Tallulah Hepburn, January 01, 2011
2010 was a great "year of reading" for me. I caught up on some classics (Madame Bovary) and favorite authors (Paul Auster), and discovered new favorites (Marilynne Robinson). Vollmann's Europe Central, however, was so much more than just another read. The man is a word wizard. I found myself reading passages over and over again for the sheer pleasure of their arrangement and projected atmosphere, and thought more than once, "wow, this is what they mean when they say 'literature'". If you like history you'll love this book. Vollmann fictionalizes real people (Hitler, Shostakovich, etc.) in an effort to explore love, war, violence, death, poverty, and fear in World War II Europe, and he does it with a flourish of trance-like language that seems to snare you in its web (a web you're pretty content to be stuck in). My goodness, just read how he describes a telephone: "From the receiver, now clattering like a dispatch rider's motorcycle across the cobblestones of Prague, to the black cold body, runs a coil whose elasticity draws out the process of strangulation." I'll never think of language the same after reading this book.