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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A difficult novel and an incredible journey

H.G. Adler's novel The Journey (published in German in 1962 and in English a couple of years ago) is a difficult novel in every sense of the word. The book consists of two chapters (I think), one of about 4 pages in length and the next about 280 pp without a break! I started with the initial chapter and to be honest I thought maybe this hadn't been translated at all, that I was reading the German. I could barely understand the abstractions - but gathered that he was making some kind of grand comparisons among the metaphor of a journey, an actual journey, the journey of the course of a novel, and the journey of the course of a life. OK. The main part of the book is more clear but even more difficult in other ways. The eponymous journey is apparently the journey of a Jewish family from a fictional (?) town in Germany or maybe Czechoslovakia, a bourgeois family, the father's a physician, Dr. Lustig (means "happy," ha!), rounded up by the Nazis, assembled with the other Jews, and sent off toward a camp. So the subject matter itself is difficult - and I can understand how some, perhaps many, readers would feel there's nothing more to say in literature about the Holocaust - but I believe, from the first 30 pp or so, that this novel presents the Holocaust in a new, different, perhaps more dramatic light: the events are described as through a fog, it's not always clear who's talking, it's hard to discern when the Nazis are sincere and when dissembling, we know little or nothing about the back story of any of the characters, there is no introspection and no narrative guidance - in other words, we feel that we, the readers, are being hurtled along with the characters on this journey through darkness toward death. Not sure if Adler can sustain this, or if I can persevere through the course of the entire novel, but the beginning is impressive.

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