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The Carpet Makers by Andreas Eschbach
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The Carpet Makers (1995)

by Andreas Eschbach

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English (29)  French (3)  Spanish (1)  Hungarian (1)  German (1)  All (35)
Showing 1-5 of 29 (next | show all)

(review originally published on:
Die Haarteppichknüpfer von Andreas Eschbach)



I picked up this book purely by chance, but I was completely flabbergasted by it !

I've been reading Science Fiction for more than 25 years and I didn't expect to be blown away by this book. After all I think someone said that SF is dead and buried ! Not so ! This is not exactly Hard SF, but the scent is there. It reminds me of some of the Charles Stross' books ( serie "The Merchant Princes" ). Like Stross Eschbach is a true master of the form. It's not old-SF disguised as new. It's really new !

I haven't finished it yet, but I can't wait to write something about it. I've just gone on the net to find something more about this guy. It turns out that this was his first book, which came out in 1995 ! I think it should be translated into english so that more people can read it.

With his first work Eschbach shows that the German SF is not dead. The world sketched by it is just as extremely moving as strange, and without any spectacular action Supports or Super Aliens. By continuous jumps in character perspectives as well as Timelines, the author knows how to catch the reader's attention up to the end, until finally the multitude of mosaics result in a larger picture.
Even if the resolution and some other narrative aspects have more to do with Fantasy than with Science Fiction, it's still one hell of a book !

The structure of the book is very much like a collection of short-stories, but on a deeper level it's not. It's something different. There's always a thin thread that links all the chapters together ( like a tapestry ... ), but sometimes you've got to look closer, because it's hard to see and understand.

The first paragraph is quite extraordinary, because it sets the tone for the remainder of the book. It reads like a Fairy Tale, without being one ... :

"Knoten um Knoten, tagein, tagaus, ein Leben lang, immer die gleichen Handbewegungen, immer die gleichen Knoten in das feine Haar schlingend, so fein und winzig, daß die Finger zittrig wurden mit der Zeit und die Augen schwach von der Anstrengung des Sehens - und die Fortschritte waren kaum zu merken; wenn er gut vorankam, entstand in einem Tag ein neues Stück seines Teppichs, das vielleicht so groß war wie sein Fingernagel. So hockte er an dem knarrenden Knüpfrahmen, an dem schon sein Vater gesessen war und vor ihm dessen Vater, in der gleichen gebeugten Haltung, die alte, halbblinde Vergrößerungslinse vor den Augen, die Arme auf das abgewetzte Brustbrett gestützt und nur mit den Fingerspitzen die Knotennadel führend. So knüpfte er Knoten um Knoten in der seit Generationen überlieferten Weise, bis er in einen Trancezustand geriet, in dem ihm wohl war; sein Rücken hörte auf zu schmerzen, und er spürte das Alter nicht mehr, das ihm in den Knochen saß. Er lauschte auf die vielfältigen Geräusche des Hauses, das der Großvater seines Urgroßvaters erbaut hatte - den Wind, der ewig gleich über das Dach strich und sich in offenen Fenstern fing, das Klappern von Geschirr und die Gespräche seiner Frauen und Töchter unten in der Küche. Jedes Geräusch war ihm vertraut. Er hörte die Stimme der Weisen Frau heraus, die seit einigen Tagen im Haus lebte, weil Garliad, seine Nebenfrau, ihre Niederkunft erwartete. Er hörte die halbstumme Türglocke scheppern, dann ging die Haustür, und Aufregung kam in das Gemurmel der Gespräche. Das war wahrscheinlich die Händlerin, die heute kommen sollte mit Lebensmitteln, Stoffen und anderen Dingen."
( I won't even dream of translating this ... )

I hope the english edition will appear one of this days. Unfortunately I think much will be lost in the translation ( the poetry of the prose, the choosing of words, the interplay between sentences, etc ).

Those of you who know German go and a grab a copy. You won't regret it !

It's a crepuscular novel, filled with silences and things not said. Very strange and surreal indeed. But the strangest thing about this novel is that the protagonists of the Story, the Carpets themselves, are not described at all ! They are there, we are able to think about them, to imagine them. Maybe that's the all point.

Author's homepage : http://www.andreaseschbach.de/
( the abovementioned paragraph in German was extracted from this homepage ) ( )
  antao | Dec 10, 2016 |
Eschbach has a way of creating worlds that makes them both magical and wonderfully mundane, to where you're exploring a world built by beautiful language while, at the same time, feeling that the people involved are utterly familiar, different as their cares and their world may be. You can say that this story is about passion or art or the meaning of life, or about exploration or revenge or religion or world views, or even about telling stories. It's all of this. It's also about the meaning found in the day-to-day survival of life and of belief, and about determination and hope.

In the beginning, it's something of an old-world fairy tale, and then it is a mastery of space and perspective, and finally, it is something beautiful, somewhere in between.

If you haven't figured it out already from this wandering review, Eschbach's stories rather defy description, but they are wonderful. They are utterly wonderful. And if you read science fiction or fantasy, you should read The Carpet Makers.

Absolutely recommended. ( )
  whitewavedarling | Sep 15, 2016 |
Eschbach is apparently very well-regarded in his native Germany, and has won awards in multiple European countries - but this is his first book to be translated into English and published here. If 'The Carpet Makers' is any indication of the quality of his other works, I hope that English editions of his other books are on the way!
The novel is formed in a series of vignettes or separate short stories - which can sometimes, I feel, be an awkward, clunky way of doing things - I've read 'novels' like that before and felt that they were very 'cobbled together.' I didn't feel that way about this one at all. The 'flow' between scenes was very smooth, and each new vignette gave the reader one more piece of the big picture, forming an extreme tension as the revelation of just how terribly dire the scene being revealed truly is...
The book starts small... with just one family, a family of traditional hair carpet makers, the patriarch spending his entire life to make just one carpet from the hair of his wives and daughters, allowed to have only one son to train to take on his craft...
The scene seems harsh, the society repressive... (and that first 'story' packs a punch and a half!) but as the book goes on, the focus widens, until a galactic scenario is shown, and the book talks not only about one restrictive society, but the horrific pettiness of tyranny...
Knowing the author is German, it is hard not to draw parallels with the sci-fi criticism in this book with condemnations of the third reich, but I'm not sure I would have made that connection if I had not already been thinking about Germany...
Either way, really a wonderful book - emotional, well-written, structurally near-perfectly crafted, thoughtful. Highly recommended. ( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
A man is creating a carpet made out of his wife's hair. This is his life's work. The carpets are the driver of an intertwined series of scenes which make up the plot. The scenery comes from 50s' SF and the 'villain' is a 50-50 mix of the the Emperor and Sauron. There is a Big Speech about evil by an Eternal 'bad guy' who dies. Yet it does all hang together, just.

The main issue for me was that there was just too much here, too many stories, too many planets... Less can be more. Also the 50s SF got grating. ( )
  AlanPoulter | Jan 31, 2015 |
I'd rate this book 3 and 1/2 stars, if that were an option. The Carpet Makers is admirable for several reasons, avoiding some common pitfalls to Science Fiction books but also stumbling a few times near the finish.

In a clear parallel to the stitching of a carpet, the book weaves together a plethora of individual stories focusing on separate characters to form a tableaux of a massive interstellar empire. The book starts with the actual carpet makers, before switching to the merchants who transport the carpets, then a freethinking teacher in a carpet making city, then the off-world observers of this planet, and so forth. So gradually that you barely notice it Eschbach expands the scope of the story , slowly revealing a more expansive vision of the carpet-centric universe through the stories of individual characters. When the book ends you feel you know this universe and its inhabitants, a feat science fiction writers often fail to pull off in books twice this size.

This technique of stitching together the narrative via small scale stories has both strengths and weaknesses: it allows us to see almost every stage of the carpet making process in a way that isn't just info dumping, to witness the different beliefs of vastly different characters (some devout, some rebellious, some just wanting to do their jobs), and to tell an epic that nevertheless feels personal. On the other hand, this technique means that some characters disappear from the narrative and you never discover their fate, like dangling threads. Also, the switching between characters means you get relatively little character development, and a few characters are decidedly one-note. This weakness is tempered by Eschbach's ability to establish characterization quickly and rather brilliantly at times, such as in the first chapter which ends with a great segment showing us how violently a carpet maker will hew to tradition and do away with anything that threatens the carpet making lifestyle. In general the writing of The Carpet Makers is nothing too special, but the way Eschbach establishes the characters is sometimes impressive.

As I mentioned before, The Carpet Makers dodges some common problems in science fiction- it focuses on the mental and emotional aspect of living in this universe and not just the physical aspect, it is set in the period just after a galactic war instead of in the middle of one so that it can explore the complexities of running a universe instead of just fighting over one, and finally the book restrains itself from having a chapter from the perspective of the emperor. The emperor only appears as a stunningly impressive figure in the memories of the featured characters- a wise choice, as any direct depiction would have been unable to match the heights the narrative had built him up to.

In contrast, the eventual reveal of the purpose of the hair carpets fails to live up to its narrative buildup. When I learned the solution to the mystery, I found it to be thematically interesting but not as impressive as I had imagined (and as the book had led me to believe it would be). Also, the reveal was delivered in a way I found rather unsatisfying, as it is the sole reveal through an info dump in a book that is otherwise impressively free of them. That the info dump was foreshadowed does little to help.

I would recommend The Carpet Makers for the world it builds and the themes and ideas it explores, even if the solution to the central mystery was underwhelming. Still, in the long run it is the ideas that stick with me the most, and with that in mind The Carpet Makers was well worth reading. ( )
1 vote BayardUS | Dec 10, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 29 (next | show all)
Je me plains souvent du manque d'originalité de livres qui sont par ailleurs passionnants. Cette fois, je dois reconnaître que ce livre est très original et empreint d'une étrangeté poétique étonnante.
added by grimm | editbloGrimm, Grimm (Aug 26, 2009)
 
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Knot after knot, day in, day out, for an entire lifetime, always the same hand movements, always looping the same knots in the fine hair, so fine and tiny that with time, the fingers trembled and the eyes became weak from strain -- and still the progress was hardly noticeable.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0765314908, Paperback)

Since the time of pre-history, carpetmakers tie intricate knots to form carpets for the court of the Emperor. These carpets are made from the hairs of wives and daughters; they are so detailed and fragile that each carpetmaker finishes only one single carpet in his entire lifetime.

This art descends from father to son, since the beginning of time itself.

But one day the empire of the God Emperor vanishes, and strangers begin to arrive from the stars to follow the trace of the hair carpets. What these strangers discover is beyond all belief, more than anything they could have ever imagined...

Brought to the attention of Tor Books by Orson Scott Card, this edition of The Carpet Makers contains a special introduction by Orson Scott Card.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:27 -0400)

"Since the time of prehistory, carpet makers have tied intricate knots to form carpets for the court of the Emperor. These carpets are made from the hair of wives and daughters; they are so detailed and fragile that each carpet maker finishes only one single carpet in his entire lifetime." "This art has descended from father to son since the beginning of time itself." "But one day the empire of the God Emperor vanishes, and strangers begin to arrive from the stars to follow the trace of the hair carpets. What these strangers discover is beyond all belief, more than anything they could have ever imagined."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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