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Dagdriverbanden by John Steinbeck

Dagdriverbanden (original 1935; edition 1964)

by John Steinbeck, Kai Friis Møller, Paul Høyrup

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
4,539721,590 (3.8)1 / 276
Authors:John Steinbeck
Other authors:Kai Friis Møller, Paul Høyrup
Info:(Kbh.) : Gyldendal, 1964.
Collections:Your library

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Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck (1935)


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English (59)  French (3)  Norwegian (2)  Finnish (2)  Spanish (2)  Dutch (1)  Italian (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (71)
Showing 1-5 of 59 (next | show all)
This was Steinbeck's first big success, but it came saddled with misinterpretation. He wasn't pleased with critics who thought he was making fun of the lower class in Monterey, California. I fell into the same trap of viewing it as satire, but these characters receive too much narrative respect and the descriptive passages are too beautifully done not to grant there's something deeper. There's a nobility in their readinesss to take life as it comes, and in the care they take to justify their actions.

A parallel to the story of King Arthur's round table is clearly stated in the first chapter, and there's reminders of this when one character or another suddenly spouts dialogue in the fashion of "thees" and "thous", entirely unremarked upon, before lapsing back into normal language. There's also a parallel in the novel's plotting, where each chapter seems like another adventure of these 'knights' and often introduces a new member of the party. The conclusion is therefore apt and inevitable, but tragedy has its flip side and this novel is often just plain funny (the vaccuum cleaner; the plot for pirate treasure; the minor crime wave; etc). Pilon especially is entertaining, and even characters seen in passing can inspire a chuckle (the shopkeeper who puts out his 'Back in 5 minutes' sign and goes home for the day). It's funny because it's real, but all good things must inevitably reach their end. ( )
1 vote Cecrow | Aug 3, 2018 |
another amazing story that was entirely new to me
  frahealee | Dec 3, 2017 |
John Steinbeck: Tortilla Flat

The opening lines of the novel set the tone and structure:

"This is the story of Danny and of Danny's friends and of Danny's house. It is a story of how these three became one thing, so that in Tortilla Flat if you speak of Danny's house, you do not mean a structure of wood flaked with old whitewash, overgrown with an ancient untrimmed rose of Castile. No, when you speak of Danny's house you are understood to mean a unit of which the parts are men, for which came sweetness and joy, philanthropy and, in the end a mystic sorrow."

Danny and his friends, are paisanos, "a mixture of Spanish, Indian, Mexican, and assorted Caucasian bloods". They live in a poor uphill district above the town of Monterey. They basically live to drink rotgut wine. Days are spent figuring out how to steal or earn or sell something for wine, and occasionally food. Stealing is the usual method because they have nothing of value to sell (unless they steal it); earning money, for instance cutting squid in the harbour, is very much a last resort.

Growing up, Danny, "preferred to sleep in the forest, to work on ranches, and to wrest his food and wine from an unwilling world." He is known around town as a character: tough, lawless, and living for the moment. But one day, "he left for all time his old and simple existence", because he inherits two houses. These are poor abodes, but Danny has become a man of property. That counts and that changes him.

Danny rents one house to friends Pablo, Pilon, and Jesus Maria, who never actually pay any rent. When they carelessly burn the house down, they feel an obligation to move in with Danny to take care of him, and they are joined by two other friends, Big Joe Portagee and Pirate. The latter is inseparable from his five dogs who glory in the names: Enrique, Pajarito, Rudolph. Fluff, and Sir Alec Thompson. A series of picaresque adventures follow involving a good deal of drinking, the interactions of the friends constantly living by their wits, jail, and women free in sharing their virtues. In sum, a lifestyle that the good citizens of Monterey would have looked upon with dismay and disdain. Danny and his friends live according to their own rules, however, it is not a lifestyle devoid of norms: Big Joe is nearly beaten to death, quite methodically, when his friends discover that he stole money from one of them; as soon as the beating is over, the friends are solicitous of his well-being, and minister to his wounds.

The men have no material wealth, nor do they desire it. They present an unencumbered tableau in which their needs for caring and friendship play out: "Enough...to do good and to be rewarded by the glow of human brotherhood accomplished." Despite their simple lives and aspirations, the complexities of moral life do not escape them. People may delude themselves concerning their own virtues, and deride those who live differently, but life is not so cut-and-dried:

"It is astounding to find that the belly of every black and evil thing is as white as snow. And it is saddening to discover how the concealed parts of angels are leprous. Honour and peace to Pilon, for he had discovered how to uncover and to disclose to the world the good that lay in every evil thing. Nor was he blind, as so many times saints are, to the evil of good things."

Critical commentary on Tortilla Flat emphasizes parallels with the legend of King Arthur: the force ‎of one man inspiring fealty and love and sacrifice, the power of the group bonded by common purpose, the group living for that purpose by its own codes of conduct. But, once the driving force of the central personality is gone, the group has no further purpose. Danny's life is a cautionary tale of the effects of cohesion founded on a single leader. The traits of commitment and service to a virtuous leader, are the same as those that can lead to sacrifice for, and obeisance to, a tyrant.

Danny is an enigma. He begins to dream of the freedom he enjoyed earlier in life, he sees that his friends never change, he begins to brood over "lost time" when food tasted good because it had been stolen. He moves out of the house and lives wild and alone, stealing and drinking. His friends try to entice him back his old self by throwing the biggest and wildest party ever seen in Tortilla Flat, a party that will be spoken of with awe years later. The excesses of the party feed the excesses of Danny's soul. He becomes "huge and terrible...There was something fearsome about him." No one will take up his challenge to fight, so he goes out, "to The One who can fight. I will find the Enemy who is worthy of Danny!" Everyone is terrified, they hear "his roaring challenge....They heard Danny charge into the fray. They heard his last shrill cry of defiance, and then a thump. And then silence."

To return to the beginning, in the end the, "talismanic bond" embodied in Danny and the house, is broken. The power and identity and coherence that the friends drew from it are gone; without the bond, they are again aimless individuals. The last line of the novel: "And after a while they turned and walked slowly away, and no two walked together."
1 vote John | Jun 28, 2017 |
Tortilla Flat is loosely drawn from the Arthurian Legend and features Danny as King Arthur and a group of his paisano friends as his court. As with the medieval legends, Danny and his friends are at times gallant, ornery, lazy, quirky, moody, foolish, and brilliant in their simple way. The characters are all lovable and comic even when they are doing horrible things that they shouldn't be loved for.

Likewise, the book itself was lovable and a joy to read even when there are parts that should have been uncomfortable. Steinbeck has a wonderful ability to take the grotesque sides of us and make them lovable. In this case, he took the poverty of people living on the outskirts of Monterey, California and all of the poor decisions and bad things that they might do in their circumstance and made them both heroic and comical. This is the brilliance of Steinbeck, and this is a very good book. ( )
1 vote fuzzy_patters | Jan 18, 2017 |
From what I'd read in other criticism and reviews, I expected to be more offended by the representations of Mexicans in this book. Not that there weren't caricatures of some offensive Mexican stereotypes, but the book is so clearly in the vein of satire and folk tales that it's hard to get worked up about. That said, this is early Steinbeck, and the writing doesn't have the compression and unity that make his later work so powerful. Still, there's some decent work here, and more than one good laugh. Ay, Piloncito and his trickster ways. ( )
1 vote jalbacutler | Jan 10, 2017 |
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» Add other authors (23 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Steinbeck, Johnprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bovenkamp, J.G.H. van denTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fensch, ThomasIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gannett, Ruth ChrismanIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McDonough, JohnNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Prins, ApieTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rotten, ElisabethTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vittorini, ElioTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Susan Gregory of Monterey
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This is the story of Danny and of Danny's friends and of Danny's house. (Preface)
When Danny came home from the army he learned that he was an heir and an owner of property.
Big Joe stole Mrs. Palochico's goat over and over again, and each time it went home.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
Adopting the structure and themes of the Arthurian legend, Steinbeck created a "Camelot" on a shabby hillside above the town of Monterey, California, and peopled it with a colorful band of knights. At the center of the tale is Danny, whose house, like Arthur's castle, becomes a gathering place for men looking for adventure, camaraderie, and a sense of belonging. These "knights" are paisanos, men of mixed heritage, whose ancestors settled California hundreds of years before. Free of ties to jobs and other complications of the American way of life, they fiercely resist the corrupting tide of honest toil in the surrounding ocean of civil rectitude.

As Steinbeck chronicles their deeds -- their multiple loves, their wonderful brawls, their Rabelaisian wine-drinking -- he spins a tale as compelling and ultimately as touched by sorrow as the famous legends of the Round Table, which inspired him.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140042407, Mass Market Paperback)

Adopting the structure and themes of the Arthurian legend, Steinbeck created a "Camelot" on a shabby hillside above Monterey on the California coast and peopled it with a colorful band of knights. As Steinbeck chronicles their thoughts and emotions, temptations and lusts, he spins a tale as compelling, and ultimately as touched by sorrow, as the famous legends of the Round Table.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:59 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

In the shabby district called Tortilla Flat above Monterey, California lives a gang whose exploits compare to those of King Arthur's knights.

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