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The Attempt

by Magdaléna Platzová

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I started this book but i've lost it in my house somewhere. Once found, I will finish it and write a review. ( )
  dianeham | May 27, 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 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 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The Attempt by Magdalena Platzova is really 2 stories intertwining. One of a modern day Czech in his late 30's who goes to New York City on a scholarship to study history, at least that is the precept. He really wants to be there to pursue the possibility that he is the great-grandson of a social-anarchist (Andrei B.) who had made some political and social waves in the early 20th century helping workers to unionize. He believed at one point, in order to make real change, a radical action must be taken. With this in mind he intended to assassinate one of the barons of industry (John C. Kolman) in Pennsylvania. He was unsuccessful, the attempt only wounding the man but putting Andrei in prison for 14 years after which he was deported back to post WWI Europe. In this thread of narrative, the protagonist investigates the family of the baron, finding fabulous wealth and deep sadness. I found this first thread to be disjointed. I never found the connection between the protagonist and the family.

The second story is going back in time and following bits of the life of Andrei B.; a snippet from the early 1900's in the United States, his attempted assassination and subsequent time in prison, his deportation and the upset of seeing the USSR in the early 1920's - how the revolution had failed, and then his final days in the 1930's in France.

I wanted more of the story of Andrei; the social-anarchism of the time period is so important in understanding modern European history. For me, this was the meat of the book and for this alone I recommend reading. It is a human story with struggles, although almost 100 years ago, parallel political and social struggles we are facing today. ( )
  PallanDavid | Apr 13, 2016 |
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