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We, the Drownedby Carsten Jensen
"War and Peace: seeing the words can turn a stomach. Around 1,400 pages in length (in English, about 560,000 words), Tolstoy's epic is the epitome of the terrifyingly long novel. Dozens of characters, interwoven plot-lines, and sheer magnitude create a deep and dizzying enterprise. Does its heft often deter present-day readers? I hope not, but I fear otherwise. Bleak House, Les Miserables, and Anna Karenina have shared a similar fate. Enormity, a selling point for nearly any other American commodity, is often a detriment to the novel. Many great novels, after all, are the perfect length for their own purposes — Jane Eyre, or The Great Gatsby — but don't we always finish them wanting more?" Hillary Kelly, The New Republic (Read the entire New Republic review)
Synopses & Reviews
Carsten Jensen's debut novel has taken the world by storm. Already hailed in Europe as an instant classic, We, the Drowned is the story of the port town of Marstal, whose inhabitants have sailed the worlds oceans aboard freight ships for centuries. Spanning over a hundred years, from the mid-nineteenth century to the end of the Second World War, and from the barren rocks of Newfoundland to the lush plantations of Samoa, from the roughest bars in Tasmania, to the frozen coasts of northern Russia, We, the Drowned spins a magnificent tale of love, war, and adventure, a tale of the men who go to sea and the women they leave behind.
Ships are wrecked at sea and blown up during wars, they are places of terror and violence, yet they continue to lure each generation of Marstal men — fathers and sons — away. Strong, resilient, women raise families alone and sometimes take history into their own hands. There are cannibals here, shrunken heads, prophetic dreams, forbidden passions, cowards, heroes, devastating tragedies, and miraculous survivals — everything that a town like Marstal has actually experienced, and that makes We, the Drowned an unforgettable novel, destined to take its place among the greatest seafaring literature.
"An international hit, this bold seafaring epic spans 100 years in the lives of the men and women from a small town on an island off the Danish coast. Starting with the war between Germany and Denmark in 1848 and continuing through WWII, the men of Marstal sail, fight, trade, and die at sea while the women raise their children and wait for their husbands' and sons' uncertain return. The story loosely follows one family, the Madsens, beginning with the legendary Laurids Madsen, 'best known for having single-handedly started a war,' and then his son, Albert, and a boy named Knud Erik, whom Albert takes under his wing. From adventures on the storm-ravaged seas and in exotic lands, to battles in town over the shipping industry and family life, dozens of stories coalesce into an odyssey taut with action and drama and suffused with enough heart to satisfy readers who want more than the breakneck thrills of ships battling the elements. By the time readers turn the final page, they will have come to intimately know this town and its sailors who tear out across an unforgiving sea. (Feb.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
"[We, The Drowned is] most memorable for the sheer gusto of its narrative. The author ennobles the old-fashioned art of storytelling by showing how the relating of a tale can itself foster a spirit of fellowship...We, The Drowned is itself a monument to the way that history can be made epic through legend." The Wall Street Journal
"As an epic of grand design, We, The Drowned is a thumping success." The San Francisco Chronicle
"Powerful reading for a long winter's night... This gorgeous, unsparing novel ends during the last days of World War II with a captain struggling to bring his crew home after their ship is torpedoed. The sea is Marstal's life and Jensen's unstrained metaphor: luring the Marstallers away from home, offering uncertain passage and providing few harbors that are safe for long." The Washington Post
"For all the brutality and suspense in the manner of Conrad, Melville, and Stevenson, Jensen's oceanic novel (already a bestseller overseas and gorgeously translated) is tenderly human... Jensen's resplendent saga, an epic voyage of the imagination, is mesmerizing in its unsparing drama, fascinating in its knowledge of the sea, wryly humorous, and profound in its embrace of compassion, reason, and justice." Booklist (starred)
"Expertly told...Jensen is a sympathetic storyteller with an eye for the absurd, with the result that if this novel descends from Moby-Dick, it also looks to The Tin Drum for inspiration...An elegant meditation on life, death, and the ways of the sea." Kirkus Reviews
"A novel of immense authority and ambition and beauty, by a master storyteller at the height of his powers. This is a book to sail into, to explore, to get lost in, but it is also a book that brings the reader, dazzled by wonders, home to the heart from which great stories come." Joseph O'Connor, author of Star of the Sea
An epic tale about a small village by the sea
This international bestseller about generations of men who go to sea and the women and children they leave behind is a magnificent tale of love, war, and adventure. Cannibals, shrunken heads, prophetic dreams, forbidden passions, cowards, heroes, tragedies, and survival--this book is destined to take its place among the greatest seafaring literature.
AN INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER
A THRILLING EPIC TALE OF THE SEA
“We, the Drowned sets sail beyond the narrow channels of the seafaring genre and approaches Tolstoy in its evocation of war’s confusion, its power to stun victors and vanquished alike . . . A gorgeous, unsparing novel.” — Washington Post
“A generational saga, a swashbuckling sailor’s tale, and the account of a small town coming into modernity—both Melville and Steinbeck might have been pleased to read it.” — New Republic
Hailed in Europe as an instant classic, We, the Drowned is the story of the port town of Marstal, Denmark, whose inhabitants sailed the world from the mid-nineteenth century to the end of the Second World War. The novel tells of ships wrecked and blown up in wars, of places of terror and violence that continue to lure each generation; there are cannibals here, shrunken heads, prophetic dreams, and miraculous survivals. The result is a brilliant seafaring novel, a gripping saga encompassing industrial growth, the years of expansion and exploration, the crucible of the first half of the twentieth century, and most of all, the sea.
Called “one of the most exciting authors in Nordic literature” by Henning Mankell, Carsten Jensen has worked as a literary critic and a journalist, reporting from China, Cambodia, Latin America, the Pacific Islands, and Afghanistan. He lives in Copenhagen and Marstal.
About the Author
As a boy in Marstal, Denmark, Carsten Jensen sailed on his fathers boat, a 220-ton freighter named the Abelone. In 2000, he returned to Marstal to write We, the Drowned. He has also worked as a literary critic and a journalist, reporting from China, Cambodia, Latin America, the Pacific Islands, and Afghanistan. We, the Drowned won Denmark's most important literary prize, while also being selected by readers of a major daily newspaper as the best Danish novel of the last twenty-five years. It was a bestseller throughout Scandinavia and in Germany, and has also been published in the United Kingdom, Spain, and France.
Table of Contents
The Boots 3
The Thrashing Rope 56
The Voyage 118
The Disaster 197
The Breakwater 205
The Boy 301
North Star 376
The Widows 383
The Seagull Killer 436
The Sailor 469
The End of the World 567
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