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A casa dos encontros by Martin Amis

A casa dos encontros (original 2006; edition 2006)

by Martin Amis

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6992413,584 (3.45)28
Title:A casa dos encontros
Authors:Martin Amis
Info:Vigo : Galaxia , 2006.
Collections:Read but unowned
Tags:Rússia - novel·les, Gulag, Autors anglosaxons, En gallec, Ficció

Work details

House of Meetings by Martin Amis (Author) (2006)


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English (22)  Greek (1)  Danish (1)  Portuguese (1)  All languages (25)
Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
It's easily the best Amis book I've read. A little unsatisfactory in resolving some plot questions, but overall a very compelling novel. ( )
  ptdilloway | Nov 21, 2013 |

There were conjugal visits in the slave camps of the USSR. Valiant women would travel continental distances, over weeks and months, in the hope of spending a night, with their particular enemy of the people, in the House of Meetings. The consequences of these liaisons were almost invariably tragic. House of Meetings is about one such liaison. It is a triangular romance: two brothers fall in love with the same girl, a nineteen-year-old Jewess, in Moscow, which is poised for pogrom in the gap between the war and the death of Stalin. Both brothers are arrested, and their rivalry slowly complicates itself over a decade in the slave camp above the Arctic Circle.


To be brutally honest here I wasn't expecting a whole barrel of laughs from Amis. In that respect he didn't disappoint. What I was expecting though after reading various comments on the book..........

'Amis draws on his considerable talent, intelligence, compassion and anger in this outstanding short novel' -- Irish Times

`Amis engages compellingly and eloquently with the "Russian Soul"'
-- The Sunday Telegraph

`Amis writes with enough force to entertain even while describing depravity'
-- Telegraph

`Amis' mini Russian epic... is audacious, shocking and the best thing he's done in years' -- Evening Standard

`Martin Amis is always essential reading' -- The Times

`Some of the best, most highly charged prose of Amis's career' -- Guardian

`This is the most enjoyable Amis novel for some time' -- Sunday Herald

...... was a book that interested me, both in respect of his characters and their experiences in the Soviet Gulag. This didn't happen in either instance.

I couldn't have cared less - in fact after about 50 pages into this short novel I was fervently wishing that the brothers and anyone they crossed paths with had been exterminated on page 1 or 2...........at which point the book could have hopefully ended.

Had it been twice the length, I would have been severely tempted to give up on it, something I'm loathe to do for several reasons.

A) It feels like the author has beaten me.

B) The book might just get better, if I read a few pages more, it will turn a corner surely.

C) A quest for understanding - a bit like the emperor's clothes if all these other people see gold why am I viewing coal dust? What aren't I getting?

Previously I have read Amis's non-fiction book, The Second Plane, which was a collection of articles and essays he wrote about post-9/11. This was readable and enjoyable and interesting - everything that House Of Meetings wasn't.

Maybe I lack understanding, intellect or acumen.........to get what he was driving at in the book. If so, it's not something I'll lose any sleep over. There are hundreds of other books on my TBR Mountain that I will enjoy much more.

What does concern me slightly, and I have no-one else to blame but myself, is the 10 or so other Amis books on the pile to be read......Pregnant Widow, Dead Babies, Yellow Dog, Money etc etc............they can't all be as turgid can they?

In summary, in case I have sat on the fence here......an absolute stinker of a book.

Quite the worst thing I've read since Kerouac's Lonesome Traveller earlier this year.

1 from 5

I paid a pound for this at a charity shop, which on reflection was about 90p too much. ( )
  col2910 | Jun 7, 2013 |
As I finish this novel, I am left with nothing less than a feeling of having being stunned. The manner, in which the main character recounts events, suggests a soul delving that leaves everything bare; including the souls of the two people closest to him - a former wife and his dead brother. Told in the first person, the protagonist seeks to explain himself to a daughter, who will read the text posthumously; parallels abound in truths received after his own brother's death. It's not an easy read, but it is well worth the struggle. ( )
  bsiemens | May 5, 2013 |
It's always difficult for me to read books where I don't like the protagonist, especially when the novel is written in first person perspective. This one is sort of like that..I mean, the protagonist actually admits to raping all of these women and being brutish to others while put in a prison camp in Russia. He's tough and yet he's quite human too. This is the end of his life and he's looking back on it for perspective and relating all of this to his daughter as he's hungover and readying himself for death. It's an epic journey he takes us on, even if the length of the book is only a mere 240 pages long. It walks you through memories of a much more distant era of Stalin into the more present day hold up at Middle School Number One because of the conflict between Chechnya and Russia.

I also really love the writing style itself. Some of the metaphors and language overall is very effective..

Some quotes I like:

pg 13-14 "When you are old, noise comes to you as pain. Cold comes to you as pain. It wasn't like that when I was young. The wake-up: that hurt, and went on hurting more and more. But the cold didn't hurt. By the way, try crying and swearing above the Arctic Circle in winter. All your tears will freeze fast, and even your obscenities will turn to droplets of ice and tinkle to your feet. It weakened us, it profoundly undermined us, but it didn't come to us as pain. It answered something. It was like a searchlight playing over the universe of our hate."

pg 92 "Never mind for now about famine, flood, pestilence, and war: If God really cared about us, he would have never given us religion. But this loose syllogism is easily exploded, and all questions of theodicy simply disappear-if God is a Russian."

pg 98 "Boredom is no longer the absence of emotion. It is itself an emotion , and a violent one. A silent tantrum of boredom."

pg. 122 "The massacre of the laughing men. I knew then that massacres want to happen. Massacres want there to be massacres."

pg.143 "You know, I can't find a Russian who believes it: "We wanted the best but it turned out as always." I can't find a Russian who believes that. They didn't want the best or so every Russian believes. They wanted what they got. They wanted the worst."

pg 207 "The planet has a bald patch and its central point is the Kombinat. There are no living trees in any direction for over a hundred versts. But some of the dead ones are still standing. Typically, two leafless, twigless branches remain; they point, not upward or outward, but downward, and meet at the trunk. Seen from a distance, the trees look like survivors of a concentration camp, wandering out to be counted, and shielding their shame with their hands. Above them, the watchtowers of the cableless pylons."

pg 238-239 "I had reached the end of philosophy: I knew how to die. And men don't know how to do that. It might even be that all the really staggering male exertions, both great and base, are brought on by this single incapacity. No other animal is asked to form an attitude to its own extinction. This is horribly difficult for us, and may be thought to mitigate our general notoriety...You need mass emotion-to know how to die." ( )
  kirstiecat | Mar 31, 2013 |
I don't think anyone can deny that Amis' writerly powers are extraordinary; sentence by sentence he's one of the finest English stylists ever. He wins the war against cliche--nukes cliche to dust--and I would scrounge through his trash to read his grocery list.

Yet I want to trot out cliches about his books: his vision is keen, incisive, crystal clear...yet terribly fucking bleak. I wonder where his heart is in all of this. So I could say that the blood is clearly infused into the rhythms of his sentences, the Nabokovian brilliance of his imagery, the structure of his paragraphs. But where's the love? It can't all be tied up in language and black humor.

But if love were chinks of sunshine pressing through the clouds, he has a place to hide behind through 240-odd pages: a character to hide behind genius language, as if avoiding that sunshine in the guise of a novel. Confessing everything to his privileged daughter of the west, the main character is a gulag-survivor, a professional rapist, a soldier of WWII, an older brother. But dare I say it may be easy for Amis to hide here, in this grotto of depravity, considering that subject matter. House of Meetings attempts to swallow the entire Russian character, as if Russia were the main character, and her victims were her people, and all that was and is a literary creation, from Pushkin to Amis, are her victims as well; Amis, through his confessional, seems to say: Russia did this to our characters, to her people. It made us live a nightmare and we are the wandering ghosts of that fatal nightmare.

This is a cruel book. If you get through it to the end, the letter from his brother lets the light in. But it's brief and blinding.

( )
1 vote pessoanongrata | Mar 30, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
House of Meetings is short, the prose is controlled, the humor sparse, while the characters strike us as real, or at least possible, people. It is a remarkable achievement, a version of the great Russian novel done in miniature, with echoes throughout of its mighty predecessors.
added by jburlinson | editNew York Review of Books, John Banville (pay site) (Mar 1, 2007)
Mr. Amis depicts these characters' lives with an economy of language and detail, choosing, after the debacle of the overwritten ''Yellow Dog,'' to rely on an almost fablelike minimalism to evoke the horrors of Norlag.
And the result, more often than not, comes to read like a wicked parody of the Amis style. Sometimes, indeed, it appears that the author has wholly abdicated in favour of Craig Brown.
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Again to my mother
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Dear Venus,

If what they say is true, and my country is dying, then i think I may be able to tell them why.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 009948868X, Paperback)

House of Meetings Is an Amazon Significant Seven selection for March 2007

With The House of Meetings, Martin Amis may finally have written the novel his critics thought would never come. By taming his signature (and polarizing) stylistic high-wire act, Amis has crafted a sober tale of love and cynicism against the grim curtain of Stalin's Russia. The book's anonymous narrator--a Red Army veteran and unapologetic war criminal--and his passive, poetic half-brother, Lev, become pinned in a politically dangerous love triangle with the exotic Zoya, though their tactics (and intentions) are as divergent as their personalities. Swept up in the wave of Stalin's paranoid purges, the brothers are sent independently to Norlag, a Siberian internment camp where their respective fates are cast through their contrasting reactions to the depravity of the prison. Zoya and Lev share a night in "The House of Meetings," a room provided for conjugal visits with the prisoners, and the events of that night reverberate through the decades, the details of the liaison remaining concealed until the story's devastating denouement.

Amis's main achievement is his depiction of the cruel realities of the Soviet gulags. Drawing heavily on his research for Koba the Dread: Laughter and the Twenty Million, his half-history/half-memoir of political imprisonment and industrial-scale killing in Soviet Russia, Amis has created his own Animal Farm--without metaphors to mask the blood, filth, and death of the camps. Amis vividly recreates the social structure of gulag life, as the inmates and guards sort themselves into distinct hierarchies and stations in their struggles to survive the rigors of the gulag. Here The House of Meetings may accomplish what Amis had intended for the unfocused Koba: to cast a searing light on an often overlooked episode of 20th century inhumanity and mass murder. --Jon Foro

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:59:10 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

The conflict and rivalry between two brothers in love with the same Jewish girl moves from the turmoil of 1946 Moscow to Norlag, a slave-labor camp above the Arctic Circle, where a tryst in the House of Meetings will have a profound and haunting influence on three characters. By the author of Money and Yellow Dog. 40,000 first printing.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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