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Parallel Stories by Péter Nádas
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Parallel Stories (2005)

by Péter Nádas

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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265964,762 (3.75)12
  1. 00
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English (7)  German (2)  All languages (9)
Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
The flammable human colloid gathered in the ditches, fat and marrow arranged in fine layers according to their relative density; the religion teach or the retired banker watched as fires burst to life with fat and flames flaring up from the depths.

This particular scene is not indicative of the spiralling core of Parallel Stories. The novel's soul is of a softer vice, one more suggestive, dispiriting and, often, spermy.

The action occurs largely in Budapest and Berlin, though other destinations in Hungary and Germany are featured. There are three timelines: 1) both before and during the Second World War, 2) 1956 and 3) 1989. The prose floats from scene to scene, often returning to an earlier situation but from a different perspective, gradually something else occurs. Associations are made. Narratives are linked. Accounts unravel and are dispelled. Sins are not confessed. Doubts linger. A Cubist gestalt doesn't quite triumph, but a sense-making (to paraphrase Herr H) stains as it signifies.

I read most of this while in Berlin, most of which over a single weekend as I was recovering from a classic case of cobble-hobbled knee. I was asked about the book by my mother-in-law. She asked with a smile. I had just read an account of a shadowy orgy in a filthy public restroom. I sensed she KNEW. I blushed and felt dirty.

There are a host of disorders swimming through the protagonists. Despite the grotesque trappings, none of those afflcited appeared contrived, nor entirely foreign. Péter Nádas has a penned an ugly work, one which may be one of the most important novels of the last 20 years. ( )
  jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |
Ich glaube es kaum, ich habe es geschafft. 1724 Seiten sind gelesen - und die waren nun wirklich keine Wonne. Wer immer sich an dieses Buch heranwagt, der/dem sollte klar sein, dass es sich um keine durchgängige Geschichte handelt. Einzelne Personen bzw. Familien tauchen zwar immer wieder auf, doch stets wird auch die Gelegenheit genutzt, den Spuren anderer Personen zu folgen. Hauptsächlich ereignen sich die Begebenheiten in Ungarn zu Ende der 60er Jahre und kurz oder während des Ungarnaufstandes 1956/57 sowie in Deutschland kurz vor (oder nach) der Jahrtausendwende und während des Dritten Reiches. Die Geschichten springen hin und her und das einzig Verbindende sind insbesondere im ersten und zweiten Teil die Fixiertheit des Autors auf die Beschäftigung mit Geschlechtsorganen und der Verdauungstätigkeit. Ach ja, und die fast durchgehend meist zutiefst unglücklichen Protagonisten, eingebunden in Zwänge und Pflichten die sie nicht wollen. Zudem sind sie fast alle zumindest latent schwul oder lesbisch. So etwas mag im Einzelfall vielleicht schön zu lesen sein, aber über 1724 Seiten wieder und wieder - sorry, das ist einfach nervig.
Falls es so etwas wie einen roten Faden oder einen Mittelpunkt gibt, ist der vielleicht am ehesten bei der Familie Lehr aus Budapest zu finden. Professor Lehr, frührer Berater der Nazis, jetzt der Kommunisten, liegt im Sterben. Seine unglückliche Ehefrau Erna trauert der Liebe zu einer Niederländerin nach, die einzige Tochter wurde verschleppt und tauchte nie wieder auf und Agóst, der einige Sohn, lebt seit seiner Rückkehr aus dem Ausland, wo er als Spion arbeitete, mit seiner momentanen Freundin Gyöngyver wieder daheim. Dazu kommt noch Kristof, der Neffe Ernas, dessen Mutter mit einer Frau nach Paris verschwand und dessen Vater von seinen Genossen hingerichtet wurde. Er träumt von Erlebnissen mit Männern, traut sich aber kaum, diese Träume auch zu verwirklichen. Gyöngyver träumt von einer Karriere als Sängerin, bisher aber recht erfolglos und fühlt sich erstaunlicherweise von Erna angezogen, wie auch andersherum. Dann gibt es noch Agósts Freunde, von denen aus eine Verbindung ins Dritte Reich besteht, die ebenfalls erzählt wird. Ernas Kartenrunde, ein deutsches KZ mit Wärtern und Aufsehern, deren Nachkommen ebenfalls eine Rolle spielen undundund. Dies könnten alles wirklich spannende und unterhaltende Geschichten sein, wenn Nádas nicht so unglaublich langatmig erzählen würde. 50 Seiten über einen Geschlechtsakt, der weder unterhaltsam noch erotisch ist sondern schlicht sachlich technisch und unterkühlt. Seitenlange Pseudobeziehungsgespräche oder Selbstreflexionen, die ohne Ergebnis enden - 700 bis 800 Seiten weniger hätten dem Buch sicherlich gut getan.
Dass Nádas jedoch gut erzählen kann, merkt man auch in diesem Mammutwälzer: Einzelne Kapitel sind packend und fesselnd erzählt und immer wieder kommt es vor, dass man vor Spannung oder Abscheu die Luft anhält. Leider viel zu selten.
Zuguterletzt kann ich nur noch schreiben dass ich hoffe, dass der Autor nicht dieselbe Überzeugung hat, die dieses Buch mir vermittelt. Dass die Menschen grundsätzlich triebhafte Lebewesen sind, die nur durch Zwänge von außen bzw. selbstauferlegte unter Kontrolle zu halten sind. Fallen diese Zwänge weg, bricht das Animalische aus, dass sich ansonsten nur beim Sex oder diesen vielfach beschriebenen Verdauungstätigkeiten einen Weg bahnt. Und dieses Animalische endet dann in einer Katastrophe, wie uns das Schicksal Balters im letzten Kapitel zeigt, oder beispielsweise die Geschichte der Juden im Dritten Reich. Denn machten sich die Nazis nicht frei? Arbeit macht frei? ( )
  Xirxe | Dec 2, 2014 |
For a more detailed review of Parallel Stories, I’ll insist that you read Tod’s review here on Goodreads and Scott Esposito’s wonderful review—and one with which I agree wholeheartedly—in the Barnes & Noble Review.

Nádas has certainly written a monumental exploration of time, history, belonging, estrangement, and how the personal and the political affect individuals and their relationships with others. Roughly speaking, Parallel Stories centralizes the Lippy-Lehr and the Dohring families, exploring main members of each family, their lovers and more distant relations, their friends, and even the friends of their friends.

While such a project, especially one of this length, could easily have been labeled a group of short stories with a loose theme tying them all together, Nádas does indeed succeed at making Parallel Stories a novel. However, if his claim—as he has stated—was to create “a monument to incompleteness,” the length of this novel is a problem: there is nothing that warrants such a lengthy examination (which results, at some points in iterative narrative arcs and redundant—because they are repeated so often—flashbacks in history), and this novel would have greatly benefited from a more concise and less broad structure.

There are some Proustian moments here, an author with whom Nádas is often compared; but whereas Proust’s project actually solicits the volumes it takes for his narrator to reach the end of the Recherche, nothing in Parallel Stories does. The philosophical investigations here on time, history, individuality, isolation, desire, and self-annihilation do have their moments of brave insight and often prophetic assessments of our relation to our histories and to history itself, but Nádas often loses track quickly and focuses (almost solely) on the body, defecation, fluids, and sex. I agree with Scott Espositio’s review to which I’ve linked above in that these Proustian moments are mixed with a kind of nineteenth-century realism which seems at odds with Nádas’s project entirely, and so this works to make Parallel Stories a less effective work—mixing experimental, nonlinear writing with more cliched and hackneyed plot lines—than had Nádas stayed within the medium of memory and shifting temporalities.
 ( )
  proustitute | Jul 17, 2014 |
For a more detailed review of Parallel Stories, I’ll insist that you read Tod’s review here on Goodreads and Scott Esposito’s wonderful review—and one with which I agree wholeheartedly—in the Barnes & Noble Review.

Nádas has certainly written a monumental exploration of time, history, belonging, estrangement, and how the personal and the political affect individuals and their relationships with others. Roughly speaking, Parallel Stories centralizes the Lippy-Lehr and the Dohring families, exploring main members of each family, their lovers and more distant relations, their friends, and even the friends of their friends.

While such a project, especially one of this length, could easily have been labeled a group of short stories with a loose theme tying them all together, Nádas does indeed succeed at making Parallel Stories a novel. However, if his claim—as he has stated—was to create “a monument to incompleteness,” the length of this novel is a problem: there is nothing that warrants such a lengthy examination (which results, at some points in iterative narrative arcs and redundant—because they are repeated so often—flashbacks in history), and this novel would have greatly benefited from a more concise and less broad structure.

There are some Proustian moments here, an author with whom Nádas is often compared; but whereas Proust’s project actually solicits the volumes it takes for his narrator to reach the end of the Recherche, nothing in Parallel Stories does. The philosophical investigations here on time, history, individuality, isolation, desire, and self-annihilation do have their moments of brave insight and often prophetic assessments of our relation to our histories and to history itself, but Nádas often loses track quickly and focuses (almost solely) on the body, defecation, fluids, and sex. I agree with Scott Espositio’s review to which I’ve linked above in that these Proustian moments are mixed with a kind of nineteenth-century realism which seems at odds with Nádas’s project entirely, and so this works to make Parallel Stories a less effective work—mixing experimental, nonlinear writing with more cliched and hackneyed plot lines—than had Nádas stayed within the medium of memory and shifting temporalities.
 ( )
  proustitute | Jul 17, 2014 |
"Parallel straight lines are straight lines which, being in the same plane and being produced indefinitely in both directions, do not meet one another in either direction."
-Euclid, The Elements

A fitting title, Parallel Stories. This myriad of characters endures through the same torrents of history, somehow, but they never really meet. This big brick is already getting comparisons to War and Peace, and I felt compelled to see for myself.

Adorno is famous for saying there can be no art after the Holocaust. Some are tempted to say he was right. Old style visions of beauty and form and the old-Burke 'sublime and beautiful' definitions are sidelined, or far distant from our present reality they are unrecognizable (Lem, etc.). But that's not for me to say.

Instead, we see many distorted, mournful, shrieking works, from the angry screechings of Russian parallel cinema, to the discordant compositions of Ligeti, Penderecki, and Xenakis, the bloodlands of Eastern Europe after the Nazis and the Soviets have produced a frightening and tragic corpus.

So to the actual book. It starts with a murder, and wanders and traces a sticky path through the 20th century ,moving from character to character, with some of the most tenuous links between them, and the backdrop of history rages on, from the Arrow Cross to the Hammer and Sickle.

The other backdrop to the novel, apart from history is the stench. Let me clarify for a minute here. The author does not hesitate nor shy away from history, nor does he shy away from the disgusting, the sticky, the intimate scenes of the characters' lives, from homosexual liaisons to lovers to the one part where a prisoner is covered in shit on a train car. Not too much of the other body functions, but there is a large, perhaps uncomfortable amount of sex. Is it obscene? Perhaps, as much as the history is. It does serve as a very thorough and intimate-as-close-as-possible view of the characters heads.

The psychology of the novel is amazing, and too dense for some. The filtering of tragedy and love through these characters' heads is astonishing. Make sure to keep a list handy, to keep track of them all.

This is an astonishing and inimitable read. Those with soft stomachs need not apply. The damn thing is haunting my dreams. ( )
  HadriantheBlind | Mar 30, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Nádas, PéterAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Goldstein, ImreTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Es ist mir das Gleiche, woher ich ausgehe; denn dort werde ch auch ankommen.
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Noch in dem denkwürdigen Jahr, als die berühmte Berliner Mauer fiel stiess man unweit der verwitterten Marmorstatue der Königin Louise auf eine Leiche. Ein paar Tage vor Weihnachten trug sich das zu.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374229767, Hardcover)

A New York Times Notable Book for 2011
 
In 1989, the year the Wall came down, a university student in Berlin on his morning run finds a corpse on a park bench and alerts the authorities. This scene opens a novel of extraordinary scope and depth, a masterwork that traces the fate of myriad Europeans—Hungarians, Jews, Germans, Gypsies—across the treacherous years of the mid-twentieth century.

Three unusual men are at the heart of Parallel Stories: Hans von Wolkenstein, whose German mother is linked to secrets of fascist-Nazi collaboration during the 1940s; Ágost Lippay Lehr, whose influential father has served Hungary’s different political regimes for decades; and András Rott, who has his own dark record of mysterious activities abroad. The web of extended and interconnected dramas reaches from 1989 back to the spring of 1939, when Europe trembled on the edge of war, and extends to the bestial times of 1944–45, when Budapest was besieged, the Final Solution devastated Hungary’s Jews, and the war came to an end, and on to the cataclysmic Hungarian Revolution of October 1956. We follow these men from Berlin and Moscow to Switzerland and Holland, from the Mediterranean to the North Sea, and of course, from village to city in Hungary. The social and political circumstances of their lives may vary greatly, their sexual and spiritual longings may seem to each of them entirely unique, yet Péter Nádas’s magnificent tapestry unveils uncanny reverberating parallels that link them across time and space.This is Péter Nádas’s masterpiece—eighteen years in the writing, a sensation in Hungary even before it was published, and almost four years in the translating. Parallel Stories is the first foreign translation of this daring, demanding, and momentous novel, and it confirms for an even larger audience what Hungary already knows: that it is the author’s greatest work.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:02 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

The agendas of three European men with dubious political histories converge in the aftermath of an 1989 death linked to the fates of myriad Hungarians, Jews, Germans and Gypsies across the treacherous years of the mid-twentieth century.

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