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The Apartment: A Novel

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Overview

A powerful and elegant debut novel about love, memory, exile, and war.

One snowy December morning in an old European city, an American man leaves his shabby hotel to meet a local woman who has agreed to help him search for an apartment to rent. THE APARTMENT follows the couple across a blurry, illogical, and frozen city into a past the man is hoping to forget, and leaves them at the doorstep of an uncertain future-their cityscape punctuated by the man's lingering memories of ...

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The Apartment: A Novel

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Overview

A powerful and elegant debut novel about love, memory, exile, and war.

One snowy December morning in an old European city, an American man leaves his shabby hotel to meet a local woman who has agreed to help him search for an apartment to rent. THE APARTMENT follows the couple across a blurry, illogical, and frozen city into a past the man is hoping to forget, and leaves them at the doorstep of an uncertain future-their cityscape punctuated by the man's lingering memories of time spent in Iraq and the life he abandoned in the United States. Contained within the details of this day is a complex meditation on America's relationship with the rest of the world, an unflinching glimpse at the permanence of guilt and despair, and an exploration into our desire to cure violence with violence.

A novel about how our relationships to others-and most importantly to ourselves-alters how we see the world, THE APARTMENT perfectly captures the peculiarity and excitement of being a stranger in a strange city. Written in an affecting and intimate tone that gradually expands in scope, intensity, poetry, and drama, Greg Baxter's clear-eyed first novel tells the intriguing story of these two people on this single day. Both beguiling and raw in its observations and language, THE APARTMENT is a crisp novel with enormous range that offers profound and unexpected wisdom.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times - Adam Langer
…lucidly written and astutely observed…despite the lack of incident, the novel exerts a hypnotic force…Mr. Baxter continually undercuts our expectations for his novel. And it is precisely this sort of subversion, along with the author's shimmering prose, that makes The Apartment such a surprisingly compelling read and so apropos; it captures the mood of the current moment and what seems to be a new "lost generation," one formed not so much by exposure to violence, as immunity to and alienation from it. Once upon a time, there was no place like home; in Mr. Baxter's world, home, it seems, is no place.
The New York Times Book Review - Stacey D'Erasmo
Baxter…has written a novel of subtle beauty and quiet grace; I found myself hanging on every simple word, as tense about the consequences of a man finding an apartment as if I were reading about a man defusing a bomb. And, possibly, that is what The Apartment is as well: the analysis of an explosion deferred, or narrowly avoided, a hairbreadth escape. It is one of the best novels I have read in a long time.
Adam Langer
"It is precisely this sort of subversion, along with the author's shimmering prose, that makes THE APARTMENT such a surprisingly compelling read and so apropos; it captures the mood of the current moment and what seems to be a new "lost generation," one formed not so much by exposure to violence, as immunity to and alienation from it. Once upon a time, there was no place like home; in Mr. Baxter's world, home, it seems, is no place."
Los Angeles Times
"THE APARTMENT Greg Baxter's absorbing, atmospheric and enigmatic first novel, unfolds in extended paragraphs without chapter breaks on a single snowy mid-December day in a fictional European city that evokes aspects of Vienna, Prague and Budapest. Its long, frigid journey into a long, sleepless night explores a man's uneasy relationship with his past, himself and a world in which violence is inescapable."
Denver Post
"Violence, lurking offstage throughout the story, makes a shocking entrance near the end, setting in place everything that's come before. The effect is devastating, in the best possible way."
Minneapolis Star Tribune
"A beautiful meditation on brutality and culture, which are sometimes one and the same."
Stacey D'Erasmo
"It is one of the best novels I have read in a long time... It is very much to Baxter's credit that he presents this struggle as if it were thriller, love story, philosophical novel and dark comedy combined, in a novel not like a bullet but like an arrow flying straight to the heart of the matter."
Roddy Doyle
"Clever, entertaining, brave, it stretches the rules while following a man through one day of his life. I loved it."
Hisham Matar
"Exceptional--a book rich in ideas and poetry."
Sunday Telegraph
"Imagine you're on a roller-coaster ... suddenly, without warning, it tips vertiginously, so quickly that your chest constricts and while you're there, suspended, momentarily, at the apex of this roller-coaster, you're aware suddenly of a kind of clarity, a totally new perspective on everything below. Greg Baxter's THE APARTMENT is a bit like this ... Full of unshowy wisdom and surprising moments of beauty."
Saturday Review
"Stunningly good."
Observer
"Admirable for its scope, ambition and unashamed seriousness of purpose, as well as its willingness to take stylistic and structural risks."
The Times
"Baxter's superbly elegant, understated writing explores the dynamics of America's relationship with the rest of the world."
Antoine Wilson
"This profound and perfectly paced novel worked such magic on me that by its final pages I felt simultaneously destroyed and revived."
Michael Griffith
"THE APARTMENT is the kind of novel that expands one's sense of what a novel can and ought to be and do. It is brave, captivating, formally innovative in a way that never seems showy or false, and with a tone perfectly balanced between poetic-factual deadpan and astringent wit-this book is a triumph from beginning to end."
The Daily Beast
"THE APARTMENT is an exciting debut novel, and leaves one eager for Baxter's follow-up, whenever that may be."
Kirkus Reviews
A formally and thematically ambitious debut novel that aims very high and rarely falls short. In his well-received memoir (A Preparation for Death, 2010), the author writes of his frustrations with a series of previous novels that were never published. Maybe those were learning experiences, for this shows both a mastery of literary technique and a refusal to see such technique as an end in itself, as it engages the world on a number of levels--political, moral, aesthetic (its ruminations on art are where it goes a little over the top), as well as meditations on place, time and memory. Though all these concerns make the novel sound overstuffed, the elliptical concision and narrative momentum keep the prose from ever becoming polemic. Following the lead of James Joyce, Don Delillo and others, the novel takes place over the course of a single day in the life of its protagonist as he makes his way across an unnamed European city in search of the titular apartment. Christmas approaches, but the 41-year-old American seems immune to the holiday spirit and to much in the way of human warmth, as he obliquely recounts the life of dislocation that has brought him to this place that might serve as a final destination but never home. Not that he ever felt at home in his native country--"I was born to hate the place I come from"--and certainly not in his tours of Iraq, in the military and then as a civilian mercenary, selling intelligence for blood money. A woman he has recently met serves as his guide through her city and helps him find the apartment, though the depth of their relationship appears unclear to one or both of them. Not nearly as clear as the view as he stares into the abyss: "I experienced a sensation of falling into nothingness. It seemed not at all like a spontaneous sensation but like a truth that had come a very long way, looking for me, knowing all I would think before I thought it, and shot me out of the sky." A very smart novel that recognizes the limits of intelligence and the distortions of memory.
Man Booker Prize finalist for Country of Men Hisham Matar
"Exceptional--a book rich in ideas and poetry."
BBC Radio 4 Saturday Review
"Stunningly good."
From the Publisher

"It is precisely this sort of subversion, along with the author's shimmering prose, that makes THE APARTMENT such a surprisingly compelling read and so apropos; it captures the mood of the current moment and what seems to be a new "lost generation," one formed not so much by exposure to violence, as immunity to and alienation from it. Once upon a time, there was no place like home; in Mr. Baxter's world, home, it seems, is no place."—Adam Langer, The New York Times

"Violence, lurking offstage throughout the story, makes a shocking entrance near the end, setting in place everything that's come before. The effect is devastating, in the best possible way."—Denver Post

"A beautiful meditation on brutality and culture, which are sometimes one and the same."—Minneapolis Star Tribune, "Hot Five" list

"THE APARTMENT is an exciting debut novel, and leaves one eager for Baxter's follow-up, whenever that may be."—The Daily Beast, Hot Reads

"It is one of the best novels I have read in a long time... It is very much to Baxter's credit that he presents this struggle as if it were thriller, love story, philosophical novel and dark comedy combined, in a novel not like a bullet but like an arrow flying straight to the heart of the matter."—Stacey D'Erasmo, New York Times Book Review

"Absorbing, atmospheric and enigmatic...With its disorienting juxtaposition of the absolutely ordinary and the strange and vaguely threatening, the novel evokes the work of Franz Kafka and Haruki Murakami, while its oblique explorations of memory suggest a debt to W.G. Sebald... Baxter's provocative, unsettling novel is, among other things, about the inexorability of identity and 'the immortality of violence.'"—Los Angeles Times

"In this bleak but affecting novel, an unnamed American expat spends a day walking through a frigid, unidentified European city in search of an apartment...The details of his day are rendered with anaesthetized precision and achieve a cumulative force of grief, equanimity, and resolve."—The New Yorker

"In a year marked by epics, it's a relief to delve into this quiet, surprisingly tense debut novel - small enough to fit into a stocking but packing a huge emotional punch."—Entertainment Weekly

"An elegant portrait of a man half-fractured, half-intact-a post-war somebody caught between repair and capitulation, controlling his own fate and imprisoned by regret." —- The Texas Observer

"In the layered narratives of Baxter's piercing first novel, a young American returned from Iraq struggles to find a new life in Europe."—New York Times, Sunday Book Review, Editor's Choice

Library Journal
09/15/2013
An unnamed American recently arrived in an unnamed European city—likely Eastern European by the real Old World feel and the narrator's stay at the Hotel Rus—hunts for an apartment one bitterly cold day with the help of Saskia, a woman he has just met. Along the way, they encounter various friends of hers and are invited to a party. Initially, then, it seems that this intriguing, rather low-key debut will unfold as the painstakingly detailed account of a day in the life of a disaffected man, and that it does. But the story deepens in unexpected ways. While battling slush and stopping with Saskia for a snack, our narrator reflects on his past in dribs and drabs, revealing his former life in the U.S. Navy and then as a highly paid military contractor ("The Army didn't trust you if your fees weren't preposterous"). It's one quick step to more telling reflections on the uses of memory and the pervasiveness of violence, but to Baxter's credit, he doesn't burst forth with a melodramatic moment that wholly explains or changes his character's life. VERDICT Baxter's thoughtful, quietly penetrating book is for those seeking more than a quick read. [See Prepub Alert, 6/10/13.]—Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781455574780
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • Publication date: 12/3/2013
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 455,762
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Greg Baxter was born and raised in Texas. Over the last twenty years, he has lived variously in Ireland, England, Austria, Chicago, Louisiana, and Germany. In 2010 he published his first book, the critically acclaimed A Preparation for Death. He now lives in Berlin, where he writes and translates.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 28 )
Rating Distribution

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(23)

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 21, 2014

    Wandering in a Foreign Country

    This is a very strange book. The nameless narrator is looking for an apartment in an unnamed city in a foreign country, apparently somewhere in Eastern Europe. It is composed of his observations, digressions and philosophical reflections and has little in the way of a plot. Rather than having a normal ending, it stops. This was not my cup of tea, but if you like something unconventional, you may find it enjoyable.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 14, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Wonderful novel. Quietly powerful and uniquely told. Looking for

    Wonderful novel. Quietly powerful and uniquely told. Looking forward to more from Baxter.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 28, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

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