First Impression Friday will be a meme where you talk about a book that you JUST STARTED! Maybe you’re only a chapter or two in, maybe a little farther. Based on this sampling of your current read, give a few impressions and predict what you’ll think by the end.
In 1989, the year the wall came down, a university student in Berlin on his morning run finds a corpse on a park bench and alerts the authorities. This scene opens a novel of extraordinary scope and depth, a masterwork that traces the fate of myriad Europeans – Hungarians, Jews, Germans, Gypsies – across the treacherous years of the mid-twentieth century.
Three unusual men are at the heart of Parallel Stories: Hans von Wolkenstein, whose German mother is linked to secrets of fascist-Nazi collaboration during the 1940s; Agost Lippay Lehr, whose influential father has served Hungary’s different political regimes for decades; and Andras Rott, who has his own dark record of mysterious activities abroad. The web of extended and interconnected drams reaches from 1989 back to the spring of 1939, when Europe trembled on the edge of war, and extends to the bestial times of 1944-45, when Budapest was besieged, the Final Solution devastated Hungary’s Jews, and the war came to an end, and on to the cataclysmic Hungarian Revolution of October 1956. We follow these men from Berlin and Moscow to Switzerland and Holland, from the Mediterranean to the North Sea, and of course, from village to city in Hungary. The social and political circumstances of their lives may vary greatly, their sexual and spiritual longings may seem to each of them entirely unique, yet Peter Nadas’s magnificent tapestry unveils uncanny reverberating parallels that link them across time and space.
It was just like yesterday when we were all giddy for a new start, a new year. A lot has happened since then, many that were unexpected, some unprecedented. But just as the concept of time, we flow. We are slowly moving forward towards a fresh start, a reset. As we march forward, I hope that we also don’t forget the lessons of the year that has been, that we be thankful for all the blessings we have received. It was a bleak chapter but a chapter that nonetheless forms a part of our story.
Before I get lost in the labyrinth of words, I have to pull myself back. We are on the last Friday of the eleventh month of the year, a couple of days before the last month starts. Since it is Friday, it is time for another First Impression Friday post! I am excited for this week’s edition for I am currently reading my 800th novel! I never expected I’d ever reach that milestone but I did.
As I place quite a significant meaning on numbers, I have reserved my 800th read to a novel I have been looking forward to this past year – Hungarian novelist Péter Nádas’ Parallel Stories. Péter Nádas was a name foreign to me until last year’s pre-Nobel Prize in Literature announcement(s). He, along with his fellow Hungarian writer László Krasznahorkai, was tagged by many a literary pundit as one of two possible winners (the 2018 winner was announced together with the 2019 winner). This naturally piqued my curiosity and when I encountered Parallel Stories in the local book bargain store, I didn’t hesitate to purchase the book.
The thing that first caught my attention was the book’s thickness, its length. While I am no stranger to long narratives, I was still in awe of its length. Daunted I maybe but I wasn’t going to back out of the challenge so I included it in my 2020 Top 20 Reading List. It is, actually, the only unread book from the list. It is also my 84th read for the year, the most number of books I have read since 2016.
I am finding my footing in the narrative. I am cognizant that it is largely a historical piece anchored on the events of Second World War but I find it a little challenging immersing in the story. Nádas prose is very lush, verbose even. The novel is brimming with long paragraphs that at times I find myself rereading some passages in order to understand where the story is heading into. I am still getting used to all of it but I can already sense the depth of his writing.
I must say Nádas’ writing is graphic as it is descriptive. There were already some images that left impression on me. However, I know that there is a lot of strands that I have to connect and unravel. I am still about one-eleventh into the story and I feel a little lost at times. I am neither panicking nor rushing, however. Nádas is still laying the groundworks and I am still getting acquainted with the characters. I want to enjoy the process, even though the story is not only deep, but also dark and heavy.
Whilst I have regained some badly needed reading momentum, I expect Parallel Stories to slow me down a bit. But it is fine with me; I want to relish this challenge and I hope that it would all be worth it in the end. Completing it is a tall task and I have allotted at least ten days to complete it.
How about you fellow reader, what book are you going to read this weekend? I hope it is a book that you’ve been looking forward to and I hope you enjoy it. Keep safe, and happy weekend!