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Barkskins (2016)

by Annie Proulx

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,1207212,703 (3.79)1 / 171
"Bark Skins open in New France in the late 18th century as Rene Sel, an illiterate woodsman makes his way from Northern France to the homeland to seek a living. Bound to a "seigneur" for three years in exchange for land, he suffers extraordinary hardship and violence, always in awe of the forest he is charged with clearing. In the course of this epic novel, Proulx tells the stories of Rene's children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, as well as the descendants of his friends and foes, as they travel back to Europe, to China, to New England, always in quest of a livelihood or fleeing stunningly brutal conditions--war, pestilence, Indian attacks, the revenge of rivals. Proulx's inimitable genius is her creation of characters who are so vivid--in their greed, lust, vengefulness, or their simple compassion and hope--that we follow them with fierce attention. This is Proulx's most ambitious novel ever, and her master work"--… (more)
Recently added byblackhornet, private library, MenloPark, Js_8, twain, jaggedhorizon, klnbennett, Wanda_Weinberg
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English (69)  Dutch (2)  Spanish (1)  All languages (72)
Showing 1-5 of 69 (next | show all)
A dazzlingly detailed and dramatic ecological historical fiction that is vibrant, complex, and raw. Proulx crafts a family saga around two Frenchman and their families whose struggle for survival reflects what happens to the land they work in attempt to gain freedom, wealth, and a piece of land; all while believing that the forest and the resources that surround them are infinite. A stunning, fierce tale of the past that is that is also a look into the future. ( )
  ShannonRose4 | Sep 15, 2020 |
A dazzlingly detailed and dramatic ecological historical fiction that is vibrant, complex, and raw. Proulx crafts a family saga around two Frenchman and their families whose struggle for survival reflects what happens to the land they work in attempt to gain freedom, wealth, and a piece of land; all while believing that the forest and the resources that surround them are infinite. A stunning, fierce tale of the past that is that is also a look into the future. ( )
  ShannonRose4 | Sep 15, 2020 |
We treasure trees. We have a long history with trees reflected in the growing list of why we need them ... or how we use them.

At the bottom of that list is the chemistry they provide for the betterment of this planet. At the top of the list is money. (Money does grow on trees.)

Through a huge cast of characters over generations, Annie Proulx details how we have cut into the vast forests on this planet with little thought to the future. In fact, burning acres of trees was a good thing. (Tell that to California now.)

Her characters come and go quickly but ever present are the trees and how they were adapted to our changing society.

She did have characters who cared: “Nothing in the natural world, no forest, no river, no insect nor leaf has any intrinsic value to men. All is worthless, utterly dispensable unless we discover some benefit to ourselves in it—even the most ardent forest lover thinks this way. Men behave as overlords. They decide what will flourish and what will die. I believe that humankind is evolving into a terrible new species and I am sorry that I am one of them.”

A revealing historical story ... that so far does not have a happy ending. A sluggish read at times, (713 pages) but feels too important to ignore. ( )
  LJCain | Aug 25, 2020 |
Had to give up on audio version -- too many unfamiliar names and nicknames to keep track of. I'll pick up a printed copy at the library when it reopens. ( )
  SharronA | Jun 7, 2020 |
There must be something in the air -- writers, who are not genre writers, are drawn to the early pioneering days of America: Tea Obreht in her bewitching "Inland"; Hernan Diaz in "In the Distance"; and Annie Proulx in "Barkskins." I loved the title; it conjured up the themes and motifs of the book: from the healing powers of wild tree bark to the history of deforestation. But if I had read William T. Vollmann's review in the NYTimes first, I probably wouldn't have embarked on reading this novel... And, somewhat ashamed to admit it as I hate leaving things half-done, I abandoned it about a 100 pages in. In contrast to Obreht and Diaz who, in different ways, skillfully produce compelling narrative, irresistibly drawn digression, and moments when nothing happens in which we relish their prose and attention to natural detail, I felt that Proulx perhaps was trying too hard or was writing too quickly, but I found no pleasure in the reading. I enjoyed the occasional French interjections, although it would have been nice if they were chosen for their untranslatability: Why the double "I will return to Paris! Je vais retourner à Paris!" -- here the French sentence is just a lame reminder that the speakers are French, but since most of the dialog is based on the reader's leap of faith ("we read English but believe they are speaking French," kind of like in those old movies when Hollywood was afraid of letting characters speak their own language and made the actors put on phony accents and then pretend they couldn't understand one another), why produce the French phrase at all? Elsewhere, the foreign words do add a certain spice to the prose: seigneur, domus, underscore one character's illusions of nobility, whereas local words, like cacamos, lend a certain concreteness to the described reality. The overall effect is, however, very uneven. Some usages are anachronistic: I find it hard to believe that Monsieur Trépagny swearing in French would use today's mild "Zut!": it's like having a one-eyed pirate swear by saying "Shucks!". (Until quite recently, some of the curse words persistent in French Canadian carried the traces of the 17th century language and were properly speaking blasphemous, like sacré bleu. A quick trip to the Dictionnaire Robert Historique would have told the author that Zut, to stick with the example, is a 19th-century invention.) On the other hand, the native Mikmak Indians speak a pidgin English that again reminds me of some early Hollywood portrayals of foreigners or Native Americans somehow unable to grasp basic syntax even though their native languages might be of much greater complexity. And to top it off, these broken-English dialogs are sometimes followed by a repetitive paraphrase in modern English. I haven't read far enough, but William Vollmann points out in his review that some characters might speak pidgin English at one point only to wax poetic a few pages later.

As a reader, I care more about the quality of the prose and the purposefulness of the words used than about a story that might one day make a good movie. If you compare a paragraph by Obreht or Diaz, each sentence seems to have been properly weighted and carefully placed in the narrative, like if you were building a log cabin without nails or mortar and every piece of timber had to be cut just right. Because otherwise, you might end up shy of a 1,000 page slab of deadwood. (There is an expression in French, langue de bois, a wooden tongue, that describes a style of writing that is rather dry and full of artifice and, to my great disappointment, Barkskins is written in a langue de bois, rather than in a language of the forests I had envisioned.)

When the movie Barkskins comes out, I will go and see it, and probably enjoy it as much as I did Shipping News. ( )
1 vote aileverte | May 1, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 69 (next | show all)
Een echte dikke pil is de historische roman Schorshuiden, geschreven door de bekende schrijfster Annie Proulx. Een werkelijk prachtig geconstrueerde roman over de kolonisatie van Amerika en over de houtbouw. Beide niet echt onderwerpen die mijn hart meteen doen zingen, maar wat heeft Annie Proulx er boeiend over geschreven! Een rakend en boeiend verhaal van generaties schorshuiden dat maar liefst 320 jaar beslaat (1693 – 2013)…lees verder >
 

» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Proulx, Annieprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kyriazēs, GiōrgosTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Milla Soler, CarlosTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stumpf, AndreaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Walz, MelanieTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Willemse, ReginaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Why shouldn't things be largely absurd, futile, and transitory? They are so, and we are so, and they and we go very well together. - George Santayana.
In Antiquity every tree, every spring, every hill had its own genius loci, its guardian spirit. These spirits were accessible to men, but were very unlike men; centaurs, fauns, and mermaids show their ambivalence. Before one cut a tree, mined a mountain, or dammed a brook, it was important to placate the spiriti in charge of that particular situation, and to keep it placated. By destroying pagan animism, Christianity made it possible to exploit nature in a mood of indifference to the feelings of natural objects. - Lynn White, Jr.
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In twilight they passed bloody Tadoussac, Kebec and Trois-Rivieres and near dawn moored at a remote riverbank settlement.
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"Bark Skins open in New France in the late 18th century as Rene Sel, an illiterate woodsman makes his way from Northern France to the homeland to seek a living. Bound to a "seigneur" for three years in exchange for land, he suffers extraordinary hardship and violence, always in awe of the forest he is charged with clearing. In the course of this epic novel, Proulx tells the stories of Rene's children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, as well as the descendants of his friends and foes, as they travel back to Europe, to China, to New England, always in quest of a livelihood or fleeing stunningly brutal conditions--war, pestilence, Indian attacks, the revenge of rivals. Proulx's inimitable genius is her creation of characters who are so vivid--in their greed, lust, vengefulness, or their simple compassion and hope--that we follow them with fierce attention. This is Proulx's most ambitious novel ever, and her master work"--

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