End of Days: A Novel

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What will the future bring? Well, if it brings anything like this, watch out! For me, End of Days was one of those books that sweeps me up and doesn't let me go. The best kind of read, as far as I'm concerned. A complex, richly satisfying plot and the kind of drive that makes a great thriller great. Aug 08, Annmarie added it Shelves: Read 50 pages, gave up. Booklist was on crack with their glowing review. Sep 19, Shaun Thomas rated it liked it. As far as post-apocalyptic dystopian novels are concerned, Robert Gleason 's End of Days is unique mostly because it's mid -apocalyptic.

Some of the blurbs on the jacket proclaim Gleason as the "Dante of our age," so it must have been worth reading. I'm not sure what kind of hyperbole inspired a comment like that, but I really hope it's sarcasm. That isn't to say End of Days is bad! Overall, I found the narrative engaging, the loose plot unique, and the sub-threads interesting. Gleason As far as post-apocalyptic dystopian novels are concerned, Robert Gleason 's End of Days is unique mostly because it's mid -apocalyptic.

Gleason writes well enough, and his social commentary is fairly accurate, so it can easily contribute to a misleading sense of prescience. Unfortunately it's mostly empty and bizarre in a myriad of mutually conflicting ways. Let's begin with those sub-threads I mentioned. There are several of them, and they're all essentially self-contained, though it's clear they'll eventually influence each other. We have Sailor, a sentient rat who roams the world searching for relevance. Then there's the Magruders, a relatively wealthy family whose matriarch, Lydia, is exceptionally paranoid and has constructed a massive Citadel out in the desert.

We have the president and his cronies, most notably Jack Taylor, who gets to set the stage for most of the action as the curtain falls. There's Cool Breeze, a former baseball legend turned prison inmate due to an unfortunate temper. Of course, "Mad" Vlad Malokov acts as a foil to whip everyone up into a frenzy. There's Cassandra, a former nun turned infamous gospel diva, crusading in her own way to bring understanding.

And we can't forget Thucydides, a newly emergent AI set in a space station, the better to chronicle the downfall of society. Most notably are the figurative and literal barrage of personified nuclear weapons, given "life" because of the spark of the universe each contains. Did I forget anyone? There's the usual cast of supporting characters, of course, and other named elements that explore various facets of the emerging implications. But I hope the problem with this novel is obvious at this point.

It's not that the novel tries to do too much with too many characters. It's that all of these things happen simultaneously, all of them have roughly equal weight, and any attachment to any of them is ephemeral at best. It's that the plots are disparate and confused, a work of short stories loosely stitched together and called a novel. Cassandra's songs are meant to inspire, but her admittedly tragic origins become washed out bellyaching. Yes, we know "Hiroshima's gone. That Thucydides considers Cassandra humanity's soul is understandable, if an odd fixation as the world collapses around it.

I thought the idea of Cassandra and Thucydides were both completely wasted because they were marginalized. The true tragedy of Cassandra isn't her horrifying past, but her flat characterization. John's interactions with the Sin Sisters starts out terrifying. What will they do to him next? Will they ever let him go? Why did they even kidnap him? But it just goes on, and on. Gleason seems to take a sick pleasure in narrating genital torture, since that seems to be the prevailing focus of their administrations.

Oh, and one of the sisters is a doctor, so Stone becomes the proverbial Schrodinger's Cat. This also becomes tiresome and overplayed. Oh, they're torturing him again, and ranting crazily whilst doing so? But nobody does crazy ranting like Mad Vlad. He has a gleeful, almost suspicious knack for it. Gleason clearly did his homework, because he describes several mechanisms chemical, biological, and nuclear, which Vlad threatens to unleash, or justify the havoc he's supposedly unleashing.

There's even a clever explanation for how incessant Vlad is about jerking Jack Taylor's chain. This too, is overdone however. Vlad calls Taylor and yells at him. Vlad calls Taylor and berates him.

Vlad calls Taylor and gibbers mindlessly like a baboon for an hour. Vlad calls Taylor and describes the painfully intricate minutia of a prostate exam. It got so ridiculous, I started skimming these sections, because they were all the same. But nothing broke my suspension of disbelief like Sailor the rat and his adventures, or the sentient nuclear devices. This isn't Redwall, so he's supposed to be an actual rat.

But he's also much more. He's a hero, a leader, a philosopher, a giant, an explorer, a visionary, a sous chef, a rodeo clown, and everything in between. This starts irritating, but becomes outright ridiculous. Is there anything Sailor can't do? And I can say that because he basically survives several proximal nuclear strikes, in addition to outsmarting every human he encounters. Of course, his hopes and inspirations are equal to the various musings of the missiles and suitcase nukes as they yearn to fulfill their duty, and fretful anguish should they possibly fail.

Oh, the trials and tribulations of spiritual WMDs, how I weep for their suffering. All of these fragments are ultimately weakened by their reliance on the overriding narrative. I would have read a short story about Sailor. A sentient space station is a great concept. Cassandra would have been a much stronger character if she wasn't forced to whine about the looming holocaust. It's the little things like this that make the novel a weird read instead of a good one. Gleason seemingly tried to touch every genre simultaneously, and like any Jack of All Trades, he mastered none.

This novel is good, but it absolutely does not live up to the hype. Keep that in mind, and you'll feel a lot better about reading it. Feb 06, Victoria rated it did not like it Shelves: I read about books a year, and of those , usually it is only one or two each year that are so bad that I can't bring myself to finish them.

This was one of those books for me this year. I tried to finish it, made it halfway through and the book so lost touch with reality and my waning interest that I just couldn't handle it anymore. I mean, I knew that after the first pages I was in trouble that in the eclectic cast of characters, the only one I could find myself even mildly curious a I read about books a year, and of those , usually it is only one or two each year that are so bad that I can't bring myself to finish them. I mean, I knew that after the first pages I was in trouble that in the eclectic cast of characters, the only one I could find myself even mildly curious about was a rat.

There is a section from the P. Interestingly, this is the most sympathetic, human character of all. The real mystery to me was how this book had gotten advanced praise from so many big name authors and people I feel like they read a different book than I did, because I couldn't see a kernel of truth to any of their praise. It didn't look like any of the quotes were from women, so maybe this is just one of those books that has fallen into the gender gap All I know is that I could not in good conscience recommend this to anyone. It's been a long time since I read a book that I loathed this much.

Oct 01, Trekscribbler rated it did not like it. Well, the basic problem I had with that one was that it was a non-fiction and b the author wrote it from the perspective that meant it was all about him and not so much the subject matter. Oh, it was a H-U-G-E bestseller that essentially put that popular writer on the map. He has a great career even today with a tremendous following.

Sure, maybe the science was all a bit too fictional for some tastes time travel, re-invigorating an extinct dinosaur species, etc. Probably, WRATH OF GOD was as loved as it was hated, and, though there was some talk long ago about it being turned into a motion picture, nothing appears to have seriously come from that.

Gleason had even released another book. If not, then I encourage you to pick it up and read it sometime this go around. I wish I had. Officially, I called it quit at page out of mostly because, at almost one-third of the way into the book, there appears to be absolutely no clear central unifying narrative. Rather, END OF DAYS appears as if it was intended to be a collection of shorter works, the only unifying element being that they take place presumably in the same time period. I picked it up, hoping to yet again be transported vicariously to a grim world of tomorrow … but, instead, I was reminded that sometimes all hope is lost before we even imagine what the ending could be.

Jan 23, Rob Ballister rated it liked it Shelves: Thank God it 19s fiction 26for now. It is interesting, shocking, violent, scary and entertaining all at the same time. It does however need more polish before I would categorize it as "good. Some fear that this will lead to a worldwide proliferation of nukes, and begin to prepare for Armageddon while trying to convince others that the end is coming. The doomsday prophecies come true when suitcase nuclear weapons are detonated at the same time as "Russian" subs begin launching nuclear cruise missiles at major cities all over the world. The rest of the world immediately begs the US to lead a response before it's too late, but the acting US president much of the National Command Authority was killed when Washington DC was nuked is weak and won't respond.

Nuclear explosions continue to rock the world, and eventually the US military acts without authority and responds with nuclear strikes of its own. By the time it comes to light that the Russians were framed by a small middle-eastern country, the Motherland's major cities are already glowing with nuclear fallout. The world plunges into chaos. In the United States, militias bond together for survival, as do large numbers of convicts now free from their incarceration and who for some reason have been preparing for this very moment.

Eventually their ranks grow to the tens of thousands, and they too have liberated nuclear weapons. It seems the killing isn't over. Those are the books more chillingly believable parts. A number of of interesting story lines are developed, but probably one too many for a truly coherent story. In addition to a beautiful reporter who seems to be trying to get herself killed to prove her worth to her billionaire-Armageddonist mother, there is the white supremacist, the Mexican gang leader, and a reborn Malcolm X.

There are two generals, a space station, an AI presence that can see all, and several rats that seem to speak with each other as if they went to the Ivy League. Through in a pair of sex-crazed sisters who are insatiable both in their lust for sex and torture, and things start to get a little less "real. One became a Pulitzer winning journalist; one a drug dealer serving three consecutive life sentences, and one an Air Force General.

They meet up again just in time to prevent the bad guys from nuking mankind's best hope to rebuild. Now we are into pure entertainment. There's plenty of foul language, sexuality, torture, violence, blood, animal cruelty, suffering and despair. There is also some dark humor, some likeable characters, and enough discussion of Armageddon to at least make you think about it.

This book is not an easy read. There are a lot of things that will make you want to quit. I was about a third of the way though and I was thinking, "What the heck is going on? Am I going to keep reading or should I just give up now? Let me tell you. This is a thick, large size paperback, with small type. I needed real good light to be able to read it easily. The kindle version with adjustable font size would be a great option. The action takes place all over the globe, an This book is not an easy read. The action takes place all over the globe, and is told from many different characters points of view, and some of those characters aren't even human.

There is a large, intelligent rat, a computer in an orbiting space station, and a whole bunch of sentient nuclear devices, bombs, cruise missiles, etc. These bombs and missiles are talking and telling you what is going on. The computer is an advanced AI device, and won't talk to anyone. And a talking rat! Well that really made me wonder about this book. Many of the human characters don't feel real at all. Their mission is to tell Mr. Gleason's story of the future.

And they do, sometimes it's more like a sermon or a documentary instead of a novel. Gleason wants to warn us about the impending Armageddon. He is using this piece of just-about-fiction to drum it into our thick skulls. OK, so you don't give up. You make it to the halfway point. Now the book begins to jell. You get used to the weird, non-human characters. You begin to get in the flow of the book, and then it's OK.

Once you make it over the hump you can start to enjoy reading End of Days.

The rest of the book is an exciting, fairly straight forward apocalyptic novel. Like any good near-future science fiction novel, most of the science has a ring of truth to it. The nuclear destruction of the planet and most of the human race isn't a pleasant idea to have to think about, but Mr. Gleason's hypothesis seems to be based in fact. Gleason is a very skilled writer.

He can really craft a sentence. I really did like the way he wrote. But this book is more than just a novel. This is a platform to warn us, maybe to make us get involved, to do something so that this novel, End of Days, isn't what our future holds for us, and our children and grandchildren. Should you read this book? If you can put in the work, plow through the weird style, and then digest what Mr. Gleason is saying, you will get something out of it. Not an easy read, but it ended up being worth the work to me.

I received a copy of this book for free from Forge Books. May 06, Enka-Candler Library rated it did not like it. I don't even know where to begin with this one. I picked it up, thinking "oh, I'll read a little standard end of the world story--you know, cheery stuff". It started sort of promising, but oh my Yes, we understand there's a pile of weapons and stuff to make weapons out there on the black market, that's what I thought I was in for, but when I hit the first chapter about the rats that were "aware" in some sort of freaky I don't even know where to begin with this one.

Yes, we understand there's a pile of weapons and stuff to make weapons out there on the black market, that's what I thought I was in for, but when I hit the first chapter about the rats that were "aware" in some sort of freaky "Watership Down" kind of way, I lost it. Even worse, when the missles and suitcase nukes were also "aware" and chatty, that was way over the top--even for me. Lots and lots of meaningless characters, sub-plots, tortures, volcanic eruptions, submarine stories, space-station stories, blowing up Graceland yes, really , etc.

Yes, I confess I skimmed the last couple of hundred pages or so, but I just wanted to see if any of it finally made sense. The answer is no. Jul 29, Karen rated it did not like it Shelves: I knew the book was going to be bad just from the first couple of chapters. It opens with the protagonist, a female reporter coming out of her tent during azaan in Mecca non Muslims are not allowed in Mecca, especially unaccompanied females. She was there to cover a story of a former soviet diplomat's conversion to Islam wow!

The author created 2 evil doers in one communist Muslim terrorist - the only thing missing is a zombie. After a few chapters I had to stop reading. Judging from the oth I knew the book was going to be bad just from the first couple of chapters.

Judging from the other reviews I can be thankful as it seems I was fortunate enough to miss out on the philosophical warheads and talking rats. Dec 28, MJ rated it did not like it Shelves: Interesting premise--but I'm not going to tell you. Waaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyy too many words. I finally started to speed read through the boring parts Also some rather graphic torture scenes for me. Aug 01, Mark rated it it was amazing. Had a chance to read an advance reading copy of Gleason's soon-to-be released novel. The End of Days 3.

How could it all have gone differently? The first chapter begins with the death of a baby in the early twentieth-century Hapsburg Empire. In the next chapter, the same girl grows up in Vienna after World War I, but a pact she makes with a young man leads to a second death. In the next scenario, she survives adolescence and moves to Russia with her husband. Both are dedicated Communists, yet our heroine ends up in a labor camp. But her fate does not end there….

A novel of incredible breadth and amazing concision, The End of Days offers a unique overview of the twentieth century. Hardcover , pages. Published November 11th by New Directions first published To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about The End of Days , please sign up.

Where is the review by anne mills? See 2 questions about The End of Days…. Lists with This Book. It is an old fashioned phrase that goes back at least to Martin Luther. The story begins at the grave site of a baby girl, and, while the grandmother accepts this death without questioning the why?

The author builds her novel around the fundamental question: From that first scene of mourning and grief, Erpenbeck spins an extraordinary and complex narrative in which she intertwines a personal, intimate family story of three generations with pertinent political events and historical changes taking place in the course of the twentieth century - from to Without hesitation - very rare for me - I can say that this is the most powerful and thought provoking book I have read this year if not longer.

In five "books", each linked to the next by an 'intermezzo', the author composes the novel like a musical arrangement - a symphony maybe - where each book has its own style and rhythm, yet picks up one or another elements from the previous only to develop it into another variation of the underlying theme "what if? All depends on the pace of the story and images created. Nonetheless, each book contains its concrete setting in time and place. Each locale has a role to play in the story's events as it does in the historical contexts.

Each politically pertinent period is explored through the personal lens of the protagonists, a very effective way to bring difficult concepts to the fore, such as the Stasi system of neighbours spying on neighbours or the degrading "self-critique", common in the Soviet Union. Their individuality, however, could not be more strongly presented. At the same time, by not giving her characters names they can be perceived also in a broader context of human behaviour. How would we have behaved if confronted with the challenges the novel's characters have?

I am very reluctant to expand on the content of the novel in a review. As I said in the beginning it is one of the most engaging book I have read in quite some time. View all 13 comments. When is the right time to give up on a book? I hate giving up on a novel but I am getting zero satisfaction from this story and frustration is starting to set in. So I think now is the time to part company with this one. I was reading this on holiday and thought AAAhhhhhhh enough is enough: View all 19 comments.

But this is not the end, no, the beginning. What if she hadn't died? What if her life went on and she died in the despair of unrequited love, or in a senseless pogrom of 'Trotskyite' elements, or celebrated, at the height of literary fame, or in obscurity, forgotten and alone in an old people's home? What does it take to survive the twentieth century? To be tossed on the waves of two wars, the Spanish flu, economic collapse, totalitarian regimes, the fall of communism, and yet keep A child dies.

To be tossed on the waves of two wars, the Spanish flu, economic collapse, totalitarian regimes, the fall of communism, and yet keep bobbing up to the surface? How do you cheat death, waiting just outside the window? A lump of snow, a patch of ice, different clothes, a party functionary who remembers your apple strudel, the right foot instead of the left on the stairs Life as contingent, death as a freak, the step between the two worlds no more than a breath.

Unless you are the old great grandfather, for whom dying is like crossing a vast room whose far side is not visible. This is a boldly conceived story, and magnificently executed. Jenny Erpenbeck's sixth book is about the contingency of life, and mid Europe from to That might sound a little hard to take, great unpalatable lumps of philosophy and history, but although she offers us here five possible biographies, she never lets her gaze wander from the human individual, the human cost, the human pain. Her tone is quiet, fatalistic, melancholy; the five sections vary in pace and perspective.

Erpenbeck seems to have a marked distaste for handing out names, the child in The Old Child and Other Stories never has one at all, and most of the people in Visitation are referred to in their role, the gardener, the architect, the architect's wife. Here, the women are mother, grandmother. That works fine as long as there are no more than three generations.

Here, there are four. It keeps you on your toes. View all 25 comments.

The End of Days

May 23, Roger Brunyate rated it it was amazing Shelves: It was about the time that Kate Atkinson's Life After Life was going to press, so there can be no accusation of plagiarism between the two authors, but the concepts are nonetheless very similar. Atkinson tells a forty-year story in which a setback in one chapter—an infant's death, say—is immediately followed by another in which that outcome is erased and replaced by an altern Death After Death I read the first long section of this intricate novel in German as Aller Tage Abend over a year ago.

Atkinson tells a forty-year story in which a setback in one chapter—an infant's death, say—is immediately followed by another in which that outcome is erased and replaced by an alternative version. Erpenbeck does much the same, only with fewer sections five to Atkinson's fifty or more and a longer time-span virtually the whole of the last century , but I think with greater depth.

The novel begins with the death of an infant girl in Galicia. The death causes a rift between the father and mother. Although Christian, he has married a Jewess for financial reasons, but the mixed marriage hinders his promotion in the civil service and causes his wife to be disowned by her orthodox family. With the death of the child, the strongest bond between them, their family unit disintegrates. Their lives and hardships—poverty, persecution, emigration—might stand in for thousands of individuals fleeing Eastern Europe in the years before WW1; it is not insignificant that they, and everybody else in the book, are denied proper names, though they do come across as individuals.

But then follows an Intermezzo. In this, the child's grandmother tries an old folk remedy and the baby lives. Book II takes us to Vienna in , but to more poverty, and eventually to another death. Another Intermezzo, another major section. This takes us to Russia, where the daughter, now a professional writer, is trying not to fall victim to Stalinist purges. And so it goes, through the fall of the Wall to the modern era. It is enormously to Erpenbeck's credit that she both stays true to her schema and varies it, so that while the pattern remains, it is never predictable.

Deaths which might have been prevented by a simple "if only," are intermingled with the natural ones that come for us all, and which cannot be turned back. There is also a beautiful closing of the circle in the final chapters, created partly through the failing memories of the central character, and partly by the author's use of repetitions and other stylistic devices that shape the book as a vast arch. Erpenbeck is a writer of the greatest intelligence; she may lack the popular touch of Atkinson, but her vision is larger and her historical conscience more acute.

I believe I have now read all of Erpenbeck's fiction. It seems that she oscillates between two main styles. One is poetic—"incantatory" in the words of one of the critics cited on the cover—stepping back and viewing matters in the vast context of geography, history, or faith: Sure, she could have said this more simply, but the intricacy of its fragmentation and repetitions are the essence of what might be called Erpenbeck's high style. So kudos to translator Susan Bernofsky for retaining so much of the poetry, and not trying to turn everything into prose. Not that Erpenbeck's "prose" level is to be sneezed at either.

She has a way of writing with devastating simplicity, as in the following, a complete chapter, set as a kind of epilogue to Book II: In in a small forest of birch trees, a notebook filled with handwritten diary entries will fall to the ground when a sentry uses his rifle butt to push a young woman to the ground, and she tries to protect herself with arms she had previously been using to clutch the notebook to her chest. The book will fall in the mud, and the woman will not be able to return to pick it up again.

For a while the book will remain lying there, wind and rain will turn its pages, footsteps will pass over it, until all the secrets written there are the same color as the mud. Much of the success of Erpenbeck's breakout novel Visitation came from the balance of these two styles: The End of Days attempts much the same thing; it is also an account of an entire century of German history, told through sharply characterized vignettes. So is this latest novel as good as its predecessor? I would have to say not quite. While it mesmerized me with its poetic vision and infolded layers of narrative, I missed the balance of the earlier book; I was intrigued, but seldom devastated.

In particular, the lethal absurdity of Soviet bureaucracy which constitutes the whole of Book III first confused and then annoyed me, as communist dialectic tends to do. I was glad to return to a saner world in Book IV. And so to Book V, the shortest of all, a small miracle. For here, Erpenbeck ties the waning century to the wandering mind of a very real old woman in a Berlin retirement home.

But then the author embarks on a stunning coda, recapitulating the tragedy of the century in terms of objects: I can't say why, but their fate moved me at least as much as the many deaths of her central character. Whatever happens to this novel in its middle section, its opening and closing are the fruits of genius. I have learned from a friend that the life of the protagonist here shorn of the various possible earlier deaths that were later rescinded has much in common with that of the author's grandmother.

If so, this puts a different complexion on the book. It makes the lack of names, for example, poignant rather than distancing. It explains the long Soviet nightmare in the middle. And it enhances the special qualities of the final section, making them even more moving, as a posthumous personal tribute.

The repetitions of the words finden, Kuss, and Atem show Erpenbeck's poetic bent better than anything else. Also the easy flowing of one idea into another, almost regardless of syntax, with nothing stronger than a comma. Looking at this again, I can't help feeling that Susan Bernofsky may have overpunctuated her translation, trying to give logical structure to something that is merely intended as a free sequence of thoughts.

Perhaps something like the following? Find and find, his friend wished him at his wedding, seventy-two years earlier, and the finding continues to this day, find, wisdom in the Torah, find, a good wife, find, a peaceful life until the last shovelful of earth is tossed on the corpse, find, a death as easy as a kiss, the breath with which the Lord waked Adam to life, the breath that he blew into his nostrils, and the breath that, if one is lucky, he will one day kiss softly and gently away. View all 8 comments.

Aug 30, Lark Benobi rated it really liked it Shelves: Breathtaking, vivid writing but it almost didn't feel like the writing belonged in a novel. It felt like it should have been music, instead. As with the Barber piece there are beautiful incantatory phrases that build to piercingly beautiful and very sad resolutions. But the resolutions are lyrical and thematic, rather than providing narrative closure.

The language does not build to a resolution as a novel typica Breathtaking, vivid writing but it almost didn't feel like the writing belonged in a novel.


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The language does not build to a resolution as a novel typically does. There is almost no sense of narrative momentum. So I'm not sure if I love this work as a novel, to be read silently. I'd love this story set to music, as a choral piece, maybe--words to be sung aloud in a holy place. View all 5 comments. Jan 19, Holly rated it really liked it Shelves: The first two sections of this novel took my breath away.

I slowed my pace down to a close-reading level, absorbing the resonances between the first two possible lives of this girl-child and entertaining the possibilities in subtle shifts that might change a life. I immediately found it more profound than Kate Atkinson's Life After Life which starts at a galloping pace and a very different style.

The End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck

An infant who suffers a crib-death finds herself with suicidal ideations in another life: I felt challenged as a reader to enter the later lives as deeply as I had the early lives - I was still absorbing the impact of the first pages. I wished for the Books to be longer, so that I could spend more time with her in each new setting. In Book III the character turns to Communism and this section was more distancing and elliptical, fragmented, cold. I realize that the style was a reflection of the rhetoric of the comrades, so it was deliberate.

In Book IV our character's son is a central figure, recounting his and his mother's life, simultaneously with her death as she falls down the stairs if only she'd stepped differently, if only, if only. By Book V she is an old woman. I had some trouble fully imagining her in a retirement home. These are minor complaints and probably my failure as a reader and not legitimate problems with the book. The return of the Goethe volumes and the resonances from all the possible lives moved me.

I had been listening to the audio of Moorehead's tragic Holocaust history A Train in Winter in the days leading up to reading this, and the horrors of death camps and the human struggle against meaningless evil were informing my reading of Erpenbeck. The twentieth century itself - the century of thanatos - and Germany, are backdrops, essential influences, and I felt invited to apply the "If only" questions to the great wars and deaths of the century.

There were moments of great beauty and poignancy in this book, but for some reason it just left me a bit cold - I never really felt a connection. The lack of character names didn't really work for me, I found it too baffling. Probably a case of it's not the book, it's me but still, I feel slightly relieved to have finished!!

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Jun 10, M. Sarki rated it liked it. There is an old man back in my home town in Michigan, my place of birth, who sits alone in a chair in a rest home, no longer aware of who he is or what he is doing there, or anywhere. He no longer remembers what certain words mean nor what gadgets are meant to do, or even why tasks have to be performed. The only meaning left in his life are the brief moments of memory that come to him in a flash, but then mostly escape him.

It seems his days are spent simp http: It seems his days are spent simply waiting for whatever it is, this life, to end. But there are countless other ways his life, instead, could have meandered. And Jenny Erpenbeck relates a tale to us in five separate parts that show us how and perhaps what might have happened along the way to the woman she profiles who is afforded the chance to live and to die herself five distinct times.

Living in my America, a United States full of promise and deception, falsehood and pretension, it is comforting to feel someone is telling me the truth especially in a work of fiction. Jenny Erpenbeck may be the most gifted storyteller living in our midst these days. And by my lights there are not many.

The End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck review – ‘only the inevitable is possible’

She is obviously a sharp and clever woman, and certainly well-served by a Bernofsky translation. Such a powerful team, and one I am sure will be recognized in time for its several brilliant acts upon the page. There is no telling where a story will go with Erpenbeck at the helm, but it is guaranteed to be interesting and thoughtful to the core. The first two books in this collection of a total of five interconnected pieces, and each leading to a longer life and different death for an unnamed woman protagonist, were what was predictably expected of Erpenbeck, her typically strong and piercingly good literature.

But the third book, in the middle of it all, its focus being on comrades and fellow communists, her detainment and her acquaintances who either became traitors or executed because of their political or religious affiliations, was certainly boring and hard for me to to get a firm handle on. I kept waiting for the reason of my continued reading to reveal itself and to answer finally why I was still attempting to engage with this book when I rarely give another writer the same latitude with my precious time.

But historically Erpenbeck has often delivered the goods for me and I expected she would find a way through all this sludge to again knock my socks off. The cruelty and bitter truth behind the meaning of this life portrayed in The End of Days is that ultimately by the moment of our death none of it really matters. We have what we have when we have it, and then all is taken away from us.

And the very cruelest of these awful days must begin with the ending of language. And though it took Erpenbeck far too long to get to where she was going, the fact remains that she tried. And that is all we can possibly do until we lose our understanding. For me, this Erpenbeck novel could just as easily been titled The End of Words.

Compared to the strength and hardness of her previous collections, this book fails. And I must admit, that saddens me. View all 3 comments. This is a profoundly moving book, a poetic reflection on the fragility of life and the endurance of the human spirit which follows the life of a woman through the traumas and upheavals of twentieth century Europe, from Austria to East Berlin via Moscow.

In each section of the book, alternative scenarios are explored in which small and apparently random events lead to her early death, and the story often moves focus between global events and deeply personal experiences. Mar 21, Hakan T rated it it was ok. A few years ago, I discovered — through the recommendation of a friend — a stunning and poetic little masterpiece titled Visitation, containing a haunting narrative that carefully wove its way in and out of history and time.

The theme she so beautifully explored — the fluidity of history and time — is front and center of this book as well and, if possible, even more fully realized. Those A few years ago, I discovered — through the recommendation of a friend — a stunning and poetic little masterpiece titled Visitation, containing a haunting narrative that carefully wove its way in and out of history and time. But what if she had lived? The next of the five interwoven books imagines her as a poor and despondent teenager in Vienna during post World War I Vienna, where — again — she meets up with death.

In the next rendition, she has survived into adulthood and is now a fervent Communist until her rendezvous with death. For one thing, there are Intermezzos between each rendition, which prods the reader to see how one minute or one move could make a world of different. We never — or, at least, not to the final book — learn the name of the characters. They are called daughter or mother or grandmother.

That is a deliberate choice on the part of Ms. They could be us. A paraphrase of the title is used in the first book: Only until we get to the end do we understand the importance of continuity: In a lifetime, regimes rise and fall, people vanish or fade away, material goods find new owners. Yet life goes on.