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1914: A Novel Paperback – January 30, 2014
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"Echenoz's nod to the powerlessness of ordinary people caught in the first great modern cataclysm is a veritable monument to human dignity."
Gary Indiana, Bookforum
"This new novel from Jean Echenoz concentrates and synthesizes the quintessence of his writing."
Praise for Jean Echenoz:
"One of the best storytellers among the 'serious' novelists of his generation."
"Echenoz is one of the contemporary literature’s rare graceful magicians. . . . He might easily be located in the post-human environs of Michael Houellebecq [and] Haruki Murakami."
"A gentle tending to perversity links Echenoz to that other master of the perverse detail, Vladimir Nabokov."
Los Angeles Times
"Every word is perfectly placed; the writing is fluid . . . like a garment that fits perfectly even inside out..."
"The most distinctive voice of his generation and the master magician of the contemporary French novel."
The Washington Post
"Writing lives! [Echenoz’s] words are full of grace and surprises, and he has the ability to throw relationships among them just off-center enough to make the images or people they convey seem all the more compelling and fresh."
The New York Times Book Review
"A writer at the top of his form . . . his style is, as usual, impeccable, full of finesse and promise."
"[O]ne of the best storytellers among the serious” novelists of his generation. . . . Echenoz has shown that an attention to novelistic intrigue is by no means incompatible with an experimentalist impulse."
"Against a pungently evoked French landscape, figures both comical and grotesque move through a magic-lantern adventure story at a pace that keeps us turning the pagesthough again and again we pause to savor the richness of Echenoz’s startling, crystalline observations. Never a dull moment!"
"A humanist rewriting Foucault with a satirist’s wit, Echenoz deftly and amusingly meditates on who we are and what defines us."
"Echenoz employs almost no dialogue and nothing that departs from known facts in this tiny miracle of a biographical novel, which begins dryly and builds to a shattering, but still contained and elegant, emotional climax, like a Ravel masterpiece."
"This is a wholly unsentimental portrait of a freaky inventor. Our sympathy is not required; all Echenoz requires is our attention, which he secures through his lapidary prose, buffed to a high gloss in this excellent translation."
"Echenoz picks out the absurd nuances of pop culture and twists them into a contemporary detective book. . . . A hilarious read."
"Rarely has the difficult craft of storytelling been as well mastered."
The Times Literary Supplement
"Jean Echenoz has a terrific sense of humor tinged with existential mischief. . . . An author in total control of his material."
"His realism is innocent, meticulous, ironic. . . . Seldom is a narrative so well constructed."
"[A] fascinating portrait of a musical genius, a strange and lonely character who was never at peace with himself."
"Vivid and extraordinary."
"Dazzling, meticulous, and somber."
About the Author
Top Customer Reviews
'Well, you don't get out of this war like that. It's simple: you're trapped. The enemy is in front of you, the rats and lice are with you, and behind you are the gendarmes. Since the only solution is to become an invalid, you're reduced to waiting for that "good wound", the one you wind up longing for, your guaranteed ticket home, but there's a problem: it doesn't depend on you. So that wonder-working wound, some men tried to acquire it on their own without attracting too much attention by shooting themselves in the hand, for example, but they usually failed and were confronted with their misdeed, tried, and shot for treason. Mowed down by your own side rather than asphyxiated, burned to a crisp, or shredded by gas, flamethrowers, or shells--that could be a choice. But there was also blowing your own head off, with a toe on the trigger and the rifle barrel in your mouth, a way of getting out like any other--that could be a choice too.Read more ›
'1914' is not 'A Very Long Engagement' or 'Birdsong', two brilliant WWI novels, but Echenoz keeps it lively, and more than any other part of the book, he gave this reader a very satisfying ending, something many writers seem to work hard at NOT achieving. In a novel this short, there is no time for great character development, so Echenoz choses instead to develop the character of the war itself. And he succeeds.
Through just a handful of powerful interwoven stories, Jean Echenoz shows World War I, in ALL its horror and futility. In fact, the war truly becomes the main character. Be warned though that little is left to the imagination.
Powerful descriptions of random death, sudden disfiguring injuries, and despondent soldiers are captured using simple, sparse language. Echenoz even explores the intimate relationships between fighting Frenchmen in the trenches and all the different types of animals they encounter -- domesticated farm survivors, wild animals subjected to poison gas, and rats and lice.
In this one short narrative, you'll also find a vivid portrait of how the war impacted those left behind -- from pregnant girlfriends to profiteering businesses, from mutineering soldiers to empty streets. It's really quite an accomplishment.
The first world war is a subject I'm interested in and Echenoz gives us a very personal story of a soldier, his comrades and their experiences. The story is quite simple but the takeaway here is the vivid, evocative and poignant telling of the story. The novella can be seen as just one of the thousands of soldier experiences (both sides) that made up WWI. Told objectively, the battle scenes, not many, are all the more harrowing for it. "So silence seemed intent on returning - when a tardy piece of shrapnel showed up, from who knows where and wonders how, as clipped as a postscript: an iron fragment shaped like a polished Neolithic ax, smoking hot, the size of a man's hand, fully sharp as a large shard of glass. Without even a glance at the others, as if it were settling a personal score, it sped directly toward...and willy-nilly, lopped off his right arm clean as a whistle, just below the shoulder."
Discovering Echenoz the writer has been a highlight of my reading this year. "1914" for an intimate view of history and "I'm Gone" for an intelligently quirky and stylistically original fun read.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
An interesting story but lacked the intensity of experience you'd expect in desperate times of war.Published 1 month ago by Aussie Des
Nope, I just didn’t get this one. The book was short – it only took about an hour to read – and well-written, but the story was just so lacking. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Tim and Stephanie
This book is a short, impassive account of WWI-basically Anthime, his brother Charles, and three friends go to war; some die; those who don't return back to their town. Read morePublished 9 months ago by everyday man
This was my first foray into the catalog of Jean Echenoz, and I was enraptured . Succint prose, an interesting take on its ever relevant subject matter, wonderfully progressed,... Read morePublished 11 months ago by John Cramerus
Short read that feels like a synopsis for a better, longer story. I realize Echenoz is supposed to be a great writer, but this felt rushed.Published 11 months ago by Amazon Customer
Simple, compelling story of war on the front lines & what is demanded of its participants through the tale of one soldier.Published 13 months ago by Phasr
Jean Echenoz is considered to be one of Frances's finest modernists. Since I don't read French, however, I can't give an intelligent opinion on that. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Hope Hilandera