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En America

3.31  ·  Rating details ·  1,848 ratings  ·  195 reviews
Maryna Zalenska, la más celebre de las actrices polacas, decide partir hacia América con su marido, su hijo, un joven escritor que la idolatra y varios amigos más, impulsados por la idea de construir una comunidad utópica. Pero allí descubrirán que la felicidad americana se construye de un modo diferente al esperado. A través de sus ojos y de sus pasiones, el lector se emb ...more
Paperback, 493 pages
Published January 1st 2003 by Alfaguara (first published 1999)
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Average rating 3.31  · 
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 ·  1,848 ratings  ·  195 reviews

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Mar 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had never read Susan Sontag before but ‘In America’ is historical fiction, with the heavy emphasis on fiction, done right.

The drama in this book was underplayed so it’s not an “entertaining” read in the conventional sense. There are probably three unique points that I took from reading this book. First Sontag focuses on a Polish stage princess, Helena Modjeska known as Maryna in the book, who is of serious renown and wealth and who immigrates to California with her gang of industrious Bohemia
May 12, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Let me be perfectly clear——I am a huge fan of Susan Sontag's criticism. "Against Interpretation and Other Essays", "On Photography", and "Regarding the Pain of Others" are books I go back to repeatedly for their ahead-of-their-time provocative points of view. After finishing "In America," I feel it's the critical side of Sontag that makes her fiction suffer. The writing is accomplished and refined, and, formally, the constantly shifting points of view rendered through various writing forms such ...more
Mar 24, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I want to re-read this novel. It’s gorgeous.
Dec 06, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Like Walking in Mud

I have always wanted to read this book so when I saw it at a school fair I was happy to buy it. On the cover it says it won the National Book Award of 2000 and awards mean a good read. The plot is great - a famous Polish actress decides to emigrate to America with her family and friends and start a community in southern California. The story follows their decision to move to America and the eventual failure of their community and the reinvention of self - a homage to the Ameri
Jun 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A novel about the nineteeth century commune of the great Polish actress Helena Modjeska-- in the era of Bernhardt. It was located near Anaheim California. What an outrageous boatload of bohemians! The commune predated the progressive era's burgeoning of California cults and communes by thirty years. Susan Sontag only wrote two novels, both of them historical, and her sense of character, her ability to bring to life such a wacky crew of intelligentsia utopians, is to be treasured. That Sontag was ...more
Ron Charles
Dec 09, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Forget the old boys club: The most engaging historical fiction is being written by women. What's worse, they have the audacity to make it fun.

In Ahab's Wife, Sena Jeter Naslund dared to revise Melville's classic "Moby Dick." Anita Shreve re-created a tense custody battle at the turn of the 20th century in Fortune's Rocks. And Tracy Chevalier painted a stirring portrait of a maid in Johannes Vermeer's house.

These recent books share the same strengths: All of them are carefully researched, lavishl
Mar 15, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is neither a plot-driven nor a character-driven novel. Despite the decades that the story spans, little seems to happen, or what does happen never conveys any real plot tension. The characters never change or develop beyond the incremental alterations of age and experience. I suppose I would have to describe this as a novel of ideas, a chance for the highly regarded essayist to discuss her thoughts on the nature of theatrical performance, the essential differences between the European and A ...more
If you're Susan Sontag, this probably counts as an adventure novel. We follow famous Polish actress Maryna Zalenska through the 1870s in America.

Omniscient point of view is all over the place. Maryna, her husband, son, inept maid, and a group of close friends buy a farm in Annaheim California and try to live well and simply there. No one finds happiness and the work is too hard, so she tries out for a part in a local theater and becomes famous all over again, here in America.

She tours constantly
Chris Holder
Feb 24, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2017
I came for the reputation, stayed for the form and history, stayed til the end for the attention to detail and plot & character development, and was glad to leave when the experiment had run its course.

I am charmed by the peculiar metafiction in this book, but I think it works against itself. Chapter Zero conjures a fictional dinner party that the invisible narrator haunts, observing Polish intellectuals who are based on real historical figures. The titular character, Maryna Zalezowska, derives
Jul 05, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: donated
Well, that was a whole lot of words. About 400 pages where pretty much nothing of interest happened, internally or externally to any of the characters. Was this a story about a marriage? Not really. Story about an immigrant family? No, not quite. Story about America in 1876? No, not exactly. It just seemed like a ramble. The first chapter is Sontag imagining herself being a fly on the wall at a party given by this family/friend group. They are based on real people, though she changes their names ...more
Nov 10, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Ugh, one of the most dismally boring books I have ever read! Why can I not just discard it? Somehow I always think it will get better and I drag myself through to the bitter end.
What is up with Susan Sontag here? This must be some secret passion she always had...telling the story of a Polish "theataaah" actress.
It's like Gus Van Sant's remake of Psycho...huh? What was he thinking!
Unless you are truly into "Theataaaah" and I mean in the WORST way, then this book is for you!
The main character is
Donna Davis
I'm waiting for the Literature Police to knock down my door for 3-starring a National Book Award winner. I was sure I would love this book, but not so much. The paragraphs sometimes last for pages at a time, and this is dense, tiny print that takes up the whole page with very small margins, too. The protagonist feels dull to me, and the narrative wakes up in places, but mostly it drones. I soldiered through it to page 80, and then I just.
In America is an historical novel, yet it is more. It is a novel about identity, about names and words and people who leave their homeland for a new unknown and undiscovered land called America. The novel is one where the stage and all that it represents mirrors life -- a story set near the end of the nineteenth century.
On the first page of the novel the motif of the stage is hinted at by how snow flakes seen through a window are described as a "scrim" for the moonlight in the background. The u
Joslyn Allen
Review published: https://chronicbibliophilia.wordpress...

“In Poland, you were allowed some practice of the arts of self-indulgence, but you were expected to be sincere and also to have high ideals – people respected you for that. In America, you were expected to exhibit the confusions of inner vehemence, to express opinions no one need take seriously, and have eccentric foibles and extravagant needs, which exhibited the force of your will, your appetitiveness, the spread of your self-regard – a
Vivi Chambel
Being a reader of Sontag’s literary criticism and theory, I thought this would fit in a kind of formal writing exercise in the field of fiction or perhaps towards a view on the feminine emancipation and the XIX century. The novel is an historical romance and belongs to a more traditional side of Sontag’s work. Although the author did a good job reading about life after the American Civil War the novel is far from engaging. This book is mostly – and unfortunately only – a fictionalized biography ...more
Jan 09, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: persistent, sophisticated readers into historical narrative & theatre & old world culture
I don't think this book would be everyone's cup of tea; it's long, dense and difficult to read in that Sontag's language is intricate and intellectually sophisticated, at least by my standards. I am very proud of myself for getting through it, and yes, I liked it! Part of the draw is that it is a very interesting story about a real and fascinating woman character in history; I love that sort of stuff! Also, I wanted SO badly to be able to say I had read a Susan Sontag, whose prose is not for the ...more
Natalie Crane
Jan 03, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This might have been a worthwhile read if the book was primarily concerned with actual storytelling than an exploration of themes and ideas. Much was discussed (and none of it particularly insightfully) by the narrator, and what served as artificial dialogue between characters, on acting, writing, the arts, immigration/migration, Polishness, Americaness, and Jewishness. What then is lacking is a story where character and plot are central, and the themes are background and implicit. The story gli ...more
Andrea Fortwendel
Apr 13, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is so full of intelligence. Her literary and historic references enlighten. Her character's introspection gives the reader questions to ponder and profundities to wrestle with. I liked her different uses of voice and narrative style throughout the book. It distinguished quite a bit between characters and between acting and living. The book gave Shakespeare's "All the world's a stage" new meaning. I absolutely was enchanted by the first 3/4 of the novel. I wouldn't say that I was disapp ...more
May 15, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Sorry to say that I've basically given up on this book. It drags on too long, has too many characters, and is not intriguing whatsoever. I almost made it halfway through, but in all honesty know it will be a struggle for me to try and finish it. I don't give up on books usually but this one struck me as something very old school that feels there's a lot going on when there really isn't. People don't say how they feel and not enough action or interplay goes on between the characters to bring to f ...more
Julie Mickens
2-and-a-half stars. An interesting peek into show biz and bohemian history, with a few surprisingly appealing moments of passion. However, the overall effect was too staid and controlled to catch hold emotionally. It never picked up a pleasurable momentum, and it mostly lacked that uncanny feeling that makes good fiction. I did find the protagonist's dilemma -- a not-uncommon one for the not-quite-middle-aged woman -- sympathetic. I love Sontag as a critic but am less compelled by her work as a ...more
Jerry Pogan
A curious book. The writing was good as far as sentence structure and phrasing go and Susan Sontag was obviously very intelligent but it has to be one of the worst books I've ever read. It started out well and I thought this was going to be a good read but it soon started wearing thin and became a drag. The writing droned on in at a very monotonous pace with no variation or emotion. The story is basically about a Polish actress who emigrates to America in the late 1800's and her experiences as s ...more
Susan Sontag, in the tradition of Kafka and Pavese, wants to write a European book about American novelty, with the hitch that she's an American novelist.

This is the first time I've read any of her fiction, and it shows the same erudition and elegant style as her nonfiction. America is space and possibility and alienation from ritual and coarse capitalism and such. Old themes, for sure, but well-told. If you can get past the big/shitty hump that is the first chapter, a very worthy read.
An interesting idea for an American author. The Polish background is sketched in rather than full delineated. The descriptions of life in California are closer to the authors experience and therefore much more detailed and consequently richer. The main character Maryna is oddly enigmatic, despite the stream of consciousness monologue in parts. Altogether an interesting novel, thought lacking the coherence of Sontag's other novels.
Stevie Lou
“But the past is the biggest country of all, and there's a reason one gives in to the desire to set stories in the past: almost everything good seems located in the past, perhaps that's an illusion, but I feel nostalgic for every era before I was born; and one is freer of modern inhibitions, perhaps because one bears no responsibility for the past, sometimes I feel simply ashamed of the time in which I live.”
Tim Hickman
For me the book started on a high note and deflated thenceforth. Sontag's Prologue to In America presents a fable of her own creative process, choreographing, envisioning and creating her characters. Once we got to the actual lives of Maryna and her cohort I found neither the character's nor their experiences compelling.
Elke Koepping
Absolutely brilliant. After just finishing I could start all over again. So many different layers of perspectives and meanings. Adorable portrait of a brilliant uncompromising actress. Wonderful prose. This book jumped to No. 1 of my all time favorites immediately.
Nov 02, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gave-up
I'm sorry, but I have to agree with a certain unnamed author who - during a book tour - called this "an unreadable piece of shit." I couldn't even get past the first chapter.
Leigh Lyndon
Jan 04, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
sontag was so clearly present throughout - she wrote herself into the structure. i loved that she was there.
Cliff Dolph
Jul 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In America sat on my shelves for years...because I was intimidated. I had read some Sontag in a Literary Theory class (probably from her book Against Interpretation). She's a theoretical heavyweight, and so I expected a daunting postmodern experience. When I finally mustered the curiosity or courage to pick the novel up, I was pleasantly surprised. The book is certainly intelligent, and the first chapter is hard work (don't give up too soon), but the book overall is quite readable, engaging, fas ...more
Sep 02, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: marriage
This is a story about love and friendship. It's set ostensibly as a utopian experiment. You could say that marriage is a utopian experiment and reality is something else. The author takes a hard look at the ideal of happiness and the reality of contentment. Sontag approaches her thesis with these words, "Every marriage, every community is a failed utopia…the ultimate utopia [is]…the desire for sexual union…the desire to breathe more deeply…but always together.” p. 175

Maryna, the majestic actress
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Susan Sontag was born in New York City on January 16, 1933, grew up in Tucson, Arizona, and attended high school in Los Angeles. She received her B.A. from the College of the University of Chicago and did graduate work in philosophy, literature, and theology at Harvard University and Saint Anne’s College, Oxford.

Her books include four novels, The Benefactor, Death Kit, The Volcano Lover, and In Am

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Karen M. McManus, the bestselling author of One of Us Is Lying, Two Can Keep a Secret, and One of Us Is Next, doesn’t shy away from secrets and...
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“Each of us carries a room within ourselves, waiting to be furnished and peopled, and if you listen closely, you may need to silence everything in your own room, you can hear the sounds of that other room inside your head.” 27 likes
“But the past is the biggest country of all, and there's a reason one gives in to the desire to set stories in the past: almost everything good seems located in the past, perhaps that's an illusion, but I feel nostalgic for every era before I was born; and one is freer of modern inhibitions, perhaps because one bears no responsibility for the past, sometimes I feel simply ashamed of the time in which I live.” 4 likes
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