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Parallel Stories: A Novel Paperback – November 27, 2012

3.5 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Hugely ambitious, breathtakingly inventive.” ―The New York Times

Parallel Stories makes the case [for grandeur] in sheer ambition, unspooling in a vivid succession of epochs and genres---a Cold War thriller, a 1950s Budapest romance---evoking the quests, spiritual and erotic, that link us across time.” ―Vogue

“One of his country's strangest, most ambitious literary achievements.” ―New York magazine

“We're living in Péter Nádas's time now. You'll never read anything else even remotely like Parallel Stories....Enjoy.” ―Slate

About the Author

Péter Nádas was born in Budapest in 1942. Among his works translated into English are the novels A Book of Memories (FSG, 1997), The End of a Family Story (FSG, 1998), and Love (FSG, 2000); a collection of stories and essays, Fire and Knowledge (FSG, 2007); and two pieces of short fiction, A Lovely Tale of Photography and Péter Nádas: Own Death. He lives with his wife in Gombosszeg, Hungary.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 1152 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Reprint edition (November 27, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9781250013903
  • ISBN-13: 978-1250013903
  • ASIN: 1250013909
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.9 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #844,670 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By D. Moulton on November 14, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I find it difficult to talk dispassionately about Nadas. I'm afraid this review may be over personal and self-indulgent. Please excuse me.

About two years ago I first discovered A Book of Memories. What attracted me was the extremely high praise from one Susan Sontag: "The greatest novel of our time, and one of the great books of our century." Of course I took this with a dose of skepticism at first, but as I read I was shocked to find that what seemed like hyperbole turned out to be merely accurate. Memories changed my understanding of what literature is capable of doing. It also changed the way I see the physical world, particularly the world of the body. The copy I own is marked up and battered from over-use. I've read it twice from cover to cover and have developed a regular practice of opening it to a passage at random and reading for insight and inspiration. It's never disappointed me...

Which is all to say that my expectations could not have possibly been higher for Parallel Stories. I read it in a white heat over the course of two weeks. I finished a few nights ago at 3 in the morning and once I had finished I could do nothing but wander around San Francisco in a dazed stupor. In short, I was not disappointed. If Sontag were still alive she'd probably have to qualify her earlier judgment.

To expand a little... Parallel Stories is a very different book from its predecessor. Despite being much longer, on the whole this one is far less dense. Memories is a book of an almost unbearably intense inwardness; disregarding the author's disclaimer, it does seem to have been at least partly autobiographical (a quick investigation into Peter Nadas's life reveals that his father really did kill himself and his mother did die of cancer).
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Format: Hardcover
I haven't been as impressed by a newly published book since Walter Benjamin's Arcades Project appeared a decade ago. And similar to Arcades, this is an almost endless swirl of information, in this case taking the form of stories.

It is difficult to convey the length and complexity of this book. At 1150 pages is seems three times the length of the last novel I read, Murakami's 1Q84 that clocking in at 944 pages. The sentences and vocabulary are rather straight forward. The publisher is FSG, not for example, Dalkey. But this is a universe where the surface layers of the intertwining stories that slowly unfold are juxtaposed by a relentless set of internal monologues that swirl around, over and down...ceaselessly down into the murky world of the subconscious and often violent emotions. This makes for an exceedingly exhausting reading experience. Though at least for this reader the exhaustion was coupled by the exhilaration of the incredible use of language and complexity of the world he creates. A fictional world firmly tethered to history.

Originally published in Hungarian and translated by Imre Goldstein, Nadas' long time translator, I can only praise the two as one being, a single voice. The book is a relentless set of juxtapositions, and the use of language is an integral part of this. One character pursues, stalks another through the street of Budapest. When they meet the stalker thinks to himself what is and isn't "nice." The use of this word in the fraught scene is both trite and offensive. We are seeing the great chasm between what we see and what the characters are thinking, and the hyper-sensitive use of language accentuates these distinctions.

The book consists of 3 volumes divided into 39 chapters.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I came to this novel with high expectations and the novel met those expectations for about 200 pages. The early press on the book promised that Nadas had managed to 'redefine' the possibility of the novel and that Imre Goldstein's translation would be gorgeous. I found that the latter was more reliably true than the former; the prose varied between good and great while Nadas formal innovations were barely innovations.

I'll start with my major problem with the book: it isn't as ambitious as it thinks it is. For all of the comparisons to the classics of European literature such as War and Peace or Magic Mountain, I find that the closest analogue is actually the contemporary American classic Infinite Jest. The obvious similarity is the sheer size of both texts, but the two actually share similar ambitions and similar form. Nadas is trying to make sense of the European experience in the twentieth century before 1989 while Wallace was trying to make sense of the American experience after 1989. I have trouble taking seriously the claims that Nadas makes great formal innovations mostly because almost everything he does here was done better by Wallace. Wallace compared IJ to a fractal in that the novel expressed it's overarching themes through the repetition of those themes over and over again in smaller constituent parts; Nadas is up to something very similar here in his use of the vaguely related parallel stories that give the novel it's title, in that each story repeats the themes of the novel as a whole while creating an web of connections that a careful reader easily grasps. Similarly, both Wallace and Nadas make the decision to push the plot out of the written text. By this I mean that both authors force the reader to connect the dots based on limited information and educated guesses.
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