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’s the first Friday of the last month of 2020. This year has been so surreal in many ways. It’s been a very tedious week because our company is performing a hard close (hey accountants!) in preparation for the year-end close. It would have been manageable but a new team is doing the closing and I am guiding them to ensure that everything runs smoothly. I sure hope so.
I am back with another First Impression Friday post! For this week’s post, I am going over again the same back I did a first impression post on last week. At over a thousand pages, Hungarian writer Peter Nadas’ Parallel Stories is surely occupying my time. But it is fine as it is my 800th novel. I still can’t believe that I am hitting that mark especially that I started reading relatively later than most; I took reading as a hobby when I was already 16 years-old. I guess I have already caught up. Or not. I do have a lot of books I still want to read.
But for the second week in a row, I am talking about Parallel Stories. So where was I? I did mention being daunted by the book’s length and I still am because it also has lengthy paragraphs. It didn’t help that Nadas was averse to quotation marks; it was a challenge distinguishing whether a character is conversing or merely thinking. It took me over a week to race through some 600 to 800 pages which is a decent progress considering that I have been preoccupied. I didn’t have much of an impression on the book last week because I was still trying to find my footing back then. I an nearly done but, honestly, I am still finding my footing. Haha.
With over 400 pages done, questions arose whether I should pursue the narrative or not. The story started with a murder but from that point on, the narrative took on an entirely different course. It started filling with numerous sexual references. “Cock”, “labia”, “clitoris” became ubiquitous and moaning sounds reverberated all through out. It was a challenge making sense of all of these images and acts which were taking place all over Budapest.
Past the 400th page, however, the story took another turn. A seemingly different landscape started to take shape. Nadas, with his lush prose, vividly painted picture of post-War Budapest – its nooks and crannies, streets, its atmosphere, its social and cultural landscape. Through Nadas’ writing, Budapest came alive. Despite the sepulchral tone, I can imagine myself walking all over the city. I must reiterate graphic and descriptive Nadas’ storytelling is. He did conjure strongly graphic scenes that has left impressions on me.
I still have less than 200 pages to cover and I am hoping that the original murder gets to have a closure. I am hoping that the parallel stories will merge as the story draws to a close. The “parallel” stories also started making sense. However, I can feel that even if I arrive at the conclusion, the story would still feel incomplete, that it would require perhaps another thousand pages more.
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!