21st Century Literature discussion

Traveler of the Century
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2015 Book Discussions > Traveler of the Century - Full Book, Spoilers Allowed (February 2015)

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Terry Pearce If you've finished the whole book (or really don't care about spoilers), here's the place to discuss any and all parts of it.

What did you think of the book? What were its themes, in your opinion? How successfully did it meditate on them? What did you like most about it?


Lily MacKenzie (lilyionamackenzie) The first scene with Sophie and the sexually suggestive ways she manipulates her fan is delicious (page 35 in my edition). It’s followed by an equally suggestive scene with the organ grinder, a great juxtaposition, as he strokes his organ in a similar way.

Also, the contrast between life in the cave and in the salon makes me as a reader think about Plato’s cave, which is a dialogue between Plato’s brother and his mentor, the wise man Socrates. The organ grinder is our wise man here.

In thinking about Wandenburg, it shifts just as our own perspective shifts on the places where we live. I’m constantly noticing things in my surroundings that I’ve missed previously that change my take on an area. Places aren’t constant. They’re as mutable as we humans are.


message 3: by Peter (last edited Feb 08, 2015 11:59AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Peter Aronson (peteraronson) | 516 comments So I just finished the book. What a marvelous, extravagant, melodic final sentence!

Overall, I liked the book, but I can't help thinking it would have benefited from being 20%-40% shorter. By the end, I was rather tired of Hans and Sophie. But some of the literary discussions in part three were worth the price of admission by themselves, particularly the discussion of the English romantic poets.

I do feel that the book benefited from the reader having some knowledge of European, and particularly German history. It was useful to know something about the state of Europe after the Napoleonic Wars, and the Reformation and Counter-Reformation.


Lily MacKenzie (lilyionamackenzie) I had a different feeling at the end. I would have continued indefinitely with Hans and Sophie and would love to know where they ended up!


Terry Pearce I loved the note the ending struck. It seemed to leave enough resolved and enough still hanging, like life if you would choose to place a 'the end' at any point.

I do agree that I would have gotten even more out of the book if my European History was better. The book is so good, it makes me want to go back and re-read it after brushing up on my history and knowledge from this era.


Marc (monkeelino) | 2638 comments Mod
This book covers so much ground when it comes to poetry, literature, philosophy, and history, I think we all could have gotten more out of it!

I really enjoyed the writing overall--a really nice pace, with some beautiful phrasings, hilarious moments, and touching insights. Are we all not organ grinders (in the literal sense)?

A few quotes that touched on the themes that stuck out for me:
“Going back is impossible. That’s why I prefer new places… I think if you know where you’re going and what you’re going to do, you’re likely to end up not knowing who you are.” (p 116)

“It’s the same with books, you see mounds of them in bookshops and you want to read them all, or at least to have a taste of them. You think you could be missing out on something important, you see them and they intrigue you, they tempt you, they tell how insignificant your life is and how tremendous it could be.” (p 118)

“You see, in the end, what matters is listening, not playing. If you listen you will always hear the music.” (p 155)

“... too many books are published. Everyone these days believes they can write a novel. ...I can still recall the time when a book was a rare adventure… the adventure was getting hold of a real book. In those days, each one was a treasure and we expected it to yield important knowledge, something conclusive. Nowadays people prefer buying a book to understanding it, as though by purchasing books one appropriated their content.” (p 174)

“I believe the past should not be a distraction, but a laboratory in which to analyze the present.” (p 175)

“No one used to consider traveling more than twenty miles in one day. Maybe that’s why young people are less attached to places, because it’s too easy to leave them.” (p 299)

“Perhaps farewells create new territories, or they send us back to the only territory that truly belongs to us, that of solitude.” (p 547)



LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2318 comments I finished a couple of days ago. I'm with Peter on the Sophie/Hans melodrama, but I did love their discussions about the poems they were translating. The last two parts had much more action so I read them more quickly. I enjoyed the political debates and agree that with a bit more background on that period of European history I would have enjoyed them even more.


Jessica Izaguirre (sweetji) | 120 comments I finally finished this book. I really enjoyed the last paragraph where the wind is going through the entire town, it is such a cinematic scene, and that open end was very nice. I was not expecting Sophie to actually end her engagement, I kind of wish she did it sooner hehe.
I loved Part III with all the translations and poems, even though I am not very familiar with all poets.


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