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The Sound of One Hand Clapping

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  4,217 ratings  ·  338 reviews
The Australian Booksellers' Association Book of the Year begins in 1954, in Tasmania where Bojan Buloh brings his family to start a new life away from Slovenia's privations of war and refugee settlements. Bojan's wife abandons him to care for their three-year-old daughter Sonja alone. Sonja returns to Tasmania 35 years later, and to a father haunted by memories of the war ...more
Paperback, 425 pages
Published February 1st 2001 by Grove Press (first published 1997)
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Katie This didn't really occur to me, but you're absolutely right. I only just read the book and I don't remember any mention of them in Sonja's chapters in…moreThis didn't really occur to me, but you're absolutely right. I only just read the book and I don't remember any mention of them in Sonja's chapters in the 50s and 60s. It is in fact mentioned that Bojan knew Jiri (and I think even how they met), but I don't think they appear in Sonja's chapters.(less)
Susanne Maria simply could not forgive herself and in her confused guilty mind she could not face a happy situation in her life. Sad as it is, it happen. As a…moreMaria simply could not forgive herself and in her confused guilty mind she could not face a happy situation in her life. Sad as it is, it happen. As a 12 year old seeing all the cruelty, she could have blamed herself for not stopping it, or whatever. There was a very slight hint in the book, when the first and only time Bojan remembers their sexual life and wonders why Maria was angry, after he made her happy...(less)

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Nov 06, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

This is a powerful and intensely sad novel, which deals with loss, alienation and the power of human beings to inflict pain on those they love most. The title comes from a Zen koan - a philosophical riddle - formulated by the Japanese Zen Master Hakuin Ekaku, who asked "You know the sound of two hands clapping; tell me, what is the sound of one hand?" As I understand it, the student of Zen is supposed to meditate on this riddle until insight or enlightenment occurs. The point is that there is no
This author's manner of writing doesn't fit me. I tried to read Death of a River Guide several years ago and gave up. I don't quit books very often! I found that one confusing and disjointed. There is such praise given to this author. I felt my dislike had to be a misjudgment on my part, so I decided to try another book, this one: The Sound of One Hand Clapping. My view remains the same. At least this time I finished the book!

I will try to be very specific about what in the writing disturbs me.
Steven Godin
Disappointed. I was warned prior not to bother reading Flanagan but I thought I'd at least gave him a go having not read him before. Whilst I was engaged in the story early on, and the tough theme of Immigrants being dislocated between two cultures was interesting, I felt within the narrative he was trying to be too poetic, maybe even showing off. The story simply didn't carry enough substance in my eye, it was all flesh, little in the way of meat and bone, and the Internal monologues were unnec ...more
I knew the title was a koan, but had to look it up......

"What is the Sound of the Single Hand clapping? When you clap together both hands a sharp sound is heard; when you raise the one hand there is neither sound nor smell. Is this the High Heaven of which Confucius speaks? Or is it the essentials of what Yamamba describes in these words: "The echo of the completely empty valley bears tidings heard from the soundless sound?" This is something that can by no means be heard with the ear. If concep
Sharon Metcalf
Oct 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019, owned
The Sound of One Hand Clapping by Richard Flanagan was an interesting reading experience for me. Why interesting? One of my early notes read "the story is buried in too many words. At times I like the writing but other times it seems like he's trying to be too clever". Yet by the time I finished I'd flagged dozens of pages because I really appreciated his clever way with words. Interesting also because the characters were not really likeable yet I didn't dislike them. In fact as the story unfold ...more
May 20, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: australia-nz
Too long. Or maybe I just took too long to get into it, left it too long in between times. That is death to any book. And it is a painful story. Flanagan is stuck with a quandary: two broken protagonists, damaged by the past, unable to feel, unable to speak, unable to reach out to each other. How do you build a bridge between them and the reader? How do you show the horror and the cruelty and the violence? Flanagan uses a sweeping allegorical style, with the force and violence of nature matching ...more
Ravi Gangwani
Nov 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Thus, it is decided now that this Book wins the most painfully depressing and heartbreaking-ly frustratingly traumatizing sad book of 2016.
Though it is written beautifully still I hated to read it. I do not recommend to all. It was so depressing that even while reading suicidal thoughts wrapped me in its gust. Thanks to Sir Salman Rushdie, I picked his books and read 20-30 pages in between to switch me into neutral gear.
The story was pretty simple between a troubled relation of a father and dau
After reading Gould's Book of Fish I was eager to discover more of Richard Flanagan's work.

In this book I found the same creative, descriptive writing style as in Gould's. And despite there being instances where the writing style blends the past and present, magic and memories and borders on the surreal, the story itself comes through as clear and real as anything, without any of the eccentricities that made the plot of Gould's rather bizarre and confused at times.

The Sound of One Hand Clapp
Dec 10, 2017 rated it it was ok
A strange book, don't think I'll recommend it to my friends... ...more
Apr 09, 2018 rated it it was ok
I loved the cover. I loved the title. Both created expectations but ultimately, I was left feeling disappointed. This wasn't awful. It just wasn't what I like in a book. The story had a fair amount of family dysfunction but I needed a glimmer of something good or of something good to come and I was left unsatisfied there. This was violent and ugly. The characters were so damaged and prickly.

The story line also shifted to different times in the lives of the MCs and that is not my favorite writin
Is the sound of one hand clapping like the sound of free speech in a vacuum?

I don't know if I will ever read Flanagan. Too many people I know think his work is weak beyond belief. But I note today his defence of diversity and free speech in the marketplace (sic) of the 'writers festival'

Understand there is no free speech in writers festival, only what the organisers/sponsors/audience want you to hear. I've never really understood why people want to listen
Apr 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: contemporary, oceania
This is the second book I've read from Richard Flanagan. I have to thank the World's Literature for the discovery.

The first book I read from this author for our tour down under was Death of a River Guide. In a certain way, I feel that both books are kind of the same, but with The Sound of One Hand Clapping being better. After all, it was written after the first one, so the author had time to better himself.

Both books are about poor families trying to survive in Tasmania, with jumps through times
Jan 04, 2010 rated it really liked it
This book came with rave reviews but I have struggled with other Richard Flanagan books. The slow start had me thinking this would be another tortured read. I can't define the point which it took off but before long I couldn't put in down. I now understand why this book is considered an Australian classic. ...more
Jan 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"At that precise moment. around which time was to cusp." A perfect last sentence for this particular book. The moment the newly born Maria get introduced to the forest in which the other Maria ended her life so tragically.

Very interesting depiction of immigrants life in early fifties.
Apr 25, 2015 rated it liked it
This book was recommended to me by someone at a writing class, and it didn't take much to persuade me to read it. I'd read Narrow Road to the Deep North which completely blew me away. I found this book torturous and about 150 pages too long.

Page after page of unrelenting sorrow and bleakness, coupled with detailed descriptions of the Tasmanian wilderness, just frustrated me and I had to push myself to keep reading.

On one hand I appreciated the poetry of Flanagan's writing, but chapter after cha
Gen Lebovitch
Jul 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone (mostly people who like characters and real life drama)
Recommended to Gen by: no one
I loved this book. I loved how the author causes you to go on a journey of self reflection with the main character and how often you are swept away by her emotions. I found I could feel every emotion that the characters feel and had no choice. When you open this bookl be prepared to be swept away by a huge tidal wave of feeling and description.
3.5 starts rounded to 3.0 stars.

This was the sad but hopeful story of an immigrant family to Australia post-WWII. The Buloh family were from Slovenia. Father Bojan was a teenage partisan during WWII and saw many individuals killed by the SS and others, some grotesquely. Mother Maria was equally, if not more, traumatized. Daughter Sonja was born after the war and was 3 years old when the family immigrated to Australia, specifically to Tasmania. There were many immigrants to Australia post WWII. A
Feb 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned-books

Writing 5
Story line 4
Characters 4
Emotional impact 4

Overall rating 4.25
Mar 03, 2011 rated it liked it
I nearly quit this book on page 20:
"In that year of revolutions, she was driving through a time grown momentarily molten. In a growing gyre, she felt time circling her, at first slowly, as if waiting. And though it seemed dreams were being born within dreams, it was not so. It was only Tasmania in the spring.

"When at length light returned - strangely, as if curious - it was to a land at once alien and familiar. Bearing the bruised country into hamlets' hearts, slow rivers carried broken willow
Jul 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Maybe 4.5 out of 5 as it was a little long....but heart wrenching though has an uplifting ending. Tells the story of immigrants to Tasmania after WW2 and the long term effects of what they have witnessed combined with the 'strangeness' of Tasmania.

Beautifully written.
Sep 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
this was my favourite of Flanagan’s to date.
A thorough exploration of the intergenerational impacts of trauma - spanning Slovenian fascism through the alienation of the Australian refugee experience to 1st generation survivor guilt- given a spiritual resonance through compelling magic realist moments.

One thing that I’m unsure of about Flanagan is whether he sacrifices intimacy and authenticity for narrative technique? The over saturation of motifs, the circular narrative, the fragmentation and
Jun 01, 2017 rated it liked it
The story of the emigrant workers in Tasmania is of course sad, painful, devastating, presented very vividly and is intertwined with some other ideas (ecology, industry, energy).
In the foreground is the relationship between father and daughter, and the entire story is built on the personality of the father, who wanted 'just to be free' but for him this is impossible, because the past haunts him in the present.

The author with extremely sensitively explores the issue and the importance of the lan
Glen U
Mar 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Richard Flanagan, in my humble opinion, is one of the premier writers of the late '90's and on into our present times. Although this book was written close to twenty years ago, it is truly a masterpiece, easily rivaling his Mann Booker winner, "The Narrow Road to the Deep North". Like "The Narrow Road..." it is tragic, dark and despairing, at times. But it is written with such emotion and feeling, it is also compelling and a true insight into the human condition. The characters in the book are s ...more
Tina Tamman
Nov 18, 2015 rated it it was ok
Why does one like one book and not another? I have once again had to think about it because only recently I read another novel by the same author ("The Narrow Road to the Far North") and absolutely loved it, so how come I didn't like this one? The basic premise is attractive - the long-lasting impact of war, migration, new life in a new country - not that far removed from "The Narrow Road". However, the characters in "The Sound of One Hand Clapping" refused to come to life for me.
It is the compa
Nov 27, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A disquieting read, this novel walks that fine line between being particularly Australian and being universal brilliantly. The various traumas of the each characters past coupled with the isolating, untameable wilderness of Tasmania makes for a haunting novel. It is an inhospitable landscape, which only adds to the foreignness felt by the characters.

"It would be nice, Helvi. It really would. But nice isn't life. Is it?"

Margot Peter
Aug 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I loved this achingly sad book, beautifully written. Having lived inAustralia as a child, albeit not in Tasmania, it resonated for me. Familiar Aussie slang, postwar refugees who peopled Oz, and a young child raised by a single parent all reflect my own life heritage. Tragic but ultimately uplifting!
Jan 03, 2011 rated it it was ok
I really wanted to love this book, but the melodramatic writing style ruined what was otherwise a very powerful novel about the Old World and the New World, with truly beautiful descriptions of the Tasmanian landscape to boot. It is just a pity the way it was written.
Harrison Saich
Mar 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
What is this salty discharge pouring from my eyes?
Dianna Applebaum
May 07, 2018 rated it liked it
Flanagan writes of many an Australian tragedy and brings to life those forgotten in our history. The story of Sonya and Bojan Buloh in 'The Sound of One Hand Clapping' is a story of heartbreak and despair; a journey back to each other frought with violence and cruelty. The struggle between father and daughter created a yawning gap I just wanted to fill with the love and forgiveness that seemed but an outstretched arm away. It is a tortuous tale back to each other where the father articulates his ...more
Jun 01, 2017 rated it it was ok
I found this book a struggle to get through. While the post war/new Australian theme was an interesting one, the complexities and pain explored in relationship between Sonja and Bojan felt repetitive to me and it was hard to maintain interest as a result. Some of the writing was beautifully executed, but I found it was too caught up in creating elegant prose for the sake of it, making the story disjointed and hard to follow. It had great potential but I liked Narrow Road to the Deep North much m ...more
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Richard Flanagan (born 1961) is an author, historian and film director from Tasmania, Australia. He was president of the Tasmania University Union and a Rhodes Scholar. Each of his novels has attracted major praise. His first, Death of a River Guide (1994), was short-listed for the Miles Franklin Award, as were his next two, The Sound of One Hand Clapping (1997) and Gould's Book of Fish (2001). Hi ...more

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