- Paperback: 656 pages
- Publisher: Vintage; 1st Vintage International ed edition (January 30, 1996)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0679764062
- ISBN-13: 978-0679764069
- Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1.4 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 13 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #367,987 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Sleepwalkers 1st Vintage International ed Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
Spanning some 20 years, Broch's epic trilogy of daily life in Germany established him as an important modernist innovator.
Copyright 1996 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
"The Sleepwalkers bear[s] witness to Broch's possession of something more than acute psychological insight, something other and much rared than a gift for storytelling. Reading them, we are haunted by the strange and disquieting feeling that we are at the very limits of the expressible. . . . Broch performs with an impeccable virtuosity." --Aldous Huxley
"One of the greatest European novels," --Milan Kundera
"One of the few really great original and thoughtful novels of this century." --Stephen Spender
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In The Romantic (1888), a young military officer crosses paths with a rising businessman in the vibrant complex of urban Berlin, as they become common rivals for status and female attention. While Major von Pasenow fusses over matters of custom and propriety in courtship, his regimental ways appear in contrast to Bertrand, the civilian with a more decadent and philosophical attitude to society and romance.
In The Anarchist (1903) Bertrand has become a powerful "capitalist" in Mannheim, facing opposition from a conscientious accountant seeking to avenge the imprisonment of a friend and labor activist. As Esch gains the advantage, Bertrand clings to his philosophical musing as his sexual appetites move to the foreground in a confrontation with moral and tragic significance. The Anarchist concludes, about half-way through the book, with the accountant Esch marrying an inn-keeper and taking her to Luxembourg.
At this point, after digesting a heavy diet of dreary social incidents, the reader may be feeling impressed but a little fatigued and weary of humorless conflict. Broch's characters may seem not much more than profiles in anxiety, confronted with the fragility of their survival, but they are detailed by a writer with a magnificent ability to ride the interface between internal consciousness and external events on a high philosophical level.
With The Realist (1918), we find Broch expanding and dividing his scope, a stylistic change that offers some relief from the congested format that came before, and allows Broch more perspective and digression. Following Hugenau, an Alsatian war deserter, we arrive at a German wine valley near the battle-front, now inhabited by Esch and his wife, publishers of a local newspaper, and von Pasenow who is the aging Town Commandant. Arriving in the midst of warfare, escaping his past and inventing his future, Hugenau brings fraud and ruin to Esch and his associates in the community.
While we see the tragedy of war unfold through the eyes of local citizens, Broch inserts a series of essays on Hugenau, entitled "The Disintegration of Values", composed by an author who refers to himself as Bertrand, now acting as an adjunct narrator of events. Bertrand might appear to represent the views of the author, but I have my doubts about that. While Hugenau is clearly a monster, he is also a survivor, and given Bertrand's role in The Anarchist, his philosophical loftiness has, for me, some of the condescension of an elitist, though perhaps a reformed one.
Modern readers may feel this chronicle resonating with familiar trends in society today. Broch deftly probes his human interiors, and his observations are resolved and rendered with imagination. But there is little optimism to be found as Broch dwells on the limitations, blunders and self-destructive ways of his characters, as they plant their individual seeds in a rotting garden of ignorance, decadence, lost opportunity, and failure.
The translation leaves plenty to wish for, as the Muirs rely heavily on British colloquial forms of speech, and occasionally the rendering of certain passages seems awkward and belabored.
When I stopped reading, I left a bookmark at Chapter XII, Disintegration of Values (I)
Is this distorted life of ours still real? (p. 373)
without a hold on reality they fall into nothingness (p. 373).