothing but a nightmare to him.’ (p. 373)

I read Joyce’s Ulysses a few years ago.

I was glad that I finished the damn thing, but was quite unimpressed. Was the towering novel of the modernist movement just about utter crap? I’ve read analyses of the
Jacob Hurley
Mar 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is advertised as a trilogy and it really is, the three novels contained within (150, 200, and 300 pages respectively) could stand separately although the interplay between them comprises the substance of the work as a whole. Gass says of it that the shifts in tone between the works are the most interesting part. It is important to keep in mind with this one that it was written between 1929 and 32, finished a whole year before the nazi party even came into power.

The first part he calls 'the
J.M. Hushour
Mar 10, 2015 rated it it was ok
Yet again I encounter another self-assured "classic" that, for some reason or other when I was younger and perhaps stupider, I held in such high regard that I plopped it on my Favorites shelf (this is a real, wooden, if sodden, shelf, not an ethereal rectangle that an ethereal arrow cupids for me) and then left well enough alone.
Well, rereads can be painful, I confess. It isn't just that the book, like this one, held in high favor by luminaries such as Milan Kundera, is kind of terrible, it's pa
Radit Panjapiyakul
May 13, 2018 rated it it was ok
I’m still not sure what to make of this book. On the one hand, I think Broch has pushed the boundary of an art form, that is a novel, far more than any one can think of. With its interchanging of styles, symbols and allegory or all the poetry and philosophical essays he tried to cram into this trilogy, this is an achievement in itself. The writing also has its fair share of high points where it seems to work perfectly and creatively to carry the narratives. But overall it feels much like a big c ...more
Sep 26, 2008 rated it did not like it
I've heard the third part is amazing, but I barely made it through the first part and the second part...well...that's where I just had to stop. ...more
Oh dear I never thought I would finish this. Holy moly. The only thing I have to say is that I am glad I'm done with it. ...more
Jan 04, 2021 rated it it was amazing
A literary masterpiece. All novels which form this trilogy are better than the remaining two.

”[...] desire and aims meet and merge, when dreams begin to foreshadow the great moments and crises of life, the road narrows then into darker gorges, and the prophetic dream of death enshrouds the man who has hitherto walked dreaming in sleep...The man who from afar off yearns for his wife or merely for the home of his childhood has begun his sleepwalking.”

(Addendum: this translation is wonderful.)
Tony Gualtieri
Jul 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is my second reading of this masterpiece. I continue to be amazed at how these novels transition from romantic nostalgia to deep philosophical modernism. With Broch, one reaches the boundary of what can be done with literary fiction.
Kevin Tole
If you’ve come this far looking at and for The Sleepwalkers then you are more than likely to already know quite a bit about the book. For instance, you will be aware that its structure is in three books comprising Pasenow The Romantic set in 1888, Esch The Anarchist set in 1903 and Huguenau The Realist, the final book set in 1918. As such it looks at a development of German humanity and history from before the First World War and through that conflict and the way society changed. Quite what Broc ...more
John David
The Sleepwalkers (originally published in 1932 as “Die Schlafwandler” in Germany) is a trilogy of three novels sharing between them many of the same big, philosophical themes of history, love, will, and meaning. It’s written in three distinct episodes beginning in 1888 with each subsequent one separated by a period of fifteen years.

The first episode takes place in 1888 centers on Joachim von Pasenow and his two love interests – his visceral, passionate love for the Czech prostitute Ruzena, and
Jun 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
Life events had kept me from writing, but, as usual, it wasn't because I'd stopped reading. I'll start catching up with my reviews with one of the amazing books recommend by my favorite-amazing-writer, Milan Kundera.
The Sleepwalkers, by a guy called Hermann Broch (Austrian, I think), is not, really, a novel, but three: The Romantic, The Anarchist and the Realist. Written around the 1940s, the novels go through the end of the 1800s until 1918 (so WWI).
Understand that I am not a big fan of war boo
Philip Thiel
Jul 10, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the great pleasures and illusions of reading is being given words for what we already know. We reach the end of a paragraph so original it’s familiar, as if the writer were transcribing our own mind. “I’ve always known this,” we lie. In surrealism this effect is more rare. Waking as a cockroach isn’t familiar; nor is following a rabbit. And yet Hermann Broch – a writer as offbeat as Kafka and Carroll – somehow seems always to be telling the truth, even at his most uncanny. “And because ho ...more
Dec 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I find myself quite commandingly dumbstruck. My impression at this moment, having only just completed reading it, is that Hermann Broch's THE SLEEPWALKERS, a sprawling trilogy (of sorts) and the author's literary debut, is almost certainly the greatest novel of the first half of the twentieth century. Broch would appear to have two obvious contemporaries writing in German to whom comparisons will be inevitable: Robert Musil and Thomas Mann. It is my contention that with his first novel Broch had ...more
Apr 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book is interesting because modernity is interesting, which is what this book demonstrates. We start with a German military man, bound by traditiin and with little confusion about what he is meant to do... until globalizing elements intrude on his taken for granted reality. Then we have a pseudo anarchist, who desperately wants something to believe in but who secretly fears that all of it is a hoax and that only sensual pleasure and pain are reality. Last, we have a man who sees reality for ...more
Mar 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"'it is always the adherent of the smaller value system who slays the adherent of the larger system that is breaking up; it is always he, unfortunate wretch, who assumes the role of executioner in the process of value disintegration, and on the day when the trumpets of Judgment sound, it is the man released from all values who becomes the executioner of a world that has pronounced its own sentence.'

In Broch's mind, the Modern Era is the bridge that leads from the reign of irrational faith to the
Kobe Bryant
May 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
The first two parts are pretty cool because theyre about these neurotic guys trying to get laid, but I dont even know what the third part is about. Goodreads staff please add 3 instead of 1 to my '2013 books read' because this is a trilogy ...more
Feb 10, 2009 rated it really liked it
If you try to bring down the exploitative capitalist economic system, you'll probably end up doing more harm than good. ...more
أحمد الحقيل
Sep 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
i can't understand why a great writer like Broch doesn't get the same recognition his contemporaries Mann or Hesse or even Musil got .

a great book .
David M
Jun 06, 2015 rated it liked it
I read this after the Death of Virgil, and was a bit disappointed. While DoV is an explosion of radical freedom, the Sleepwalkers is a boring old novel.
May 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
“Love is an absolute thing, Elisabeth, and when the absolute tries to express itself in earthly terms, then it always turns into pathos, simply because it can’t be demonstrated. And as the whole thing then becomes so horribly earthly, the pathos is always very funny, represented by the gentleman who goes down on his knees to get you to accede to all his wishes; and if one loves you one must avoid that. “

Was his intention in saying this to intimate that he loved her? As he became silent she look
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Broch was born in Vienna to a prosperous Jewish family and worked for some time in his family's factory in Teesdorf, though he maintained his literary interests privately. He attended a technical college for textile manufacture and a spinning and weaving college. Later, in 1927, he sold the textile factory and decided to study mathematics, philosophy and psychology at the University of Vienna.


Other books in the series

The Sleepwalkers (3 books)
  • Οι Υπνοβάτες: 1888, Πάσενοβ ή ο ρομαντισμός (Οι Υπνοβάτες, #1)
  • The Anarchist
  • Οι Υπνοβάτες: 1918, Χούγκεναου ή ο ρεαλισμός (Οι Υπνοβάτες, #3)

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“Driven by that extraordinary oppression which falls on every human being when, childhood over, he begins to divine that he is fated to go on in isolation and unaided towards his own death; driven by this extraordinary oppression, which may with justice be called a fear of God, man looks round him for a companion hand in hand with whom he may tread the road to the dark portal, and if he has learned by experience how pleasurable it undoubtedly is to lie with another fellow-creature in bed, then he is ready to believe that this extremely intimate association of two bodies may last until these bodies are coffined: and even if at the same time it has its disgusting aspects, because it takes place under coarse and badly aired sheets, or because he is convinced that all a girl cares for is to get a husband who will support her in later life, yet it must not be forgotten that every fellow-creature, even if she has a sallow complexion, sharp, thin features and an obviously missing tooth in her left upper jaw, yearns, in spite of her missing tooth, for that love which she thinks will for ever shield her from death, from that fear of death which sinks with the falling of every night upon the human being who sleeps alone, a fear that already licks her as with a tongue of flame when she begins to take off her clothes, as Fraulein Erna was doing now; she laid aside her faded red-velvet blouse and took off her dark-green shirt and her petticoat.” 11 likes
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