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Europe Centralby William T. Vollmann
2005 National Book Award
"Vollmann intends the reading of his works to be an emotionally traumatic experience, and Europe Central is harrowing, in part because of its depressing subject, but also because of the raw and often sadistically insightful way the material is treated. To portray the novel as a thoroughly ominous and doom-laden affair would be unfair, however; Vollmann is still a master storyteller and bravura stylist, and he sustains and constantly reignites interest over the course of this lengthy book." Daniel Lukes, the Times Literary Supplement (read the entire Times Literary Supplement)
Synopses & Reviews
In this magnificent work of fiction, William T. Vollmann turns his trenchant eye to the authoritarian cultures of Germany and the USSR in the twentieth century. Assembling a composite portrait of these two warring leviathans and the terrible age they defined, the narrative intertwines experiences both real and fictional¬—a young German who joins the SS to expose its crimes, two generals who collaborate with the enemy for different reasons, the Soviet composer Dmitri Shostakovich laboring under Stalinist oppression. Through these and other lives, Vollmann offers a daring and mesmerizing perspective on human actions during wartime.
"I've reviewed nearly all of Vollmann's books over the years and am running out of superlatives; suffice it to say, if you've been following his extraordinary career, Europe Central may be his best novel yet." Washington Post
"Vollmann [is] a master of synthesis and an intense and compassionate writer....[A] work of compelling intimacy....Vollmann opens new portals onto a genocidal war never to be forgotten, and illuminates both the misery and beauty human beings engender." Booklist (Starred Review)
"[T]he only book of fiction I know that includes 50-plus pages of endnotes — yet it justifies such notes as it justifies every single fiery page that precedes them....Europe Central is more than physically enormous; it is morally significant." Los Angeles Times
"Europe Central is easily Vollmann's greatest work, and it deserves a central place in what must be our continuous imagining of the horrors we are all too capable of reliving." Minneapolis Star Tribune
"He contains multitudes, this remarkable prodigy....
In his newest work, Vollmann presents a mesmerizing series of intertwined paired stories that compare and contrast the moral decisions made by various figures associated with the warring authoritarian cultures of Germany and the USSR in the 20th century.
About the Author
William T. Vollmann is the author of eight novels, three collections of stories, a memoir, and Rising Up and Rising Down, which was a finalist for the 2003 National Book Critics Circle Award in nonfiction.
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