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In Paradise Hardcover – Deckle Edge, April 8, 2014
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An Amazon Best Book of the Month, April 2014: Peter Matthiessen, three-time National Book Award winner and esteemed author of both fiction and nonfiction, has never backed away from writing about difficult subjects. In his new novel In Paradise, he sets his story in the mid-'90s at a spiritual retreat at Auschwitz. The novel centers around Clements Olin, an American academic of Polish decent who has traveled to the concentration camp for reasons both spiritual and personal. While Olin makes his own journey, dealing with the bouts of sadness, horror, and absurdity--and even occasional joy--that accompany such a retreat, we are introduced to a group of characters all experiencing their own version of observance and remembrance. The result is a novel that is as profound as anything that Matthiessen has written before. --Chris Schluep
Praise for Peter Matthiessen:
“You could well school yourself as a young American writer, in the early 21st century, by reading and then rereading the works of Peter Matthiessen. But of course he wasn't just a writer's writer; he was for all readers. He was for the world.” --National Geographic
Praise for IN PARADISE:
“Matthiessen’s descriptions are poetic and scarifying…he creates indelible vignettes about what remains and what took place here. Like the rest of Matthiessen’s vast body of work, “In Paradise” leads us into questions that define our most profound mysteries.”--The Washington Post
“The beauty of [In Paradise] comes in [Matthiessen’s] powerful descriptions. With his command of the language, he can add something new and profound to that vast library of Holocaust literature. In Paradise allows Peter Matthiessen to once again demonstrate that he remains one of our most powerful writers.”--The Miami Herald
“The conflict between the drama of the self and its surrender in the shadow of the Holocaust is Matthiessen's bold subject...powerful.” –New York Review of Books “Peter Matthiessen's In Paradise is a deeply intelligent study of Holocaust remembrance… bleakly funny… [and] eloquent” --The Wall Street Journal
“A fitting coda to [Matthiessen’s] career… Where better to look for some sort of human essence than in a landscape that embodies us at our worst?...This is the key message of Matthiessen’s life and writing -- that we are intricate, thorny, inconsistent, that the lines between good and bad blur within us, that we are capable of anything. The only choice is to remain conscious, to engage with openness.” --Los Angeles Times
“Written with a young man’s energy, In Paradise possesses an old man’s wisdom, which eschews the presumptions of age and the easy attainment of certitude." –The Daily Beast “In Paradise is a fitting final addition to Matthiessen's oeuvre, in that it combines moral seriousness and imagination grounded in the world with elegance of expression and a willingness to take risk.” --National Geographic
“[In Paradise] … provides rare insight into the dark magnetism of a brutal landmark. What drives a survivor to return? What inspires conflicted visitors to join hands in spontaneous dancing? Matthiessen’s courage and clarity in addressing this topic [were] signal virtues of his career.” --Newsday
“In Paradise is…contemplative and moving, and in its haunting story of Holocaust survivors who revisit Auschwitz, we find one of the last century’s greatest authors penning a book worthy of his legacy.” --Grantland
“Matthiessen’s writing flexes the same kind of muscularity as others of his generation— Vonnegut, Styron, Doctorow—but his devotion to Zen Buddhism results in a spiritual journey that’s palatable even to the non-spiritual… [his characters] are fully realized people, and within them are the kernels of horror and joy shared by all of humanity” --A.V. Club
“Matthiessen can write with ecstatic beauty… In his new novel, In Paradise, he takes what may be his deepest look yet into the abyss…Profound and fiercely fresh.” --Tampa Bay Times
"An ambitious tale that tries to do nothing less than achieve some understanding of 20th century Europe’s defining event, the Holocaust.” --Buffalo News
“An eloquently written and thought-provoking novel… In Paradise demonstrates that Peter Matthiessen remained a vital part of America’s contemporary literary scene, an unflinching original who continued to write provocative narratives.” --Counterpunch
“Short and austere… Clements’ story and those of the others are anguished inquiries, harrowing reassessments and attempts — emotional, artistic and spiritual — to grasp the ungraspable.” --Minneapolis Star Tribune
“[In Paradise] deftly and ruthlessly pursues the battles that we face, both individually and also in dialogue with others, when we try to engage with horrors that can never be named.” --The Jewish Book Council
“An earnest, informed, often insightful and…subtle novel.” --Christian Science Monitor
“Contains some of the most frightening and passionate writing of Matthiessen’s long career … With In Paradise, Peter Matthiessen has created philosophical and moral cacophony of lasting worth and, indeed, of a strange power. It belongs on the shelf beside At Play in the Fields of the Lord, Far Tortuga, and Shadow Country. Of how many books can that be said?” --Open Letters Monthly
"Not a mere recounting but a persuasive meditation on Auschwitz’s history and mythology...Matthiessen uses scenes of confrontation, recollection, bitterness, and selfexamination to trace aspects of culture that led to the Holocaust and that still reverberate today." --Library Journal (starred review)
"Matthiessen…ponders Auschwitz decades after the Holocaust, in a novel that’s philosophical, mordant and surprisingly romantic…An admirable…study of the meaning of survivorship." --Kirkus Reviews
Top Customer Reviews
So, you’re forewarned about all that.Read more ›
IN PARADISE finds Matthiessen’s talents turned to the Holocaust and the result is a powerful, morally ambiguous examination of our responses to the Shoah. D. Clements Olin is the putative protagonist of the novel, the son of a Polish calvary officer who fled, along with his landed and titled parents, before Germany’s invasion of Poland in the years that preceded World War II. Olin’s mother…well, let’s leave that to the book.
Olin searches for family and emotions. He is a near affectless man, unsuccessful in marriage, marginally competent in his career, which, of course, is academia. Ostensibly he is examining the life of Tadeusz Borowski, a Polish poet who survived the camps only to commit suicide in 1951 three days after the birth of his daughter.
He joins a disparate group that visits Auschwitz and Birkenau. Germans who want to expiate a national guilt, Catholic clergy who bristle at the Church’s blind eye during the Final Solution, Poles who steadfastly claim ignorance of what occurred under their very eyes, and Jews—survivors and others—who return to confirm man’s capacity for evil.
Yet even the survivors are challenged. In surviving the camps many are asked what they had to do to live through the horror. “Reading Borowski was Olin’s first exposure to the swarming scene of terror on this platform, the howls of lost children running everywhere and nowhere ‘like wild dogs,’ the young mother so frantic to be spared that she forsakes the little boy calling Mama! Mama! Who runs behind here (‘Oh no, sir!Read more ›
There is nothing simple about this narrative, though the situation can sound simple: Prof. Olin, a student of modern Slavic literature with a special interest in the works that emerged from the Holocaust, arrives in Poland on his way to Auschwitz, where he is to join (more as an observer than participant, or so he thinks) an ecumenical religious group planning to spend days on the selection ramp, meditating and witnessing on behalf of the murdered millions. Olin (whose family name has a history as that of an aristocratic family, Olinsky, who held property in the vicinity of Oswiecim) is also, secretly, in search of information about his mother, who did not leave for America when Olin's father and grandparents fled.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A return visit to a German concentration camp presents a unique perspective on what it means to be "wholly brokenhearted. Read morePublished 4 days ago by laura
I am an inadvertent reader of Holocaust novels. After *Sophie's Choice* (where NO ONE understood what Sophie's actually was, as no one understood the concept of FREE WILL and... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Fruite & Passion Fan
Very powerful. Deals with the holucaust from a differs perspective. Would be a great book for book club discussionsPublished 2 months ago by Ruth Feldman
In his last book, Peter Matthiessen, one of our great writers, assumes the burden of trying to say something intelligent about Auschwitz. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Richard E. Hayes
I found this a confronting, thought-provoking novel. It is not a hard read - it is a small book and written in a style that makes it very easy to read. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Tony from Melbourne
Very interesting and thought provoking. Every one of the millions murdered during the holocaust had a story of their very own. Read morePublished 5 months ago by jacalyn hunter
My mother said this book is a page turner. She loved this book. She was glued to this book. She said it is a must read.Published 6 months ago by Amber Clio Princess
While this book was a good read, it did not measure up to the development of teh characters as in some of his earlier works. Rest in peace, Peter. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Amazon Customer
excellent book. recommended reading for 20-40 age group.Published 9 months ago by Patricia Blackwell