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Panorama: A Novel Hardcover – January 18, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The first English-language translation of an opus by Adler (The Journey), Czech writer and Holocaust survivor, opens with the young Josef Kramer, at a "panorama," a rotating display of pictures of exotic places. The novel's structure imitates that of the panorama, each a snapshot of an epoch in Josef's life, from a neurotic childhood to a year in the countryside, then a period in a hellish boarding school. The most biting and amusing sections are Josef as a tutor in a wealthy and dysfunctional family and working at a frenetic "cultural center." Each episode ends with Josef drifting to sleep, trying to create internal order from chaos. War comes and two sections deal with Josef as a forced laborer and his time in concentration camps and his reflecting on his life from self-imposed exile in Britain. Adler's writing is stream-of-consciousness, heavily philosophical, and the style changes as Josef matures. Adler's portrayal of daily life and a young man's existential maturation in the region of Bohemia between the wars is full of satirical and loving detail that turns grim in the Holocaust sections. But the long, clause-heavy sentences feel clunky in translation and make this book more fascinating as a treasure of cultural and literary history than as a purely narrative read. (Jan.)
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From Booklist

A Czech Jew who wrote largely in German and survived both Theresienstadt and Auschwitz, Adler is the author of a number of contemplative and variously challenging works of Holocaust witness, including The Journey (1962), which was recently translated into English for the first time. With this novel saturated with autobiography (the author’s phrase), Adler chronicles various moments in the life of protagonist Josef: unhappy childhood in Prague, brutish boarding school, teenage adventures in the bucolic Czech forest, political and bureaucratic frustrations as a young academic, and, finally, hardship and bleakness in a concentration camp. It is written in a captivating stream-of-consciousness style that wanders yet comes to circle certain salient observations, and readers may note stylistic and philosophical continuities between this and the work of W. G. Sebald, who claimed Adler as a major influence. But, in part, the beauty of this work is that it can’t be easily categorized: it’s not quite a bildungsroman; it’s delightfully if erratically satirical; it’s hauntingly bleak yet possesses echoes of the transcendent. This is an important book by an author who deserves not to be forgotten. --Brendan Driscoll

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Random House (January 18, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400068517
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400068517
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.4 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,042,309 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Jill Meyer TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 27, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Hans Adler, a noted Czech novelist and poet, wrote "Panorama" in 1947. It is a fictionalised account of his life from childhood up to his release from various German concentration camps. It was published in German in 1968, but not translated and published in English until 2010. It followed "The Journey", another book about the Holocaust, which was first published in German in 1962 but not translated to English until 2008. Both of Adler's books, "The Journey" and "Panorama" were translated from the German by Peter Filkins. Adler died in London in 1988.

"Panorama" is a large, epic-length book, divided not into chapters, per se, but rather into "stories". Each story is about the same character, Josef Kramer, who is born in Prague in 1910. The "stories" are written - and translated - in rather free-form style. The translator, in his notes, states that the text, as Adler wrote it and he translated it, "...long, streaming sentences build clause upon clause, in order to render the consciousness at work, narrating the novel as much as the events themselves." It's not the writing style that is the problem of "Panorama"; it is the "distance" from the material to the reader.

Each "story" is about Josef Kramer and follow him in age. However, the same secondary characters - always richly drawn - do not continue from story to story. It is almost as if Josef Kramer is "reborn" in every story; an orphan in terms of who he takes along with him. After the first story, which is beautifully written about his early years, his parents, relative, and friends seem to "disappear". The second story tells of his life for a year or so in a small Czech village, living on a farm. No characters continue from first to second story and its the same for the rest of the book.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Panorama sweeps through a life begun in Prague during the First World War to a quiet hill in Cornwall after the Second. A child in a constricted family, a brutal boarding school, a scathing look at social climbers, crazy capers in a cultural bureaucracy, then a slow march towards the concentration camps. No film can paint these pictures of the camps as Adler's words do. Finally, contemplation in a quiet English town, far from the turmoil of Joseph's former existence. Joseph, not the Joseph K of Kafka, is often a passive actor but never disengaged. Panorama cracks the door open on mid 20th century German Jewish life with intensity and originality.
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By Leonard B. on April 18, 2015
Format: Hardcover
Very slow, wordy, too long to get to a point. Read 50 pages word for word then skimmed for a while, Then just gave up.
H. G. Adler just not for me, and I read a lot.
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By stuart wilson on March 20, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Thought provoking and sometimes perplexing.
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