The Sleepwalkersby Hermann Broch
With his epic trilogy, The Sleepwalkers, Hermann Broch established himself as one of the great innovators of modern literature, a visionary writer-philosopher the equal of James Joyce, Thomas Mann, or Robert Musil. Even as he grounded his narratives in the intimate daily life of Germany, Broch was identifying the oceanic changes that would shortly sweep that life into the abyss.
Whether he is writing about a neurotic army officer (The Romantic), a disgruntled bookkeeper and would-be assassin (The Anarchist), or an opportunistic war-deserter (The Relaist), Broch immerses himself in the twists of his characters' psyches, and at the same time soars above them, to produce a prophetic portrait of a world tormented by its loss of faith, morals, and reason.
"One of the greatest European novels," --Milan Kundera
"One of the few really great original and thoughtful novels of this century." --Stephen Spender
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Meet the Author
Hermann Broch (1886–1951) was born in Vienna, where he trained as an engineer and studied philosophy and mathematics. He gradually increased his involvement in the intellectual life of Vienna, becoming acquainted with Ludwig Wittgenstein, Sigmund Freud, and Robert Musil, among others. The Sleepwalkers was his first major work. In 1938, he was imprisoned as a subversive by the Nazis, but was freed and fled to the United States. In the years before his death, he was researching mass psychology at Yale University. The Death of Virgil originally appeared in 1945; his last major novel, The Guiltless, was published in 1950.
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Like Musil's, Broch's work has been overlooked. The Sleepwalkers is an astounding work about the collapse of moral sensibility in Germany in the early part of the 20th century (before Hitler). In three parts that are stylistically distinct, he examines his topic from different angles. The first work is straightforward - by the third he used modernist techniques to tell his story. Most highly recommended.
This book is a great read, and a necessary one if one is to understand European literature after Broch. He is probably one of the most influential writers ever, an opinion I share with Kundera.