Saturday, January 25, 2014

Review: "Europe Central" by William T. Vollmann

Europe Central by William T Vollmann is the hardest book that I have had to get through in recent memory, for all the wrong reasons. There isn’t a moment in this book where it rises above its bland and dry layout that is almost too daunting for even the hardcore reader to get through. And the lack of reward at the end of the 750 pages (there are about 150 pages of sources and appendices but you couldn’t pay me to read them) shows what happens when a writer thinks too much with his head, and sometimes his penis, and not with his heart. The only positive things I can say about it is that some of the sex scenes in it are quite hysterical, almost as bad as the ones in Peter Nadas’ Parallel Stories, and it retroactively makes me think more highly of a book like The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littell, a similar book in size and scope, but has much more emotional impact than this book, which has almost none. Like The Kindly Ones, Europe Central takes place during the years of World War II and focuses on the affect that the Third Reich’s rise has on everybody from high-ranking SS officers to artists, mainly composer Dmitri Shostakovich. Vollmann, I can tell, is quite intelligent and has an output that I honestly envy, producing almost five or six books in his career, whether they are fiction or non-fiction that surpass the 1000 pages mark. But if they are anything like this book, or worse, than they should only be read by academics in high-level college classrooms. But I’m done with that. Even though the sex scenes, written with a clinical coldness, provide quite a few laughs, it can save this long book from being a colossal dud.

Rating: 2/5

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