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The Attempt by Magdaléna…

The Attempt

by Magdaléna Platzová

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357488,563 (3.7)1
"The Attempt is historical fiction at its best. Through its narrator's archival approach to his material, the book explores the intimate lives of a pair of fervent idealists, as well as a robber baron and his family. The result is a vivid, poignant narrative about political upheaval, both in the past and the present." --SIRI HUSTVEDT, author ofThe Blazing World When a Czech historian becomes convinced he's the illegitimate great-grandson of an infamous anarchist who attempted an assassination while living in the United States, he travels to New York to investigate. Arriving in Manhattan during the height of the Occupy Wall Street movement, his research takes him further back into the past--from the Pittsburgh home of a nineteenth-century US industrialist to 1920s Europe, where a celebrated anarchist couple is on the run from the law. Based on the lives of Alexander Berkman and Emma Goldman,The Attempt is a novel about the legacy of radical politics and relationships--one that traverses centuries and continents to deliver a moving, powerful story of personal and political transformation. Magdaléna Platzová is the author of six books, including two novels published in English:Aaron's Leap, a Lidové Noviny Book of the Year Award finalist, andThe Attempt, a Czech Book Award finalist. Her fiction has also appeared inA Public Space andWords Without Borders. Platzová grew up in the Czech Republic, studied in Washington, DC, and England, received her MA in Philosophy at Charles University in Prague, and has taught at New York University's Gallatin School. She is now a freelance journalist based in Lyon, France.… (more)



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I received this uncorrected proof from a LibraryThing early reviewers giveaway. The story has an interesting premise: a European historian wants to find out if he is related to an anarchist and goes to America to research the family of which the anarchist made an attempt at assassinating the industrialist head. The story, as all family stories are, is very convoluted, with secrecy and eccentrics adding to the mystery. Unfortunately, the side stories going on tend to crowd out the interesting premise and caused me to lose my interest. It was perfect timing to receive the book as I am learning about 19th and 20th century Europe history, but it just didn't hold together very well for me. I may attempt reading it again. It's possible that something was lost in the translation from Czech. ( )
  Savta | Jun 3, 2016 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
A quietly intelligent book for readers of literary fiction. ( )
  GermaineShames | May 16, 2016 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This book is so well written in it's English translation, I wish I cold understand The Czech and read the original writing.

The story begins and ends at an Occupy Wall Street Rally in New York City. A Czech historian believes he may be related to an anarchist that lived in the early 20th century and comes to America to look into the actions of his great-great Grandfather who attempted to assassinate a wealthy industrialist in Pittsburgh. The story is based upon the lives of Alexander Berkman and Emma Goldman, and the "legacy" of radical politics and relationships. The Czech historian, Jan, interviews surviving members of he industrialists family and it's apparent to him that two worlds clashed for his alleged great-great Grandfather. The world of the rich and famous versus that of the humble world of the anarchist trying to change the world with a senseless act of violence many years before. While the poor anarchist has many issues to deal with, a look behind the veil at the lives of the industrialist's family show problems that are strikingly similar, regardless of class, or wealth.

The reader will be left with many questions on the true nature of political change, social order, religious repression and distribution of wealth. Revolutions have happened in the world because of these issues and were brought about by anarchists, but, it's questionable that these really made conditions more equitable for the people, or, "if one form of power is simply replaced by another." Most revolutions are as well intentioned but man's inherent imperfections, undoubtedly, continue to express themselves in the new social order in some way, if change is achieved. After the revolution "it's original purpose has been forgotten, the fervor is all that lasts."

The novel is somewhat dark, both in characters and plot. Did these people sacrifice their lives for any real change in the nature of man or how he's governed, or were they merely intellectual promoters of a culture of change. Did they raise issues that were relevant to a society that hardly noticed them, and when it did, they were simply deported to another, and then another country. Out of the darkness, Andrei, the anarchist character, says that "it is precisely that need to have an ideal to fight for which every member of the human species shares in common, that I see is our only hope. But, if humanity could get behind an ideal that was good, we could enjoy the greatest prosperity in our history." No words need be added that could make that ideal more impactful to our present times.

The defining moment of the novel, the attempted assassination cost Andrei 14 years of his life, and in the end, prison was the only home he felt secure in during his remaining life. Anarchists have been part of humanity since it's beginning, and if true, Andrei claims that at some point everyone is an anarchist in their heart. It's evident their search for something better, something more congruent with man's free will, is a noble search, particularly during the period covered in the book. In spite of costing him 14 years of his life, and deportation from several countries, no change took place; however, fate has dealt the industrialist's family justice because of their greed. While they seek atonement for the actions of their father, and grandfather, their empty actions simply bring them more unhappiness.

At a time when our rights are so important, so vital to our future, this novel is highly recommended. ( )
  drawoh2014 | Apr 17, 2016 |
This is a very intriguing book. It was a little slow to start but has held my attention until the end. This book lets you follow the rise and fall of anarchism. The characters are phenomenal and exciting. A good read.
  Catllm2005 | Apr 15, 2016 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
As always, thanks so much to Bellevue Literary Press and to LT.

To me, this is a novel that is less plot driven rather than idea driven. Idealism, anarchy (in different forms), freedom and transformation occupy its pages. It is a book that (in my opinion) is really more for out of the box sort of thinkers rather than those who are heavily dependent on plot lines. But I think aside from a few issues, it's a really good one, encompassing both modern and historical times. And by the way -- the second half of the book is about a thinly-disguised Alexander Berkman and Emma Goldman. John C. Kolman here (the subject of "the attempt") is also a stand-in of sorts for wealthy industrialist Henry Clay Frick, whose disregard for ordinary people not of his own class helped to cause the Johnstown Flood disaster of 1889. Parallels abound in this novel.

In this book, the driving force (to me) is a true desire for freedom. What I'm taking away from this is that an anarchist may be more than just someone who is all about bomb throwing, violence, and assassinations. There are also anarchists who can, without violence, refuse to be subjugated, who reject the status quo of the power hierarchy, and who try to affect change to transform the system and themselves. I liked this one, and I liked it a lot. It's very different, which is a good thing. ( )
1 vote bcquinnsmom | Apr 13, 2016 |
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