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The Visible World (Contemporary Fiction) Audio CD – Audiobook, Unabridged


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Product Details

  • Series: Contemporary Fiction
  • Audio CD
  • Publisher: Naxos Audio Books; Unabridged edition (July 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9626349328
  • ISBN-13: 978-9626349328
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 5 x 2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,270,643 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Slouka's urgent second novel (following God's Fool) comes in three parts. The first relates the nameless narrator's growing up in postwar New York and Pennsylvania as the child of college journalism instructor Antonín and Ivana Sedlák, Czech émigrés whose marriage is slowly disintegrating. The reason, of which the young narrator is aware from an early age, is that Ivana loves another man, killed in Czechoslovakia during WWII. The despondent Ivana watches soap operas and chain-smokes until, at age 64 in 1984, she walks in front of the Allentown bus. The slimmer middle section chronicles the narrator quitting his job two years later, moving to Prague and poking into his parents' wartime past there. The final, longest section crackles with the novel's main tale. Having pieced together enough of his parents' history, the narrator "imagines" the rest. Crucially, it involves the actual assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, Hitler's ruthless local military governor, on May 27, 1942. As part of a daring plan, Czech patriot assassins are parachuted in by the RAF; the injured Heydrich later dies of blood poisoning. The Nazi bloodbath that follows includes the infamous liquidation of the village of Lidice. The suspense is well paced, and the action scenes are vividly recounted. Slouka's novel has a poignant verve. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

An unnamed American man from Queens, the son of Czech parents who emigrated after World War II, struggles to understand his mother's tragic past in this almost unbearably poignant work. In its first part, a series of reminiscences from his early years, he attempts to piece together her story and that of Eastern Europe's wartime generation--a tale involving secret executions, SS leader Reinhard Heydrich's assassination, and a family friend's hidden history as a Nazi interpreter. As he travels through Czechoslovakia as an adult, he meets villagers who reveal startlingly insightful truths about how people conceal their pasts in order to survive. Ultimately finding no concrete answers, he decides to re-create his mother's story in fiction, a section that imagines her love affair with a member of the Resistance during 1942. Undeniably romantic, this novel-within-a-novel responds to the desperate longing for truth so powerfully explored earlier, making plain our overriding need to make sense of the incomprehensible. This is a penetrating, beautifully composed novel from a writer with a tangible sense of place and period. Sarah Johnson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

More About the Author

Mark Slouka is the internationally recognized author of six books. Both his fiction and nonfiction have been translated into sixteen languages. His stories have twice been selected for inclusion in Best American Short Stories, and his essays have appeared three times for Best American Essays. His stories, "Crossing" and "The Hare's Mask," have also been selected for the PEN/O.Henry Prize Stories. In 2008, he was a finalist for the British Book Award for his novel The Visible World, and his 2011 collection of essays, Essays from the Nick of Time, received the PEN/Diamonstein-Speilvogel Award for the Art of the Essay. A contributing editor to Harpers Magazine since 2001, his work also appears in Ploughshares, Orion Magazine, Bomb, The Paris Review, Agni, and Granta. A Guggenheim and NEA fellowship recipient, he has taught literature and writing at Harvard, Columbia, and University of Chicago. He is currently living with his family in Brewster, NY.

Customer Reviews

Boring, no plot was emerging, wandering anecdotal.
Linda Todd
What I can commend most of this book is that, though I read it months ago, it is with me still, as if I had just put it down.
M. Ross
I finished it, but skimmed the end and did not like the ending either.
Francine Jewett

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Sam Spade on May 17, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Wow. I heard this book discussed on NPR's Weekend All Things Considered, and decided it sounded worth the price.

I was not disappointed. As a fan of Milan Kundera, I resist reading books compared to his, but this time it is spot-on. Slouka's protagonist weaves an imagined love story between his mother and a WWII resistance fighter in with the story of his own youth spent with Czech expatriates and his trips to Prague searching for answers to the mystery of his mother's life. The result is a wonderful combination of magical realism and stunning, clear prose that had me hanging on every word. I think Mark Slouka is a marvelous writer, and I hope many more find this lovely novel. Here's the NPR link-

[...]
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Helen Epstein on July 24, 2007
Format: Hardcover
For those of you who, like me, are interested both in memoir and the history of Central Europe, Mark Slouka's The Visible World is provocative reading. The son of Czechs who settled in New York City after the Communist putsch of 1948, Slouka is a writer who is as possessed by his parents' past as some of the most history-obssessed offspring of Holocaust survivors like myself. His book is poised somewhere between memoir and autobiographical fiction. Apart from his parents, Slouka is fascinated by the heroes of the Czech resistance during world war. Although the movie Casablanca has Humphrey Bogart sending Ingrid Bergman off on a plane with a leader of the Czech resistance, many people have forgotten that Czechs were once regarded as a symbol of resistance against the Nazis. Slouka takes us on his personal quest into that territory.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Najla Alowais on October 9, 2009
Format: Paperback
This is not a book that you can just read a few pages of in the car, a few more whilst waiting for your appointment. Not that it's terribly confusing, but rather, the narrator talks to you directly and you feel like you just need to sit down and listen. Some books are like that.

It was hard getting into it at first, but once you get past the first part, you're hooked.

The books is divided into three parts: the first is where the narrator talks about his childhood in the States. The second part is the narrator's journey to Parague to discover anything he can about his parents' past. The third and most moving part is his view on what really happened in his parents' youth, his attempt to fill the gaps of his family history.

WWII as the backdrop for the last chunk of this book, you feel like you are there with them. The style is inviting and when you finish the book you'll almost believe that it did happen.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Bee VINE VOICE on July 19, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I thought this book might give me some interesting background on Prague, but it far surpassed my expectations. It is a beautifully constructed triptych that interweaves fiction, memoir, and historical fact. The writing is beautiful, the characters memorable, the descriptions evocative.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By T. E. Leonard on May 29, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I was totally intrigued by Slouka's previous novel, "God's Fool," and awaited with great anticipation the advent of this his latest novel. I was not disappointed. The work centers around the musing of a maturing American male who seeks to reconcile a mystery involving his parents wgich took place during the brutal Nazis occupation of Czechoslovokia. The answers he finds are far less evident than the book's title would suggest.

This is one of the few books I could truly enjoy reading twice!
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By WoollyB on May 24, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a captivating tale of desperation built upon carefully constructed, mesmerizing prose. The Heydrich assassination in 1942 Prague provides the background for the story of a son's investigation of his mother's lost happiness. There is a Strindberg-like deterministic quality to all of the characters as they play out their roles, yet the author still manages to surprise. The writing is extremely evocative yet not so dense as to impede the action. This is a really fine piece of work.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By M. Ross VINE VOICE on February 1, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This isn't a book that I found myself drawn to immediately, or even that I liked for the first few dozen pages. It drew me in, though, as it touched nerves associated with memories of my past and of my parents, some good, others not so happy.

Slouka tells the story with the pain and hollowness that comes from the drive to seek out the truth of the past that some parts or one's judgment often counsel against. I liken the experience of reading this book to one of solitary reflection that one experiences on a bitter winter day sitting alone on a park bench. Though there are turns of humor, there are also wrenching shocks.

The narrative is told deftly weaving facts, imagination, and memories- which often have elements of both- telling of a son's quest to understand his parents. What made this story ultimately compelling- and satisfying- for me is that it is so deeply personal and universal. Don't we all, at some point, want to understand where we, and, by extension, our parents, come from? Why did they do what they did? What were their dreams? Their failures? The answers to these questions that the protagonist asks of his parents resonated with me and made this book come alive.

It is a satisfying read, if not light. It made me work to understand, not in a way that was teasing or cloying, but sophisticated. What I can commend most of this book is that, though I read it months ago, it is with me still, as if I had just put it down.
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