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A landmark of 20th Century literature about New York in the late 1960s, now in English for the first time. As a novel, Uwe Johnson’s masterpiece, Anniversaries, is at once daringly simple in conception and wonderfully complex and engaging in effect. Late in 1967, Johnson, already one of the most celebrated German novelists of his generation, set out to write a book that wou A landmark of 20th Century literature about New York in the late 1960s, now in English for the first time. As a novel, Uwe Johnson’s masterpiece, Anniversaries, is at once daringly simple in conception and wonderfully complex and engaging in effect. Late in 1967, Johnson, already one of the most celebrated German novelists of his generation, set out to write a book that would take the form of an entry for every day of the year that lay ahead. The first section was dated August 20, and Johnson had of course no idea what the year would bring--that was part of the challenge--but he did have his main character: Gesine Cresspahl, a German emigre living on the Upper West Side of New York City and working as a translator for a bank who is the single mother of a ten-year-old daughter, Marie. The book would tell the story of a year in the life of this little family in relation to the unfolding story of the year, as winnowed from the pages of the New York Times, of which Gesine is a devoted if wary reader. These stories would in turn be overlayed by another: Gesine is 34, born just as Hitler was coming to power, and she has decided to tell Marie the story of her grandparents’ lives and of her own rural childhood in Nazi Germany. It is important that Marie know where and what she comes from. The days of the year are also anniversaries of years past. The world that was and the world of the 1960s--with the struggle for civil rights leading to riots in American cities and, abroad, the escalating destruction of the Vietnam War--are, in the end, one world. Anniversaries was published in four volumes over the more than ten years that it took Johnson to write it, and as the volumes came out it became clear that this was one the great twentieth-century novels. The book courts comparison to Joyce’s Ulysses, the book of a day, and to Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, the book of a lifetime, but it stands apart in its dense polyphonic interplay of voices and stories. Anniversaries is many books: the book of a mother and daughter, of a family and its generations, of the country and the city, and of two times and two countries that seem farther apart perhaps than they are.  It is a novel of private life, a political novel, and a new kind of historical novel, reckoning not only with past history but with history in the making. Monumental and intimate, sweeping in vision and full of incident, richly detailed and endlessly absorbing, Anniversaries, now for the first time available in English in a brilliant new translation by Damion Searls, is nothing short of a revelation.


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A landmark of 20th Century literature about New York in the late 1960s, now in English for the first time. As a novel, Uwe Johnson’s masterpiece, Anniversaries, is at once daringly simple in conception and wonderfully complex and engaging in effect. Late in 1967, Johnson, already one of the most celebrated German novelists of his generation, set out to write a book that wou A landmark of 20th Century literature about New York in the late 1960s, now in English for the first time. As a novel, Uwe Johnson’s masterpiece, Anniversaries, is at once daringly simple in conception and wonderfully complex and engaging in effect. Late in 1967, Johnson, already one of the most celebrated German novelists of his generation, set out to write a book that would take the form of an entry for every day of the year that lay ahead. The first section was dated August 20, and Johnson had of course no idea what the year would bring--that was part of the challenge--but he did have his main character: Gesine Cresspahl, a German emigre living on the Upper West Side of New York City and working as a translator for a bank who is the single mother of a ten-year-old daughter, Marie. The book would tell the story of a year in the life of this little family in relation to the unfolding story of the year, as winnowed from the pages of the New York Times, of which Gesine is a devoted if wary reader. These stories would in turn be overlayed by another: Gesine is 34, born just as Hitler was coming to power, and she has decided to tell Marie the story of her grandparents’ lives and of her own rural childhood in Nazi Germany. It is important that Marie know where and what she comes from. The days of the year are also anniversaries of years past. The world that was and the world of the 1960s--with the struggle for civil rights leading to riots in American cities and, abroad, the escalating destruction of the Vietnam War--are, in the end, one world. Anniversaries was published in four volumes over the more than ten years that it took Johnson to write it, and as the volumes came out it became clear that this was one the great twentieth-century novels. The book courts comparison to Joyce’s Ulysses, the book of a day, and to Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, the book of a lifetime, but it stands apart in its dense polyphonic interplay of voices and stories. Anniversaries is many books: the book of a mother and daughter, of a family and its generations, of the country and the city, and of two times and two countries that seem farther apart perhaps than they are.  It is a novel of private life, a political novel, and a new kind of historical novel, reckoning not only with past history but with history in the making. Monumental and intimate, sweeping in vision and full of incident, richly detailed and endlessly absorbing, Anniversaries, now for the first time available in English in a brilliant new translation by Damion Searls, is nothing short of a revelation.

30 review for Anniversaries: From a Year in the Life of Gesine Cresspahl

  1. 4 out of 5

    Nathan "N.R." Gaddis

    A masterpiece of course. A year in the life of, day by day. But let me assure you, not in the form of a diary. There is a delightful variety of shifting voices and points of views and styles that supersede any kind of first person problems of a diary. And we get a convincing juxtaposition of WWII Germany and Vietnam era Usofa. This is a big novel with all the traits and tricks of big novels. But, for me I found myself losing its grip in the second volume. There the chapters got longer and the foc A masterpiece of course. A year in the life of, day by day. But let me assure you, not in the form of a diary. There is a delightful variety of shifting voices and points of views and styles that supersede any kind of first person problems of a diary. And we get a convincing juxtaposition of WWII Germany and Vietnam era Usofa. This is a big novel with all the traits and tricks of big novels. But, for me I found myself losing its grip in the second volume. There the chapters got longer and the focus tended to be on post-WWII German (small town) politics, in extreme and near tedious detail (not tedious if you go for that kind of thing) and Gesine's school days of that era. I had found myself more engaged with the material of '67-'68 Usofa, but that is my own orientation of interest. The stuff of the novel will of course attract you varyingly according to where and how you find yourself. Remember of course that Musil's great novel is a great novel and remains a masterpiece ; despite the total disintegration (and unreadability) of its unfinished Part III. So too Anniversaries (for me) remains an entirely impressive work no matter how the material of the second volume didn't quite drag me as deeply. Oh, and the NYT material is simply lovely. Approaching a Cooverian level of satire. Read this if only for that. __________ Let's be Frank. This is a long big book and it'll take me at least a few weeks to read it once I get started on it. And it's probably the BIG'st thing since Bottom's Dream what's shown up in English. And so for this and many more reasons, the prospect of me reviewing this is slim. Also, like BD/ZT, there's good reason to believe that Our Literary Establishment will be (has been) ignoring its existence, despite the NYRB imprint etc etc. So I'm just going to ClearingHouse the shit out of this ReviewBox. Below will be listed from present into the past for your ease in quickly finding whatever new shit I might post (per usuall). ____________ From The Translator -- Part I :: "On Uwe Johnson: Poet of Both Germanys" https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2... "...and considering devoting the rest of his life to translating Faulkner’s complete works." "Because to him they were more than fictional: no writer has ever been more invested, more ethically committed, to the reality of his fictions." [Vollmann?] Part II :: "On Uwe Johnson: The Hardest Book I’ve Ever Translated" https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2... "It’s a whole short story in a set-up paragraph, complete with a quiet little piece of virtuosity in the camera-eye second sentence that contains nine consecutive prepositional phrases, all using different prepositions (have to keep that, even though the nine different prepositions in German don’t map directly onto nine different prepositions in English)." "There’s a library’s worth of historical references in the book—luckily for this translator, German scholars have tracked down most of them [annotations bitte!!!]—but the real hurdle is this detailed texture." "An elevator operator turns around, away from Gesine, to face the … not the metal outer doors but the wooden gate that accordions into rhombuses, which you shut from inside the elevator. What is that called?" [today I suspect 'elevator operator' will have to be annotated. Why can't they just push the button themselves? I remember riding the elevator at Loeman's in Boston operated by a union man.] "....in novels by Saul Bellow. Maybe this is the writer in English who has a prose energy comparable to Johnson’s, all cylinders always firing on every level. One word down, 599,999 to go." "The insurmountable challenge was capturing Johnson’s games with English." "To what extent does fifty-year-old English need “translation”?" "There are the “mobile kiosks” in Central Park selling heisse Hunde, which in German doesn’t mean the iconic thin sausages, it means actual dogs that are literally hot." Part III :: "Uwe Johnson: Not This But That" https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2... "In German you say “but rather” in one elegant little word instead of two, sondern..." [No good English for "Doch" either. (heh. I read the next sentence and lo, "There are other German words like doch...")] "But Johnson wasn’t just using a German tic, he was doing what any great writer does: push the resources of his or her language to express a personal vision." "Saying “not six but five thirty” is truer to the way his mind works than “five thirty, not six.”" [yes! Leave the german syntax in place please don't over=English it.] "....all writers operate under the influence of others, within certain generic conventions, and with words and a language that were invented before they came along." [I call this the fact that writing (and reading) are social activities. But I know this because I'm a good Hegelian.] "...but unless you have another language to compare and contrast against, a language’s built-in assumptions are likely to remain invisible to you." [Let's just say, I agree. In my experience, I didn't even understand nothing about how English worked (really) until I'd learned me some Greek and some German. You don't know Self til you've known Other really.] "As a further twist, Johnson’s biggest influence was William Faulkner, and Faulkner’s later novels, with their long, clawing, grasping, searching sentences, prominently use this same “not this but that” move of correction and negation." [Of course the Joyce=comparison always makes me salivate (and head to the Market with Wallet open) ; but so too should the Faulkner=comp.] "So is Johnson’s usage deliberately drawing on Faulkner? And does that mean the translator should try to make Johnson’s sentences in English sound like Faulkner (not to mention Bellow)? How would a line written in the seventies, in German and consciously after Faulkner, be best expressed in today’s English?" [Language layers!] "... so maybe Conrad’s English bears traces of Polish conventions?" [The rabbit=hole goes deeper!] "No language is truly monolingual." [aha! Enter Bakhtin.] "...but now there’s a new version of New York that English-speaking New Yorkers have access to." [Think I'm falling in love with this trans'r.] _______ blogging it up with Mookse :: http://mookseandgripes.com/reviews/20... "Let’s start with this: Uwe Johnson’s Anniversaries is the best book I’ve read this year, and I haven’t even finished the book yet" [that's how I feel about Bottom's Dream ; should've won that btbaward even though no one would've finished reading it ; don't matter] [nice centerfold] ___________ "The Decades-Old Novel That Presages Today’s Fight for Facts" https://www.theatlantic.com/entertain... Occur'd to me earlier today that Today, yes it's about facts ; but more it's about losing fiction. It's fiction that puts facts together into something meaningful. And so it's not so much about 'fake facts/news' but about fake fiction. Will UJ help restore us to the truth of/in/with/by/of/etc fiction? "European modernists used the novel as a means of mapping metropolitan experience." [somewhere Moore's got a great list of the Stadtsroman. Uwe's another entry for NYC.] "Its unlikely hero, and sometime stand-in narrator, is The New York Times, which Gesine, an admiring if astringent reader, calls “our tried and true supplier of reality.”" [but ofcourse we know that the NYT confesses to print only that which is FIT to print.] "This faith in the notion of a shared, objectively verifiable reality may seem quaint, or enviable, to the reader of 2018." [?] "Thanks in part to persistent abuse from President Trump, public trust in the press has never been lower, and the basic definitions of truth and falsehood are now a matter of daily contention." [sigh. Ain't read the Chomsky/Herman? What goes missing in this Trump v. The Medea thing is the long history of the left=wing critique of the Corporate/State Media like the NYT and CNN etc. The thing is that this Media has always advanced the interests of people like Trump. But that story is not getting told is it? I mean, there is definitely a thing where 'Rumpism is breaking up the neoliberal death grip ; that should be acknowledged too. As Zizek says, Right step, wrong direction.] [where were we...?] "having grown up with “the Nazi People’s Observer, the Soviet Union’s Daily Review.”" [and the non-biased writer would add "the Corporation's NYT". It's this Nazi-Commie-Liberal equivalency drawing that got Heidegger in trouble once.] "“We do not live by bread alone,” Gesine advises her daughter, “we need hard facts too, child.”" [sigh. We need fiction. But I guess that's what's meant by 'bread'.]

  2. 4 out of 5

    Tuck

    At 1700 pages one must be pretty committed to this but for me well worth the simultaneous stories of pre and post wwii in northern Germany small towns and rural area and the life of a single mother who grew up in that northern Germany but now living in NYC with her young daughter. Besides all the fascinating details of Nazi then Soviet rule at the level of author's sentences it was absorbing read to see how he crafted thought and description in an economical ( no really, despite 1000s of pgs) an At 1700 pages one must be pretty committed to this but for me well worth the simultaneous stories of pre and post wwii in northern Germany small towns and rural area and the life of a single mother who grew up in that northern Germany but now living in NYC with her young daughter. Besides all the fascinating details of Nazi then Soviet rule at the level of author's sentences it was absorbing read to see how he crafted thought and description in an economical ( no really, despite 1000s of pgs) and crystalline way.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan

    The first 900 or so pages of this are simply extraordinary, but (and I recognise the problem may be mine and not the text's, but it does seem like others felt the same) as we get into book 3 it feels like the great mass of detail starts to overwhelm, that the authorial control starts to fail, that less than interesting events start to take up more and more unnecessary space. I wholeheartedly recommend reading this, and the translation is a breathtaking achievement, but it may be best to take a b The first 900 or so pages of this are simply extraordinary, but (and I recognise the problem may be mine and not the text's, but it does seem like others felt the same) as we get into book 3 it feels like the great mass of detail starts to overwhelm, that the authorial control starts to fail, that less than interesting events start to take up more and more unnecessary space. I wholeheartedly recommend reading this, and the translation is a breathtaking achievement, but it may be best to take a bit of a break halfway through....Looking at the dates of publication, it seems like such a gap would be entirely legitimate, and that may have been a way to prevent the kind of exhaustion that overtook me.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Paul Dembina

    A monumental achievement at 1668 pages. I can't really add anything to what other people have written. I did find parts of the 2nd volume harder going but still a darned fine read

  5. 5 out of 5

    Tom Glaser

    In the half-year since its publication, only 3400 copies of Anniversaries have been sold to consumers in the US. Maybe a few hundred additional copies found their way into libraries. That’s really a shame because this book may be more deeply imagined than any novel I think I’ve ever read, and reading it has been very rewarding. The author invents a rural Baltic farming community with no fewer than 500 residents, all with their own backstories. The physical spaces they occupy are imagined in equa In the half-year since its publication, only 3400 copies of Anniversaries have been sold to consumers in the US. Maybe a few hundred additional copies found their way into libraries. That’s really a shame because this book may be more deeply imagined than any novel I think I’ve ever read, and reading it has been very rewarding. The author invents a rural Baltic farming community with no fewer than 500 residents, all with their own backstories. The physical spaces they occupy are imagined in equal depth. No street, house, fence, garden or stick of furniture seems to be overlooked. The detail could easily be overwhelming, but mostly it’s hypnotic. The author also creates a second neighborhood, this one on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, where the novel’s central character, Gesine Cresspahl, lives with her precocious young daughter, Marie. Like an endless dream or nightmare, the book moves back and forth between three periods of upheaval in the 20th century - the Hitler period, the postwar communist takeover of East Germany, and the short period of political liberalization in Czechoslovakia in 1968. The action also oscillates between Gesine’s hometown of Jerichow in Mecklenburg and her small apartment on Riverside Drive. It’s been a long time since I read Slaughter House Five, but it occurred to me that the protagonists in both novels experience some sort of PTSD that moves them across time and space. The book ends on 8/20/68, the day before the Warsaw Pact countries invaded Czechoslovakia and ended the Prague Spring. This is very significant for the future of Gesine and Marie, but the novel doesn’t take us past that fateful day. I won’t say more… I was drawn to Anniversaries for very particular reasons. I’m fascinated by modern European history. In the 1970’s, I traveled a few times through East Germany to visit East Berlin and have memories of the oppressive dreariness of those places. I grew up in the NYC suburbs and can remember Gesine’s and Marie’s Manhattan. I loved dipping into the 1967-68 NYC time capsule the author created using Vietnam War and crime updates copied straight from the New York Times. But even a reader who shares none of my interests can still appreciate the author’s astounding ambition and vision. The book is long. It took me 4 months to read. Sections of it are tedious. In volume 2, I sometimes felt that the author was losing his grip. But all in all, it was a great experience and I’m thankful that it found such a talented translator.

  6. 4 out of 5

    sean

    it is that good. 1670 pages filled with unbroken joy, generosity, optimism. it's long as hell (probably the longest book i've read), but it doesn't ask to be read like a traditional novel: i found i only started to love anniversaries when i had lived inside it for a long while, and found its sense of place/time. despite its size, it's not a book that really announces itself -- its pleasures come from the conversations between gesine and marie, adjusting to the slight oscillations in perspective, it is that good. 1670 pages filled with unbroken joy, generosity, optimism. it's long as hell (probably the longest book i've read), but it doesn't ask to be read like a traditional novel: i found i only started to love anniversaries when i had lived inside it for a long while, and found its sense of place/time. despite its size, it's not a book that really announces itself -- its pleasures come from the conversations between gesine and marie, adjusting to the slight oscillations in perspective, following johnson's attempt to squeeze History into the boundaries of hours, days, months and years. it sucks knowing that despite nyrb's efforts this book might never really be read, though i get why (it's expensive, it's heavy, who has the time, etc.). but this is the kind of book that does things never done before or since. it's astounding.

  7. 4 out of 5

    ReemK10 (Paper Pills)

    Done! Done! And done! I know that #ANNIVERSARIES can be read in 4 days. It took me almost 4 months! That said, this is an easy read. We read this as a group, and we had great company along the way! It felt really good knowing that there were also readers who read #ANNIVERSARIES in the original German who were enjoying our reading progress. It was also wonderful to have the translator's wife checking up on us as well. I have to say that I was very conscious of Uwe Johnson as the author and of Dam Done! Done! And done! I know that #ANNIVERSARIES can be read in 4 days. It took me almost 4 months! That said, this is an easy read. We read this as a group, and we had great company along the way! It felt really good knowing that there were also readers who read #ANNIVERSARIES in the original German who were enjoying our reading progress. It was also wonderful to have the translator's wife checking up on us as well. I have to say that I was very conscious of Uwe Johnson as the author and of Damion Searls as the translator as I was reading. Thanks to NYRB Classics for providing us with a great read!! We would not have read #ANNIVERSARIES, had we not been inspired by Robert and Roman! Check out: Listen to Anniversaries by Uwe Johnson - Episode 9 by Feeling Bookish Podcast #np on #SoundCloud https://soundcloud.com/user-63759823/...

  8. 4 out of 5

    chirantha

    If you love The Man Without Qualities but hate yourself, this is the book for you.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Paul Fulcher

    Technically this is a DNF, but, when one has read 752 pages of a novel, that gives a rather misleading impression. I largely stopped as I can't see anything in the remaining 55% of the book (by pages, 45% by remaining days) is likely to change my appreciation (or otherwise) of the book. And it seemed fitting to finish Gesine Cresspehl's daily entries, after more than 6 months from their start on August 20th, 1967, on March 14th, 1968, the day I was born. Rather presciently the entry for that day Technically this is a DNF, but, when one has read 752 pages of a novel, that gives a rather misleading impression. I largely stopped as I can't see anything in the remaining 55% of the book (by pages, 45% by remaining days) is likely to change my appreciation (or otherwise) of the book. And it seemed fitting to finish Gesine Cresspehl's daily entries, after more than 6 months from their start on August 20th, 1967, on March 14th, 1968, the day I was born. Rather presciently the entry for that day notes: You won’t see uniqueness as anything worthy of praise which as an identical twin is entirely fitting. Jahrestage, Aus dem Leben von Gesine Cresspahl, and its translation by Damion Searls as Anniversaries: From a Year in the Life of Gesine Cresspahl, is clearly a monumental effort and one I can appreciate theoretically, but practically I didn't find the experience terribly fulfilling. In part this was due to my choosing to read its 1668 pages over a year, following exactly 52 years behind the vents described, with an entry (c.5 pages) a day. This made it difficult to remember much of the convoluted cast of characters and to follow plot threads - typically between reads I would have absorbed 100 pages of another novel - but this effect was exacerbated by the arch narrative tone that alludes to things obliquely, as if the reader already knows what is being discussed, rather than stating them outright. The author appears to have a JK Rowling-like control of his material - one imagines notebooks full of background detail - but he cares far more about his characters than this reader does, particularly as one is not directly privy to much of this. Should I tell you the story out of chronological order? – No. Although I don’t keep track of this Jerichow of yours chronologically. – How do you? – By your people. What I know about them. What I’m supposed to think of them. And some of the novel's idiosyncrasies and tics become grating when repeated daily over such a long read, e.g. the knowing back and forth between Gesine and her precocious daughter Maria and, my biggest recurring bugbear, the continual personification of the New York Times. The New York Times accompanies her and stays home with her like a person, and when she studies the large gray bundle she gets the feeling of someone’s presence, of a conversation with someone, whom she listens to and politely answers, with the concealed skepticism, the repressed grimace, the forgiving smile, and all the other gestures she would nowadays make to an aunt, not a relative but a universal, imagined Auntie: her idea of an aunt. And from a personal interest perspective, while it was the year of by birth the contemporary section is too New-York centric, and I was far more interested in the, at times rather underplayed, history of 1930s-1940s Germany. An impressive achievement but as a personal reading experience, a major disappointment.

  10. 4 out of 5

    James

    This is a book about the city as seen by a poet but it is much more as it demonstrates the mind of an admirably uncompromising and impressively earnest writer with a wayward eye and prose to match. Johnson's prose defies translation: that he survives at all is a minor miracle but reading Uwe Johnson in English is better than not reading him at all, because even in this less than perfect version he comes across as an uncommonly original and provocative voice. The book can seem an inchoate jumble This is a book about the city as seen by a poet but it is much more as it demonstrates the mind of an admirably uncompromising and impressively earnest writer with a wayward eye and prose to match. Johnson's prose defies translation: that he survives at all is a minor miracle but reading Uwe Johnson in English is better than not reading him at all, because even in this less than perfect version he comes across as an uncommonly original and provocative voice. The book can seem an inchoate jumble at times, but as with all great novels it is worth persevering to enjoy the richness of the story. The book inhabits a world all its own as demonstrated by the vitality, design, versatility and inventiveness that abound throughout. An exhilarating read whose allusiveness may deter those who do not relish such journeys.

  11. 5 out of 5

    James Murphy

    Where were you in 1967 and 1968? What were you doing? This is a novel that'll perhaps bring those days back to you. The novel's diary form and the ticking off of events causing an upsurge of memory makes this our story, but it's more specifically that of Gesine Cresspahl and her 10-year old daughter Marie who, it seems to me, often acts as her mother's conscience, and that of the novel as well. On its surface this is a simple story. However, its many parts and many prose styles make it a difficul Where were you in 1967 and 1968? What were you doing? This is a novel that'll perhaps bring those days back to you. The novel's diary form and the ticking off of events causing an upsurge of memory makes this our story, but it's more specifically that of Gesine Cresspahl and her 10-year old daughter Marie who, it seems to me, often acts as her mother's conscience, and that of the novel as well. On its surface this is a simple story. However, its many parts and many prose styles make it a difficult novel. Also its length, 1668 pages. I've seen Anniversaries described as an "everything novel." Perhaps it is, but I don't think of it as really encyclopedic except in regard to items reported in The New York Times and reflected in the novel's day-to-day format from August 20, 1967 to August 20, 1968. That's one narrative track, Gesine and Marie in New York City during that year. Gesine faithfully reads The Times each day. This may be the only novel in which The Times might be considered a character, or almost a character. Sometimes referred to as "she" or Auntie, The Times has a lot to say and has an enormous influence on the thinking of Gesine and her daughter. Consider some of the big, even iconic events of those 12 months: the Vietnam War and the Tet Offensive, the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, the student takeover at Columbia University, the Prague Spring. Gesine follows these in The Times as well as many much smaller and local stories relating only to the city. The novel's broken into these 366 daily segments (1968 was a leap year) like the editions of the paper. Gesine is German. She works as a translator in a midtown Manhattan bank. How she came to be in New York City in 1967 is the novel's other narrative track. It's almost a family saga telling the story of her father and mother in the state of Mecklenburg, Germany and the small towns of Jerichow and Gneez near the Baltic coast. Gesine is born there March 3, 1933. Following the stories of her parents, told in considerable detail, Gesine's story of growing up in Germany includes the years of Nazi power and the war, the Soviet occupation, and the years of repression in East Germany. The German parts of the novel are much more a linear narrative and provide a fairly comprehensive portrait of the small town in which Gesine grows up as well as the lives of the townspeople around her. How the inhabitants of Jerichow endured the Nazi and war years followed by the Soviet occupation is a story embracing everyday life including the larger effects on society of Nazi ideology and the restrictions of Soviet administration. This may be Gesine's story, but in the progress of this huge novel most of the lives of Jerichow and Gneez, large or small, are told. I once read a description of the Richard Howard translation of The Charterhouse of Parma as a novel containing a story on every page. Anniversaries is like that. This is rich, engaging story-telling. It's not an easy read, though. Using many styles, though most of the variety is in the parts relating Gesine and Marie in New York City, it's complex in its huge number of characters and in the way the novel's slowly revealed as you wait for the 2 tracks of Gesine's story--Germany and New York City--to swing around and align to form the unbroken narrative you know is there. There are digressions, too, and, again, usually in New York City, like what one sees on a bus ride home during rush hour traffic. March 5, 1968, for instance, is devoted to the ubiquity and toughness of the cockroach. March 9, 1968 is a meditation on slums and race. Johnson doesn't make the reading easy, but I think the novel's magnificence and ambition make it worthwhile. It's grand reading. The size of Anniversaries is part of its essence, of course. It's 1668 pages in 2 volumes in the wonderful New York Review of Books edition I'm proud to own. But such size does create problems, make such a big novel hard to manage. I have to admit I grew a little weary near the end. This was mostly my fault. There are many, many characters, particularly in Germany, and the reader strains to keep up with and remember them. I listed 132 characters as I read, but I took a trip in May and didn't take my list with me. Plus I stopped listing altogether. Continuing to read, though, while on the road, I lost track of some characters. Others got lost in the crowd due to my own sloppiness. This contributed to my mild burnout. I do intend to read this again one day. In fact, I look forward to it and think it would be fun to read a day at a time as lived by Gesine and Marie, read over the course of a year beginning, naturally, on August 20. When I reread, I'll know to keep my eye on every sparrow. Another problem is maps. I don't remember now how I came by it, but I used the link https://www.goethe.de/ins/us/en/kul/b... It pinpoints many locations in New York City referenced in the novel, even providing photos. However, the world of the city, its sights, smells, and sounds, are so familiar and known that I soon stopped using it. Maps do help a reader visualize and experience a text to create reality. I needed a map of Mecklenburg and the towns of Jerichow and Gneez. I was unable to locate the towns on any map and suspect they're fictitious. But even so, a map helping me to complete the novel's landscape would've been invaluable. But these are small blemishes in a novel otherwise magnificent in its realization, encompassing, as I think it does, the aggregate of the human condition and its revisiting modern German history.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Alison

    I’ve been background reading this since March and what enormous, vital, glorious thing it is. Finished the last bit today and don’t know when I’ll read something again that will so generously welcome me in to its endless questioning, memory collages and clamorous, thought-provoking pleasures.

  13. 5 out of 5

    AB

    January 6th, 2020. Monday “John Ramaglia, of 211 N. Sixth St. in Newark, announces via the times that he needs an attorney, in a matter of life or death. His phone is tapped. Then he gives his number (201) HU5-6291” Before I begin I just want to get this out of the way: This is by far the most creative, unique, and inspiring novel on the face of the earth. If you like writing as a medium of art you must read this book. Now I will sum up my experiences in reading Anniversaries into three words: A January 6th, 2020. Monday “John Ramaglia, of 211 N. Sixth St. in Newark, announces via the times that he needs an attorney, in a matter of life or death. His phone is tapped. Then he gives his number (201) HU5-6291” Before I begin I just want to get this out of the way: This is by far the most creative, unique, and inspiring novel on the face of the earth. If you like writing as a medium of art you must read this book. Now I will sum up my experiences in reading Anniversaries into three words: Awe inspiring, breathtaking, and frustrating. There was hardly a page in this novel that did not leave me wondering at Uwe’s genius. Let me begin with the characters. His novel is peopled by hundreds of characters. Not a single one is flat or one dimensional. Each has unique attitudes and histories. Hell, even Uwe is a character in his own novel- often conversing with Gesine who calls him “comrade-writer”. The stars of this show are Gesine and Marie. I hate the cliché of “living in a book” but Goddamn this is completely true for Anniversaries. I have never felt connected to fictional characters before I met Gesine and Marie. In particular, Marie is great. Her precociousness is infectious. The novel itself is very well written. Uwe does a bit of everything. Every once and a while I would be blown away with some rather poetic descriptions. Descriptions of the sun setting over Riverside drive, a storm passing over New York, and a description of the reproduction cycle of cockroaches, have all stuck with me. I would also call Uwe experimental. Although slightly jarring at first, there were three forms of describing conversation throughout the book. Normal conversation in the standard quotation marks, italicized conversation was often internal and dashes represented a recorded conversation. Moving on past the basics, Uwe often played with conversations and unfolding of events. Quite frankly, Anniversaries is the most unique thing I have ever read. Almost every single chapter or “day” presents some new way of describing action or conversation. This does not just happen in the first volume. I was continually surprised throughout the novel with new gems. A conversation reported to Gesine is transformed into a one act play, a debate between Czech and Russian philosophers is described as a boxing match. Uwe also has a real wit to him. This is especially directed towards The New York times and both the two Germanys and the USSR. Gesine often engages with articles in The New York Times, critiquing her “Auntie Times” or the actions of some socialist state. Unfortunately, my lack of any knowledge of post-war Europe left me scratching my head at some of the remarks against the latter. Nothing a bit of research cannot fix though. January 17, 1968. Wednesday Stalin’s daughter, his little Svetlana, just can’t keep her mouth shut. She’s sitting pretty in Princeton, New Jersey, and still feels the need to respond to the protests against the conviction of four young Moscow dissidents for writing without permission. Does she imagine that a Soviet judge gives greater weight to a defector’s voice than to anyone else’s? Or maybe she wants to defend her father’s intellectual property rights over the Socialist justice system he invented? the East German Communists have released a Columbia University art historian even though "forbidden" buildings may have ended up in front of his camera during his dissertation research on Berlin architecture, and without the Americans having to give anything in return. "You could say it was done with mirrors"...Nine months in jail and then returned to the outside world without a trial. Slight of hand. Magic. Finally, I should end with a note on my frustration with this book. This book broke a lot of firsts for me. One of the biggest being that never before have I been in such a love/hate relationship with a book before. I often struggled with the 1930’s to 1940’s portions of the book. That’s not to say that I did not enjoy parts of it, because I did. However, these parts often dragged and lacked the innovativeness that the 1968-9 parts had. Gesine and Marie felt more compelling and I could still appreciate both of their reactions to the events that took place in Jerichow. I could tide over my disinterest in this section because I knew that soon there would be another great 1960’s chapter. But as I approached the end of the book, the chapters dealing with the past became longer and longer. Regardless, I still loved this book. Since starting it last February, it’s been constantly on my mind. I may have physically put it down for 6 months, but it stuck with me all the same. For me, a hallmark of a good book is one that I just cannot get out my head. Bravo Uwe. Next time I go to New York City, I will make sure to spend a Saturday on the south Ferry and then visit Riverside Drive. “There once was a time when we believed Herbert H. Hayes—that time when he looked up the weather over Easter 1938 for us. Let’s hope the New York Weather Bureau never employs him anywhere but in the archives. They’d have to worry about him in the forecasting department. Today was neither sunny nor dry. It might have deserved “mild” If only for the persistent rain that wouldn’t stop for hours”

  14. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    How to approach a novel like ANNIVERSARIES, a nearly 1700-page novel about a German émigré, Gesine Cresspahl, living in 1967-68 Manhattan, raising her eleven-year-old daughter, Marie? Its simple concept belies a complex, multilayered narrative bridging much of the 20th century. While only a single year of 'real' time passes in the course of the novel, August 1967 to August 1968, during which we follow the day to day joys and struggles of Gesine and Marie in New York, through a weave of many thoug How to approach a novel like ANNIVERSARIES, a nearly 1700-page novel about a German émigré, Gesine Cresspahl, living in 1967-68 Manhattan, raising her eleven-year-old daughter, Marie? Its simple concept belies a complex, multilayered narrative bridging much of the 20th century. While only a single year of 'real' time passes in the course of the novel, August 1967 to August 1968, during which we follow the day to day joys and struggles of Gesine and Marie in New York, through a weave of many thoughts and voices – imagined, remembered, voices living and dead [“Fundamentally I think of myself as normal. The exception: I hear voices... it takes me back into past situations and I talk to the people from back then as I did back then” (1343)] – Gesine's family history is revealed, expanding the novel's time and place from a year in their Upper West Side apartment to 1930s Germany and the rise of Nazism, Kristallnacht, WWII, and the Soviet occupation of East Germany. This is juxtaposed with Gesine's morning New York Times – she's an avid reader of 'Auntie Times' – headlines filled with news of Vietnam, the Cold War, Civil Rights, riots, and American assassinations. And so time is expanded and compressed – within several paragraphs we'll have gone from New York '67 to Jerichow, Germany '38 – and back again. Parallels emerge. Foreshadowing of events to come. I found the second volume a bit less absorbing than the first due to the backstory shift to postwar Germany and the Soviet occupation. A minor quibble, though, which evaporated when I reached the final gripping hundred pages. These are just my impressions. I cannot begin to convey what a marvelous, thrilling journey this was, living with Gesine's story all these weeks. Despite its weight, one could read this quickly for it is not difficult: but why? Savor it.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Derek

    This is perhaps the greatest sociological novel that I have ever read. The novel traces the course of history - the German Revolution of 1918-19, the rise and fall of Hitler, the Russian annexation of Eastern Germany and the subsequent birth of the GDU, the rise of the Berlin Wall, Vietnam, the race riots of 67 and 68, MLK and RFK assassinations, and the Prague Spring - and how it affects the interior life of Gesine Cresspahl and her relationship with her ten year-old daughter Marie, one day at This is perhaps the greatest sociological novel that I have ever read. The novel traces the course of history - the German Revolution of 1918-19, the rise and fall of Hitler, the Russian annexation of Eastern Germany and the subsequent birth of the GDU, the rise of the Berlin Wall, Vietnam, the race riots of 67 and 68, MLK and RFK assassinations, and the Prague Spring - and how it affects the interior life of Gesine Cresspahl and her relationship with her ten year-old daughter Marie, one day at time, from August '67 to August '68 as they navigate their existence in the so-called capital of the 'free-world,' NYC. There are echoes of John Dos Passos' U.S.A. Trilogy all throughout this book. In fact, I'd argue that Johnson, the exiled East German novelist, may have written one of the greatest American novels of the 20th century, or more correctly, international novels of the 20th century, considering a significant amount of its narrative power is situated in Gesine's reminiscences of her home state Mecklenburg-Vonpommern, Germany. There are so many memorable scenes in this novel that it's hard to really write about any single episode. That being said, I think the first volume, primarily focusing on Nazi Germany and contemporary America, its war in Vietnam, the racial tensions in the north, and the assassinations of MLK and RFK was more memorable than the second volume, which is more dedicated to the GDU and the events of the Prague Spring. I know, I know, the novel is nearly 1,700 pages long! It's nearly interminable! I'm sure that's what some of you may think. But it's highly readable and worth the investment of a month or so. In fact, the novel's form is most congenial to episodic readings, dipping in and setting it aside for something else for awhile and coming back refreshed.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Grace Walters

    I have the privilege of living in the building Uwe Johnson describes living in in NYC in 1967. It's where he, in fact, lived during the period described in this semi-autobiographical book. Recommended as a good example of post-war German writer.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    March 31, 2019: I just completed unabridged Anniversaries by Uwe Johnson. The two-volume set is a translation by Damion Searls. It took me 3 months to read the four sections and1668 pages. I have to say that it was a challenge. It’s not a pleasant or easy series of books to read, but definitely significant and worth the effort. I don’t speak German and I’m not a scholar, so I found that reading reviews and supplemental articles helped me. They gave me background knowledge about Germany and the G March 31, 2019: I just completed unabridged Anniversaries by Uwe Johnson. The two-volume set is a translation by Damion Searls. It took me 3 months to read the four sections and1668 pages. I have to say that it was a challenge. It’s not a pleasant or easy series of books to read, but definitely significant and worth the effort. I don’t speak German and I’m not a scholar, so I found that reading reviews and supplemental articles helped me. They gave me background knowledge about Germany and the German language. They also helped me understand Uwe Johnson’s writing style. Here are some of the sources that were helpful: • “Names and Themes in Uwe Johnson’s Jahrestage” by Kurt Fickert, Wittenberg University (Springfield Ohio) found in IFR (International Fiction Review). • “The Identity of “Der Genosse Schriftsteller” in Johnson’s Jahrestage” by Kurt J. Fickert , Wittenberg University found at jstor.org (Does contain some German words) • “ A New Translation of an Anti-Heroic German Doorstopper of 1968” by George Blaustein found in The New Yorker, November 26, 2018 Below are the reviews that I wrote about the individual sections as I was reading. January 29, 2019 I just finished Part 1 of Volume 1: Aug. 1967-Dec. 1967, which would have been Book 1 when originally published. Gesine Cresspahl and her daughter, Marie, are introduced in this first book. Both were born in East Germany, Gesine just before WWII and Marie during the Communist occupation of East Germany. It took a little while to get used to the book's format. The entire book is written as Gesine's diary entries between August 1967 and 1968. Gesine's entries are written in a sort of stream of conscious flow. They are easy to read, but it's not always clear who is writing. The voice changes from first person to third person, so I wasn't sure if these were actually Gesine's diary entries. One reviewer said that she did write them all, but after completing Part 2, I'm not entirely sure that's true. Part 1 takes place in New York from August through December 1967. The flashback setting is East Germany before World War II from 1932 to 1935. I'm thoroughly engrossed in the book. Part 1 ended on page 417. I'm on to Part 2. February 21, 2019 Still in Anniversaries, Volume 1: Part 2 continues with Gesine and Marie's life in New York from December 1967 to April 1968. The story flashback encompasses Gesine and her father's life during World War II in Germany. The two settings are interwoven with the United States involvement in the Vietnam War and its racial tensions being contrasted with the events in Germany during WWII. None of it is presented in a sensational way. Most of it is told through Gesine's childhood memories, as told to her daughter. At times, I can't tell which of Gesine's stories are true and which not. Some appear to just be stories to illustrate something to her daughter, Marie. I'm also left wondering about Gesine's job at the bank and her involvement with the government of Czechoslovakia. Who is Gesine's boss, De Rosny? What is he asking her to do? Is Gesine a spy? Part 2, which was actually Book 2 when originally published, ends on pg. 875. It does have an Appendix, Through Cresspahl's Eyes. I read this before starting Part 2, but it was more meaningful when I read it again after completing the book. On to Part 3! March 6, 2019 Anniversaries, Volume 2: Part 3 was the third book in the Anniversaries series by Uwe Johnson when it was originally published. Part 3 covers two time periods. The first is the lives of Gesine and Marie in New York City from April 1968 to June 1968. Gesine’s life in East Germany under the Russian’s control after World War II is the parallel story being told in flashback sequences. All are included in the continuing diary format. The settings intermingle and segue without warning or explanation. At this point, I’m used to this and don’t really notice. It seemed to me that more graphic violence and concentration camp scenes were presented in Part 3 than in Parts 1 & 2. The occupying Russians are presented as being as violent and persecuting as the Germans under Hitler. It’s possible that I’m not remembering correctly and/or misinterpreting. Part 3 ends on page 1205. This is an epic story. On to the conclusion! March 31, 2019 Anniversaries, Volume 2: Part 4, which was Book 4 when originally published. This fourth section took longer and was completed at the end of Johnson’s fifteen years of writing. Section 4 covers January 1968 to August 1968 in New York. It goes back and revisits some of the events that took place earlier, both in New York and in Germany. It felt good to go back and review. A lot happened in the previous 1203 pages. The ending left me feeling sad and somewhat depressed. Anniversaries wasn’t a happy or joy-filled series of books. Much is left up to the reader’s interpretation, but there are quite a few events foreshadowing how the story is going to end. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but they are easily seen as the ending unfolds. Reading all 1668 pages of Johnsons's book was a massive undertaking. I feel like I've been living with Gesine and Marie for the past three months. While not an easy read, there is deep significance to Anniversaries and great relevance to the world situation in 2019.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Anders

    I've got to say something about this book, which I spent about nine months reading pretty much every day, and which I have intensely missed in the weeks since I've finished it. I saw in the London Review of Books bookshop blurbed by Hannah Arendt, of all people, and reading it since then has been one of the highlights of my year. This book is a whole world, it's about the life of a woman, Gesine Cresspahl, over the course of a year, both as she goes about her daily life working at a bank in NYC I've got to say something about this book, which I spent about nine months reading pretty much every day, and which I have intensely missed in the weeks since I've finished it. I saw in the London Review of Books bookshop blurbed by Hannah Arendt, of all people, and reading it since then has been one of the highlights of my year. This book is a whole world, it's about the life of a woman, Gesine Cresspahl, over the course of a year, both as she goes about her daily life working at a bank in NYC in 1967-68 and as she tells her precocious 10-year old daughter about her childhood in Nazi and post-Nazi Germany. Two immensely fascinating times/places described through lived experience, the everyday dilemmas, the pressing questions; basically the production of identity through navigating through contingencies of social and political realities. The book is sharply and humorously observed and brims with insight (the author himself lived through both these time periods in these same times/places respectively - he even gave Gesine his same exact Upper West Side address, so the observations ring true). The rhythm of this book has rewired me as a reader. The book is 365 chapters long, each one representing a day from August 20, 1967-August 20, 1968. Gesine reads the New York Times somewhat obsessively (relatable for anyone who's lived abroad) and so excerpts from the news frequently make their way into the text itself, as she seeks to make sense of Vietnam, race politics, and local and national politics. The plotlines are all organic and baked into the structure. It's a book you settle into and live in. It's variously textured from chapter to chapter, some are as short as just a few pages while others extend on and on (usually the Saturdays when Gesine and her daughter Marie take the Staten Island Ferry back and forth while Gesine tells stories about her childhood), with plenty of room for the author to experiment. Lots of interesting narrative tricks, like when Marie challenges her mother's memories, claiming details were nicked from other places and times, or other moments when the author breaks the fourth wall and Gesine addresses him directly. It's all done so beautifully and intuitively. I would give this book my highest recommendation. It's a (literally) heavy commitment, but in terms of a rich reading experience, this may be the top one, alongside perhaps Proust, Knausgaard or Caro's LBJ books. I hope that everyone is able to find a time in their life when they're ready to jump in to this book and spend a year with Gesine Cresspahl.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ella

    I wish I could give two ratings - one for the first 2/3s of the book and another for the last bit. I loved the daily reading and the short sketches as well as the deeper dives into topics over days -- the way a person would think about things, circling and going back to delve into a different aspect or feeling about memory/experience/etc. I really liked reading the first book on a daily basis (though some days were so good I absentmindedly read ahead.) In the second book my need to "just finish I wish I could give two ratings - one for the first 2/3s of the book and another for the last bit. I loved the daily reading and the short sketches as well as the deeper dives into topics over days -- the way a person would think about things, circling and going back to delve into a different aspect or feeling about memory/experience/etc. I really liked reading the first book on a daily basis (though some days were so good I absentmindedly read ahead.) In the second book my need to "just finish already" started taking over about halfway through, and that's because I found the longer entries less compelling than the earlier bits. The details threatened to overwhelm the whole, and I figured I should push through before one day I just didn't want to read. So I did, and I'm thrilled that I read this. It's a masterpiece - it's a wonder - it's all the good things. I am a better person in some undefinable way for having read it, I feel sure. I should give it all five stars, and I probably will in a few months when the details have faded and all that's left is my eternal amazement at the feat of this book completely.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Chase

    Alrrright let's dispense with the obvious point upfront...The book is looong I tells ya... reallly long, Clocking-in-at-just-under-1700-pages longggg. Uwe Johnson's epic unfurls itself day by day, piece by piece, fragment by fragment from August 1967 to August 1968. And by the time it reaches it's conclusion one of the richest tapestries in post-war literature will have come into being (just for an instant) before your very eyes, only to collapse back down into the rubble of history and the forw Alrrright let's dispense with the obvious point upfront...The book is looong I tells ya... reallly long, Clocking-in-at-just-under-1700-pages longggg. Uwe Johnson's epic unfurls itself day by day, piece by piece, fragment by fragment from August 1967 to August 1968. And by the time it reaches it's conclusion one of the richest tapestries in post-war literature will have come into being (just for an instant) before your very eyes, only to collapse back down into the rubble of history and the forward march of time. Make no mistake about it this book is quite possibly the greatest political novel of the 20th century, and by far and away the most comprehensive and engrossing testament to the post-war German experience in all it's blood stained shame and guilt that I've ever come across. It reduces Gunter Grass' Tin Drum to that of a Nancy Drew novel in comparison. Johnson's prose at first is overwhelming. It's loaded with a near maniacal attention to detail. The kind of focus and execution of form that only a German can produce...the trains must run on time, etcetc...cheap-jibs aside, its utterly astounding. Although thankfully, it's not impenetrable. Once you lock into Johnson's cadence and rhythm the book becomes quite the page turner as you fly through the three main narrative thrusts of the text, as they weave in and out of each other with a lyrical beauty. The first of these...is the present day-to-day happenings in the life of the titular east German emigre Gesine Cresspahl and her rambunctious 10 year old daughter Marie as they mix in the milieu of late 60s Manhattan in all it's fetid and wasted glory (this was surprisingly enough the most engrossing narrative within the novel, and its the one that I felt got unduly side tracked in the last volume). The second plot-line concerns the story of Gesine's childhood in Nazi Germany, and her teenage years in the communist East. The first half of this story line is by far the strongest as Johnson plots out the slow creep of fascism as it festers like an open wound in the rural Baltic enclave of Jerichow, Gesine's birthplace. The second half though becomes way to bogged down in the internal politics of East Germany and its tumultuous relationship with it's other half...Frankly these sections started growing longer and longer as the book progressed down the stretch, and almost derailed the novel entirely. Luckily Johnson's throws in some added drama towards the final hundred pages or so that corrects this near disaster. ANNNND the final major plot-line concerns the news of the day as glimpsed by Gesine from the muddied window of the New York Times, which Johnson by turns pokes fun at, chastises, and praises. Johnson is able draw a stark and frightening comparison between the US and Nazi Germany, as the country becomes engulfed in the horrors of Vietnam, the assassinations of key political figures (MLK RFK etc), and the racial tensions and explosions which have plagued our country since its inception. This is without a doubt a novel that resonates more today than ever, as we deal with the spectres of Nazism and white nationalism. And its a book that concerns just how fucked things can get when history comes a-knocking, and the generational impact that it can and will inflict on an unsuspecting mass populace. Take heed of Johnson's warning before it's too late. Read this now!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Wade

    I actually read the newer translation by Damion Searles, which Goodreads doesn't seem to have. I haven't read the older abridged version, but my partner has and she says it's absolutely night and day. There's a lot of compression apparently going on in the old one, and this is a book where more is always better. There's not enough praise in the world for mankind to heap on this project. It's not just great: it's important. By any right, it'd be as important as Joyce's Ulysses. It's not as lyrica I actually read the newer translation by Damion Searles, which Goodreads doesn't seem to have. I haven't read the older abridged version, but my partner has and she says it's absolutely night and day. There's a lot of compression apparently going on in the old one, and this is a book where more is always better. There's not enough praise in the world for mankind to heap on this project. It's not just great: it's important. By any right, it'd be as important as Joyce's Ulysses. It's not as lyrically experimental or as groundbreaking, probably, but in ambition, in intellect, in every other measure it's the equal of that book. If Joyce's task was trying to dramatize the feeling of being an Irishman at a time when the Empire was crumbling and one had to reconcile oneself to both a brutal past and an uncertain future, to understand what belonging to that kind of polity meant, this book takes the same mission and applies to a world racked by the wars that failing Empire produced. It offers the same diagnostics - a focus on a small set of characters at a particular time in history - but adds in voids of time where the needle of its incredibly detailed, finely recalled personal histories just... skips. Sometimes for five years, as in the entirety of the second World War, and sometimes for longer or just for days. It uses that to explain what happens when nationalism, ideology and the forces of history collide in the smallest of battlefields: a single village. And what happens to a product of that place when she decides to escape. And it does all of that with singularly masterful prose and a protagonist who thinks in every way like you, the reader, do: circularly, full of trivial concerns that connect themselves to big ones, personal judgments and habits of thought that emerge from the impossible situations she has found herself in and that survive long past their expiration date, weird suspicions she examines, weird suspicions she doesn't. Gesine herself is photorealistic, and if nothing else, you will keep reading for that. But you'll read it for other reasons, too, because when you locate a character like that in the most momentous period in recent history - the end of the Weimar Republic, the advent of the Third Reich, the fall of the Third Reich, the partition of Germany, and later, the height of the Cold War as the United States conducts a vicious war in Vietnam and comes apart at the seams under Pres. Johnson - you come to really see a time and a place and a people as they were. The power of the technique is remarkable, and Johnson must have realized it, as the project apparently dominated his life for decades, until he died in England with only Gesine for company, in the Eighties. The dedication, in a word, shows.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Andreas

    This is unlike anything I've ever read. I don't think I've ever used this word before, but this is a masterpiece. An incredible literary achievement.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    Loved this book: the framework of the novel is an entry for every day in the life of German emigre Gesine Cresspahl and her daughter Marie, summer of 1967-1968. Most days start with a summary of highlights from the New York Times, but then veer off into the story of Gesine's life growing up in Nazi Germany, surviving the war and subsequent Soviet occupation. Utterly gripping despite the 1600 page length. Marie, by the way, is one of the greatest children in all of literature. She is a saucy litt Loved this book: the framework of the novel is an entry for every day in the life of German emigre Gesine Cresspahl and her daughter Marie, summer of 1967-1968. Most days start with a summary of highlights from the New York Times, but then veer off into the story of Gesine's life growing up in Nazi Germany, surviving the war and subsequent Soviet occupation. Utterly gripping despite the 1600 page length. Marie, by the way, is one of the greatest children in all of literature. She is a saucy little flâneur, always multiple steps ahead of her mom. Challenging, searching, brilliant, and funny, she easily steals every scene she is in. Hats off to the author, who has created one of the most delightful characters I have ever read.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Günter Wahl

    A fictional diary about labour day 1967 in Brooklyn NYC we dare no to determine were the diary was written, Johnson came from Parchim Mecklenburg to East Berlin, then West Berlin, he mixes New York Times reports of the day with reports from Berlin, of course the Times weekend edition on Vietnam could be excerpted everywere, probably between New Jersey and Connecticut so there is evidence he was in NYC, only the reporters were in Vietnam. He the mixes jewish life in NYC and feudal in the GDR, the A fictional diary about labour day 1967 in Brooklyn NYC we dare no to determine were the diary was written, Johnson came from Parchim Mecklenburg to East Berlin, then West Berlin, he mixes New York Times reports of the day with reports from Berlin, of course the Times weekend edition on Vietnam could be excerpted everywere, probably between New Jersey and Connecticut so there is evidence he was in NYC, only the reporters were in Vietnam. He the mixes jewish life in NYC and feudal in the GDR, the later constitution was accepted with the UN at the Hudson bay, 1967 was feudal emigrants from german Poland had that background and profession, it was part of a restitution till the present day.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Brooke Salaz

    A year in the life of Gesine Cresspahl and her precocious 10 year old daughter Marie. Gesine has experienced first hand some of the worst of humanity on display as a native of Jerichow Germany under Nazi rule and then after WWII as a subject of Stalin. They are now refugees in NYC. Gesine works for a bank and preparing to travel to Czechoslovakia for a big transaction with their government. She obsessively reads the NYT and Vietnam, civil rights protests, Germany and her familial and relationshi A year in the life of Gesine Cresspahl and her precocious 10 year old daughter Marie. Gesine has experienced first hand some of the worst of humanity on display as a native of Jerichow Germany under Nazi rule and then after WWII as a subject of Stalin. They are now refugees in NYC. Gesine works for a bank and preparing to travel to Czechoslovakia for a big transaction with their government. She obsessively reads the NYT and Vietnam, civil rights protests, Germany and her familial and relationship history and modern 1968 New York daily life are all interwoven in this lengthy tour de force. Awe-inspiring demonstration of the impact of historical forces on ordinary human beings.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Charles

    One of my books of 2019. Utterly absorbing. Helps to be interested in 20th century history and New York. First book more enjoyable than the second. This book deserves all the accolades the English translation will attract.

  27. 5 out of 5

    James Spencer

    This is the longest novel I've finished (I still have volume 6 of Proust to read) and I enjoyed every single page of it. Johnson tells the story of German immigrant Gesine Cresspahl one day at a time from August 1967 through August 1968. It is not a diary. Rather, Johnson fills each entry with a mix from three different themes or story lines. The framework of the book is the day to day life of Gesine and her 10-11 year old very precocious daughter Marie living on New York's upper West Side. This This is the longest novel I've finished (I still have volume 6 of Proust to read) and I enjoyed every single page of it. Johnson tells the story of German immigrant Gesine Cresspahl one day at a time from August 1967 through August 1968. It is not a diary. Rather, Johnson fills each entry with a mix from three different themes or story lines. The framework of the book is the day to day life of Gesine and her 10-11 year old very precocious daughter Marie living on New York's upper West Side. This is supplemented by what is going on in the rest of the world as taken from the New York Times which (who?) appears as a major character in the book. But the real core of the book is Gesine telling Marie the story of her life growing up in Mecklenburg Germany (on the Baltic coast just west of Poland) during the Nazi years, World War II, and then under the Soviets. I will, despite its length read it again some day.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Steve Middendorf

    It takes a man who could write a book like this to hold a woman like Gesine Cresspahl. (To be continued.)

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ascoyne

    Although this book is on the list of 1001 Books to Read Before you Die I don't think that a complete translation of the full book has been issued in English previously and was nigh on impossible to find without paying serious money for a second hand copy. Release of this NYRB edition has been much anticipated and is a remarkable feat from the translator (Damion Searls) in bringing this book to an English speaking audience. The book has 366 chapters each one covering a day in the year 20th August 1 Although this book is on the list of 1001 Books to Read Before you Die I don't think that a complete translation of the full book has been issued in English previously and was nigh on impossible to find without paying serious money for a second hand copy. Release of this NYRB edition has been much anticipated and is a remarkable feat from the translator (Damion Searls) in bringing this book to an English speaking audience. The book has 366 chapters each one covering a day in the year 20th August 1967 to 20th August 1968. Most days starts with an extract from the New York Times and covers contemporary news stories from the period and discusses the life of Gesine Cresspahl and her daughter Marie both as a diary type view of their life in New York but also explores the life of Gesine and her parents from the early thirties up until 1968 in England, Germany and the GDR. Its a little hard to get into at first since the author moves between different periods of time and geography and it is not always clear from the dialogue who is speaking or in which period or location. The story is immensely complex with characters being introduced at one point and then not discussed again only to appear several hundred pages later. It covers the rise of Nazism in Germany the war and the post war period where at first British forces were in charge but eventually they handed over to the soviets and the German Democratic Republic was born). I would vey much like to read the book through again but take some notes on each character as they are introduced. I have re-read the first chapter and was surprised to find characters mentioned who didn't appear again until the last quarter of the novel. I was thinking I might start reading this a chapter a day from 20th August 2019 to 20th August 2020 but who knows. I'll document here if I do. The book seems to glide over the story of Marie's father Jakob since he is introduced as a family friend initially and his relationship with Gesine is (barely) touched on only in the last few pages of the novel. I understand he wrote a much earlier novel - 'Speculations about jakob' - which sounds like it might fill in some gaps. Again difficult to find but I've found a second hand version on Amazon for 1p (and £6 for p&p - grrrr) so might give it a try. The book comes in two hefty volumes with quite small writing. I had the book version as a Xmas present but had to get the epub version which helps in tracing where characters were introduced earlier and also to look up the odd word, untranslated foreign text or location. Not to mention reading in bed which is very difficult with two hefty 800 plus page books.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Cathie

    One of the best books I've ever read. The reader becomes totally enmeshed in the world that the author (often through the lens of his main character Gesine Cresspahl) describes. I really don't know how he did it, but he made me want to keep reading this 1703 page book right until the end. And I did, for almost an entire year.

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