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1914: A Novel Paperback – January 30, 2014

3.8 out of 5 stars 43 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Praise for 1914:

"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."
Le Monde

Praise for Jean Echenoz:
"One of the best storytellers among the 'serious' novelists of his generation."
Context

"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."
Bookforum

"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..."
Elle

"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."
Le Monde

"[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."
Context

"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 pages—though again and again we pause to savor the richness of Echenoz’s startling, crystalline observations. Never a dull moment!"
—Lydia Davis

"A humanist rewriting Foucault with a satirist’s wit, Echenoz deftly and amusingly meditates on who we are and what defines us."
Village Voice

"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."
Booklist

"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."
Kirkus Reviews

"Echenoz picks out the absurd nuances of pop culture and twists them into a contemporary detective book. . . . A hilarious read."
Publisher's Weekly

"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."
L'Express

"His realism is innocent, meticulous, ironic. . . . Seldom is a narrative so well constructed."
Le Figaro

"[A] fascinating portrait of a musical genius, a strange and lonely character who was never at peace with himself."
France Today

"Magnificent."
Magazine Litteraire

"Vivid and extraordinary."
La Croix

"Dazzling, meticulous, and somber."
Télérama

About the Author

Jean Echenoz won France’s prestigious Prix Goncourt for I’m Gone (The New Press). He is the author of six other novels available in English and the winner of numerous literary prizes, among them the Prix Médicis and the European Literature Jeopardy Prize. He lives in Paris. Linda Coverdale’s most recent translation for The New Press was Jean Echenoz’s Lightning. She was the recipient of the French-American Foundation’s 2008 Translation Prize for her translation of Echenoz’s Ravel (The New Press). She lives in Brooklyn.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 119 pages
  • Publisher: The New Press (January 30, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1595589112
  • ISBN-13: 978-1595589118
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.5 x 7.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #702,832 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Darryl R. Morris on January 10, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
The latest novel by Echenoz opens in the Vendée region of France, as a lazy and quiet Saturday afternoon in August 1914 is interrupted by the insistent pealing of church bells throughout the region, which signals a call for mobilization for the impending war against Germany. The novel focuses on five ordinary men in one village, and a young woman who loves one man and is fond of another. The men and their commanding officers are convinced that the combat will last no longer than a few weeks, and that all will return home safely. However, as weeks turn into months and months into years, and as the soldiers see their companions felled in action, they are transformed into dispirited men who rely on alcohol to dull their senses. Echenoz writes poignantly about their seemingly hopeless circumstances:

'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.
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This is a beautifully written little book. Although it is couched in a narrative of sorts, it is more of a meditation on or prose poem about the experience of being a soldier in World War One. It is one of those little gems that can be read in an afternoon; and although I read it on my Kindle, I kind of wished that I had purchased it as an actual book. Some books are meant to be owned and cherished. This is one of them.
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To say that Jean Echenoz' novel, '1914', is worthy of the subject is an understatement, but of all the World War I literature I have read, I found his story most peculiarly told. It moves fast, as would be expected for its brief 109 pages, but some of the subjects Echenoz focuses on, such as the furniture in Blanche's room, or the litany of edible and non-edible animals available in the trenches, my seem trivial handled by another author. But, he creates his own form of interest, succeeding well.
'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.
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Format: Kindle Edition
This novella is a quick read that is beautifully and simply written but also dramatic and deeply emotional.

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.
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This book follows the lives of five young men, friends from the same village in France, before, during and after The Great War. It is real, not overly sentimental, yet packs an emotional punch. The book is quite short--less than 100 pages--but very effective.
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How can you say you "like" a book that put you in the battles and trenches of a terrible war? But this novel had a distance to it that made it tolerable without losing the reader's empathy. Good characterization, great descriptions, very fast read.
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A graceful, poignant, realistic, and ultimately sad account of a young Frenchman at the dawn of WWI. This 100 page novella reveals a more serious side to Echenoz whose "I'm Gone" I just finished and found to be highly entertaining, wholly original in style and inspired my purchase of 1914.
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.
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