Europe Central

Europe Central

by William T. Vollmann

Narrated by Ralph Cosham

Unabridged — 31 hours, 47 minutes

Europe Central

Europe Central

by William T. Vollmann

Narrated by Ralph Cosham

Unabridged — 31 hours, 47 minutes

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In this magnificent work of fiction, William T. Vollmann turns his trenchant eye to the authoritarian cultures of Germany and the USSR in the twentieth century. The result is a daring and mesmerizing perspective on human actions during wartime.

Assembling a composite portrait of these two warring leviathans and the terrible age they defined, the narrative intertwines experiences both real and fictional: a young German who joins the SS to reveal its secrets and stop its crimes, two generals who collaborate with the enemy for different reasons and with different results, the Soviet composer Dmitri Shostakovich laboring under Stalinist oppression. This last story is perhaps Vollmann's signature accomplishment in this volume. Also explored are the fates of artists and poets ranging from Käthe Kollwitz and Anna Akhmatova to Marina Tsvetaeva and Van Cliburn.

Editorial Reviews

Tom LeClair

Europe Central gives us 37 stories, five of them more than 50 pages long, to represent Central European fanaticism and to recover little-known acts of conscientious resistance to Nazi and Communist totalitarianism. What sets ''Europe Central'' apart from Vollmann's other large-scale historical productions is its strong narrative lines. The pieces are dated and arranged chronologically to give the book a plot that arcs from prewar political machinations to Germany's surge east to Russia's counteroffensive, and that ends with cold war politics in divided Berlin.
— The New York Times

Steven Moore

I've reviewed nearly all of Vollmann's books over the years and am running out of superlatives; suffice it to say, if you've been following his extraordinary career, Europe Central may be his best novel yet.
— The Washington Post

Publishers Weekly

In the small set of America's best contemporary novelists, Vollmann is the perpetual comet. Every two years or so he flashes across the sky with another incredibly learned, incredibly written, incredibly long novel. Two years ago, with Argall, he easily bested John Barth in the writing of 17th-century prose while taking up the tired story of the settlement of Jamestown and making it absolutely riveting. His latest departs from his usual themes-the borders between natives and Westerners, or prostitutes and johns-to take on Central Europe in the 20th century. "The winged figures on the bridges of Berlin are now mostly flown, for certain things went wrong in Europe...." What went wrong is captured in profiles of real persons (Kathe Kollwitz, Kurt Gerstein, Dmitri Shostakovich, General Paulus and General Vlasov) as well as mythic personages (a shape-shifting Nazi communications officer and creatures from the German mythology Wagner incorporated into his operas). Operation Barbarossa-the German advance into Russia in 1941, and the subsequent German defeat at Stalingrad and Kursk-is central here, with the prewar and postwar scenes radiating out from it, as though the war were primary, not the nations engaged in it. The strongest chapter is a retelling of Kurt Gerstein's life; Gerstein was the SS officer who tried to warn the world about the concentration camps while working as the SS supply agent for the gas chambers. The weakest sections of the book are devoted to the love triangle between Shostakovich, Elena Konstantinovskaya and film director Roman Karmen. Throughout, Vollman develops counternarratives to memorialize those millions who paid the penalties of history. Few American writers infuse their writing with similar urgency. Agent, Susan Golomb. 5-city author tour. (Apr.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Library Journal

The daring Vollman forges a chain of paired stories highlighting similarities between authoritarian Germany and the USSR. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

From the Publisher

"His most welcoming work, possibly his best book . . . part novel and part stories, virtuoso historical remembrance and focused study of violence."
- The New York Times Book Review  

"A jarring, haunting, absurdly ambitious symphony of a book . . . It has an emotional force capable of ripping almost any reader from his moorings. . . . Vollmann has done as much as anyone in recent memory to return moral seriousness to American fiction." 
- Steve Kettmann, San Francisco Chronicle 

"Resembles War and Peace not merely in its scope, but in its perception of history as a determining force that individual lives merely illustrate . . . Aspires to the highest possible potential of literature."
- Melvin Jules Bukiet, Los Angeles Times

"A grimly magnificent dramatization of the impossible moral choices forced on individuals by these totalitarian regimes . . . if you have been following Vollmann's extraordinary career, Europe Central may be his best novel ever."
 - Steven Moore, The Washington Post

"Profound . . . Vollmann asks us to put aside what we think we know of history and immerse ourselves in it once again."
John FreemanThe Boston Globe

JULY 2008 - AudioFile

Ralph Cosham offers a nuanced reading of Vollmann's new novel, an exploration of the twentieth-century cultures of Russia and Germany. Cosham has a measured pace, and a voice that is both intimate and distant, which he uses to excellent effect in this complex book about individuals (real and fictional) caught up in the machinations of giant authoritarian regimes. The scenes that Vollmann creates seem like a written version of a massive Eastern Bloc military display—stunning and otherworldly. Given Cosham's fine performance, your liking for the results will depend entirely on your taste for Vollmann's writing, which is refracted and atmospheric. A.C.S. © AudioFile 2008, Portland, Maine

Product Details

BN ID: 2940169862867
Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Publication date: 01/01/2008
Edition description: Unabridged
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