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The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil…

The Ocean at the End of the Lane (original 2013; edition 2014)

by Neil Gaiman

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9,168703516 (4.08)1 / 681
Title:The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Authors:Neil Gaiman
Info:Headline (2014), Paperback, 272 pages
Collections:Read but unowned

Work details

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (2013)

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Showing 1-5 of 691 (next | show all)
Fabulous book! This is one of my favorite Neil Gaiman books. Need to reread it in the future to do a proper review! ( )
  MaraBlaise | May 19, 2019 |
“I liked that. Books were safer than other people anyway.”
“I lived in books more than I lived anywhere else.”

Those two quotes very much represent me, most days! This was a decent read, with the beginning third holding my interest much more than the rest. Fantasy isn't always my cup of tea, but the warmth of the writing, plus the brevity of the story, kept me in the game. That, and the kindness and confidence of the Hempstock women. A nice, short read! ( )
  Stahl-Ricco | May 17, 2019 |
Just like a fairytale with imagery that stays with you ( )
  Deracine | May 1, 2019 |
Gaiman, Neil (2013). The Ocean at the End of the Lane: A Novel. New York: William Morrow. 2013. ISBN 9780062255679. Pagine 259. 10,59 €

Ho già avuto occasione di scrivere, in un post su questo blog, che Neil Gaiman è un autore di culto: o lo si ama, o lo si adora incondizionatamente.

Questo è il suo primo romanzo “per adulti” (sì, perché nel mondo anglosassone – lo sappiamo per averne parlato qui – la letteratura YA, per giovani adulti, è classificata a parte) in quasi 10 anni, dopo Anansi Boys del 2005. Non delude le aspettative, e non sono certo l’unico a dirlo: sul Guardian/Observer l’hanno recensito sia Edward Docx il 26 giugno 2013 (The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman – review – ma non leggetelo perché racconta tutta la storia!) sia Antonia S. Byatt (The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman – review – che secondo me ha capito molto di più, ma che contiene comunque qualche spoiler), Mentre sul NYT l’ha fatto Benjamin Percy il 27 giugno 2013 (It All Floods Back – la recensione che secondo me ha colto meglio la cifra del romanzo).

The Ocean at the End of the Lane è un Bildungsroman alla rovescia, in almeno 2 accezioni.

La prima è efficacemente riassunta nella citazione di Maurice Sendak posta a epigrafe del romanzo:

I remember my own childhood vividly … I knew terrible things. But I knew I mustn’t let adults know I knew. It would scare them.

Essere bambini – e dunque tornare bambini – significa riaprire il libro delle possibilità, quello che si chiude a poco a poco, ogni giorno che viviamo. Il protagonista di questa storia lo sa benissimo («Adults follow paths. Children explore.»).

A questo proposito, con la sua storia Neil Gaiman affronta un tema che era stato di Douglas Coupland in The Gum Thief:

A few years ago it dawned on me that everybody past a certain age – regardless of how they look on the outside – pretty much constantly dreams of being able to escape from their lives. They don’t want to be who they are any more. they want out. [...]
Do you want out? Do you often wish you could be somebody, anybody, other than who you are – the you who holds a job and feeds a family – the you who keeps a relatively okay place to live and who still tries to keep your friendships alive? In other words, the you who’s going to remain pretty much the same until the casket? [...]
I used the phrase “a certain age”. What I mean by this is the age people are in their heads. It’s usually thirty to thirty-four. Nobody is forty in their head. When it comes to your internal age, chin wattles and relentless liver spots mean nothing (Douglas Coupland, The Gum Thief, pp.1-2).

La risposta di Gaiman è però diversa: noi siamo noi a 7 anni, come nel romanzo si adombra più volte – a partire dallo spartiacque della fallimentare festa di compleanno – fino alla considerazione che compare nell’ultimo capitolo, prima dell’epilogo:

A story only matters, I suspect, to the extent that the people in the story change. But I was seven when all of these things happened, and I was the same person at the end of it that I was at the beginning, wasn’t I? So was everyone else. They must have been. People don’t change. [2470: il riferimento è alle posizioni Kindle)

La seconda accezione in cui The Ocean at the End of the Lane è un Bildungsroman alla rovescia è molto più profonda, nel senso più vero e profondo è la ragione d'essere del romanzo, oltre che l'universo in cui esso si sviluppa.

Se proviamo a leggere il romanzo non come una fantasia fantasy (anche se un po' horror) ma come una storia coerente in un universo alternativo al nostro ma coerente. ci troviamo in quella che Benjamin Percy chiama «a kind of quantum physics school of magic» (ve l'avevo detto che è il recensore che, secondo me, ha meglio compreso le correnti sotterranee del Gaiman-pensiero). Il romanzo vi accenna obliquamente, presentandoci la capacità degli Hempstock di tagliare e cucire il continuum spazio-temporale, di incanalare l'energia, di ricordare il big bang. Particolarmente rivelatrice è l'esperienza del protagonista nell'oceano del titolo:

I saw the world I had walked since my birth and I understood how fragile it was, that the reality I knew was a thin layer of icing on a great dark birthday cake writhing with grubs and nightmares and hunger. I saw the world from above and below. I saw that there were patterns and gates and paths beyond the real. I saw all these things and understood them and they filled me, just as the waters of the ocean filled me.
Could there be candle flames burning under the water? There could. I knew that, when I was in the ocean, and I even knew how. I understood it just as I understood Dark Matter, the material of the universe that makes up everything that must be there but we cannot find. I found myself thinking of an ocean running beneath the whole universe, like the dark seawater that laps beneath the wooden boards of an old pier: an ocean that stretches from forever to forever and is still small enough to fit inside a bucket, if you have Old Mrs. Hempstock to help you get it in there, and you ask nicely. [2084-2095]

Oltre alle Hempstock, che ne sono le guardiane e le vestali, soltanto un bambino di 7 anni ha accesso al continuum spazio-temporale che sottende l’universo, alla sua materia oscura (qualche connessione con i mondi paralleli di Philip Pullman?) che sostanzia tutto quello che deve esserci ma non riusciamo a trovare (che gli adulti non riescono a trovare). Soltanto il ritorno, ancorché fugace e subito dimenticato, alla condizione infantile, soltanto la destrutturazione del sé adulto, consente di tornare a quello stadio staminale totipotente che permette di comprendere profondamente la realtà e, soprattutto, le altre persone.

Ultima notazione: sono un vecchio duro, capace di affrontare tutto (quasi tutto, ma questa è un’altra storia) a ciglio asciutto. Ma le ultime pagine di questo romanzo mi hanno commosso.

Correte a leggerlo.

* * *

Qualche piccolo assaggio (consueti riferimenti alla posizione Kindle):

Books were safer than other people anyway. [133]

[…] money, just money, and nothing more. Little tokens-of-work. [609: questa definizione del danaro come token-of-work è una notazione preziosa e profonda, che sembra uscita dal Marx del Manoscritti economico-filosofici del 1844]

“That’s the trouble with living things. Don’t last very long. Kittens one day, old cats the next. And then just memories. And the memories fade and blend and smudge together …” [663]

“Men!” hooted Old Mrs. Hempstock. “I dunno what blessed good a man would be! Nothing a man could do around this farm that I can’t do twice as fast and five times as well.” [1348]

“It’s always too late for sorries […] [1504]

“Nobody actually looks like what they really are on the inside. You don’t. I don’t. People are much more complicated than that. It’s true of everybody.” [1620]

“[…] Never enough of you all together in one place, so there wouldn’t be anything left that would think of itself as an ‘I.’ No point of view any longer, because you’d be an infinite sequence of views and of points …” [2111: bella spiegazione materialistica del sé o, se volete, dell'anima]

“There are pacts, and there are laws and there are treaties, and you have violated all of them.” [2302] ( )
  Boris.Limpopo | Apr 29, 2019 |
Who would think that a few days out of one's childhood could be this gripping and bizarre? Gaiman presents readers with a young boy as the center of this novella, but he is surrounded by powerful, enchanting, and devilish females. ( )
  niquetteb | Apr 26, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 691 (next | show all)
The Ocean at the End of the Lane arouses, and satisfies, the expectations of the skilled reader of fairytales, and stories which draw on fairytales. Fairytales, of course, were not invented for children, and deal ferociously with the grim and the bad and the dangerous. But they promise a kind of resolution, and Gaiman keeps this promise.
added by riverwillow | editThe Guardian, AS Byatt (Jul 3, 2013)
[Gaiman's] mind is a dark fathomless ocean, and every time I sink into it, this world fades, replaced by one far more terrible and beautiful in which I will happily drown.
added by zhejw | editNew York Times, Benjamin Percy (Jun 27, 2013)
The story is tightly plotted and exciting. Reading it feels a lot like diving into an extremely smart, morally ambiguous fairy tale. And indeed, Gaiman's adult protagonist observes at one point that fairy tales aren't for kids or grownups — they're just stories. In Gaiman's version of the fairy tale, his protagonist's adult and child perspectives are interwoven seamlessly, giving us a sense of how he experienced his past at that time, as well as how it affected him for the rest of his life.
added by SimoneA | editNPR, Annalee Newitz (Jun 17, 2013)
Reading Gaiman's new novel, his first for adults since 2005's The Anansi Boys, is like listening to that rare friend whose dreams you actually want to hear about at breakfast. The narrator, an unnamed Brit, has returned to his hometown for a funeral. Drawn to a farm he dimly recalls from his youth, he's flooded with strange memories: of a suicide, the malign forces it unleashed and the three otherworldly females who helped him survive a terrifying odyssey. Gaiman's at his fantasy-master best here—the struggle between a boy and a shape-shifter with "rotting-cloth eyes" moves at a speedy, chilling clip. What distinguishes the book, though, is its evocation of the powerlessness and wonder of childhood, a time when magic seems as likely as any other answer and good stories help us through. "Why didn't adults want to read about Narnia, about secret islands and ... dangerous fairies?" the hero wonders. Sometimes, they do.

» Add other authors (40 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Gaiman, Neilprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Coder, LaneCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Johnson, AdamCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kerner, Jamie LynnDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McKean, DaveIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sasscer, AshleeCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"I remember my own childhood vividly ... I knew terrible things. But I knew I mustn't let adults know I knew. It would scare them."

Maurice Sendak, in conversation with Art Spiegelman,
The New Yorker, September 27, 1993
For Amanda,
who wanted to know
First words
It was only a duck pond, out at the back of the farm. It wasn't very big.
Books were safer than other people anyway.
You don't pass or fail at being a person, dear.
Lettie Hempstock said it was an ocean, but I knew that was silly. She said they'd come here across the ocean from the old country.
Her mother said that Lettie didn't remember properly, and it was a long time ago, and anyway, the old country had sunk.
I do not remember asking adults about anything, except as a last resort.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
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Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (2)

Book description
When a middle-aged man returns to his childhood home in Sussex, England, for a funeral he remembers frightening childhood memories relating to the neighbor girl who promised to protect him from the darkness unleashed by a suicide at the pond at the end of their street.

It began for our narrator forty years ago when the family lodger stole their car and committed suicide in it, stirring up ancient powers best left undisturbed. Dark creatures from beyond this world are on the loose, and it will take everything our narrator has just to stay alive: there is primal horror here, and menace unleashed - within his family and from the forces that have gathered to destroy it.

His only defence is three women, on a farm at the end of the lane. The youngest of them claims that her duckpond is an ocean. The oldest can remember the Big Bang.

THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE is a fable that reshapes modern fantasy: moving, terrifying and elegiac - as pure as a dream, as delicate as a butterfly's wings, as dangerous as a knife in the dark - from the storytelling genius of Neil Gaiman.
Haiku summary
Adult narrator
remembers childhood events
when seven years old.

No descriptions found.

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It began for our narrator forty years ago when the family lodger stole their car and committed suicide in it, stirring up ancient powers best left undisturbed. Dark creatures from beyond the world are on the loose, and it will take everything our narrator has just to stay alive: there is primal horror here, and menace unleashed - within his family and from the forces that have gathered to destroy it. His only defense is three women, on a farm at the end of the lane. The youngest of them claims that her duckpond is ocean. The oldest can remember the Big Bang.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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