Download Epub Format Å Sophie's Choice PDF by ↠´ William Styron Sophie s Choice, William Styron Sophie s Choice is a 1979 novel by American author William Styron It concerns the relationships between three people sharing a boarding house in Brooklyn Stingo, a young aspiring writer from the South, and the Jewish scientist Nathan Landau and his lover Sophie, a Polish Catholic survivor of the German Nazi concentration camps, whom he befriends The novel was the basis of a 1982 film of the same name.
Stingo, a novelist who is recalling the summer when he began his first novel, has been fired from his low level reader s job at the publisher McGraw Hill and has moved into a cheap boarding house in Brooklyn, where he hopes to devote some months to his writing While he is working on his novel, he is drawn into the lives of the lovers Nathan Landau and Sophie Zawistowska, fellow boarders at the house, who are involved in an intense and difficult relationship Sophie is beautiful, Polish, and Catholic, and a survivor of the Holocaust and Nazi concentration camps Nathan is a Jewish American, and, purportedly, a genius Although Nathan claims to be a Harvard graduate and a cellular biologist with a pharmaceutical company, it is later revealed that this is a fabrication Almost no one including Sophie and Stingo knows that Nathan has paranoid schizophrenia He sometimes behaves quite normally and generously, but there are times when he becomes frighteningly jealous, violent, abusive and delusional As the story progresses, Sophie tells Stingo of her past She describes her violently anti Semitic father, a law professor in Krak w her unwillingness to help him spread his ideas her arrest by the Nazis and particularly, her brief stint as a stenographer typist in the home of Rudolf H ss, the commander of Auschwitz, where she was interned She specifically relates her attempts to seduce H ss in an effort to persuade him that her blond, blue eyed, German speaking son should be allowed to leave the camp and enter the Lebensborn program, in which he would be raised as a German child She failed in this attempt and, ultimately, never learned of her son s fate Only at the end of the book does the reader also learn what became of Sophie s daughter, named Eva Later, Nathan s delusions have led him to believe that Stingo is having an affair with Sophie, and he threatens to kill them both 2018 1396 832 9786006047461 20.
William Styron s Sophie s Choice has to stand as one of the 20th century s great American novels Based very loosely on his own experiences in the late 1940s in New York, Styron makes himself into a writer called Stingo who moves into a boarding house in Brooklyn, where he meets a Polish emigr named Sophie and her dangerously unpredictable lover, Nathan With great delicacy and restraint, Styron traces the evolution of the friendship and love that entangles these three and which has stunning consequences.
For those who have only seen the 1985 movie starring Meryl Streep and for which she deservedly won the Best Actress Oscar , do yourself a favor and read the book The movie was indeed wonderful, but the book is so much richer and detailed and Styron s mastery of this compelling narrative is marvelous to behold For those who have NOT seen the film, you will assume that Sophie s Choice has to do with Nathan and Stingo Heartbreakingly, it both does and does not.
Styron has an incredible gift for injecting humor into dark situations He makes Stingo an inordinately horny, frustrated, pained, wise cracking man in his early 20s Stingo leaps off the pages as fully formed and utterly human Nathan too, in a much different way, is three dimensional and fiery with life Sophie is rendered in delicate tones than the two men, which makes the final chapters of the book all the powerful We see what she has withstood and what she has given up and it is inescapably heartbreaking.
The book s ending is utterly right and the inexorable product of all that has gone before it Styron has taken an enormously complex panoply of subjects young manhood, post WWII New York, mental illness, obsession, guilt, and and structured them into one of the most un put downable novels you will ever read.
Mercifully, I was at the age when reading was still a passion and thus, save for a happy marriage, the best state possible in which to keep absolute loneliness at bay I could not have made it through those evenings otherwise But I was an abandoned reader and, besides, outlandishly eclectic, with an affinity for the written word almost any written word that was so excitable that it verged on the erotic I mean this literally, and were it not for the fact that I have compared notes with a few others who have confessed to sharing with me in their youth this particular sensibility, I know I would now be risking scorn or incredulity by stating that I can recall the time when the prospect of half an hour s dalliance with a Classified Telephone Directory caused me a slight but nonetheless noticeable tumescence The young William Styron.
The prospect for me of parting the pages of a new book produces a similar feeling to parting the warm thighs of a new lover The anticipation and thrill of the beginning of a new adventure, whether it is swimming through the pages of a book or wrestling between the silk sheets of a bed, should produce the same tingles and let loose the same sparks of grand passion Reading is a love affair If you don t feel this way, I m sorry I ll offer you the same advice that I offered a married woman who once confessed to me that she didn t enjoy sex My reply wasare you sure you are doing it right Maybe too many of you are picking the wrong lovers, or maybe you don t have the proper reading resume to make the connections that produce grand passion, or maybe your mind is too closed off and you need to let it roam free Do keep trying.
This is a novel of lust and tragedy At several points in the narrative, there is a merging together of the tragedy of unfulfilled wishes tinged by memories that can t stay forgotten This is really two novels, twinned together as the past intersects with the present One part is of the trials and tribulations of Sophie Zawistowska, a Polish citizen who becomes the guest of the Nazis at Auschwitz Birkenau during World War Two, and the other part is of the struggles of a young Southern writer in Brooklyn, New York, who is attempting to write the great American novel Stingo first meets Sophie and her lover Nathan Landau while boarding at The Pink Palace He doesn t so much meet them as hear them They are in the room above him fornicating like amphetamine drugged rabbits There is nothing excruciating to a person suffering from inflamed, unmitigated passion than to be forced to eavesdrop on the lustful consummations of the successful sexual conquests of others When one is in this state, it is easy to give in to brooding self pity and start believing that everyone in the world is getting laid except for him Stingo is twenty two and not only suffering from excessive horniess but also suffering from a malady that most men, especially, wish to rid themselves of as soon as possiblevirginity His yearning to breach the defenses of a woman s virtue and finally end his involuntary celibacy is an all consuming desire that is even starting to adversely affect his ability to produce his masterpieceI still yearned passionately to produce the novel which had been for so long captive in my brain It was only that, having written down the first few fine paragraphs, I could not produce any others, or to approximate Gertrude Stein s remark about a lesser writer of the Lost Generation I had the syrup but it wouldn t pourYes, Stingo has sap issues, if you know what I mean.
William Styron infuses autobiography into this book under the guise of fiction It is almost impossible for me to separate the young Styron from the sexually frustrated Stingo Styron was a master at describing lust, verging on purple prose at times, but yet managing to capture in lush detail the true nature of hormonal driven desire Here he describes Stingo noticing the rather innocent ramblings of his neighbor that inspired such wonderful flights of salacious yearningAlone for an instant, blond Mavis Hunnicutt would appear in the garden, dressed in a blouse and tight flowered slacks after pausing for a peek up at the opalescent evening sky, she would give an odd and bewitching toss of her lovely hair and then bend down to pluck tulips from the flowerbed In this adorable stance, she could not know what she did to the loneliest junior editor in New York My lust was incredible something prehensile, a groping snout of desire, slithering down the begrimed walls of the wretched old building, uncoiling itself across a fence, moving with haste serpentine and indecent to a point just short of her upturned rump, where in silent metamorphosis it blazingly flowered into the embodiment of myself, priapic, ravenous, yet under hair trigger controlStingo might be a bit optimistic about the prospect of possessing any control if his fantasy, by some miracle, had ever manifested itself into reality Chances are he would have been slinking back to his room with his tail between his legs, elated at finally successfully having sex, but burning with shame that he had failed to put in a good showing In fact, he may have been left at the starting gate, having shot his wad before the starter s pistol could even fire Elation and shame, after all, are frequent companions during the early days of male sexual experience He becomes best friends with Nathan and Sophie and soon finds himself caught up in their passionate affair Their arguments prove as epic as their bouts of sexual passions Stingo soon finds himself riding their emotional rollercoaster of cloud dwelling amorousness followed by dark, abhorrent, abusive quarrels that leave him shaken to the core of his belief in their enduring relationship.
Stingo, like most of us, really does want the beautiful love story Of course, riding side saddle during his Nick Carraway observations of Sophie and Nathan is his enduring love lust for Sophie She is lovely, not only in appearance, but in character She is the type of woman for whom, if we are lucky enough to know her, most of us, male and female, would harbor our own infatuation And then there is this constant, visible testament to her pastAnd once again I was conscious of that pitiless blue toothbite of a tattoo on her forearmDuring the many times that Nathan and Sophie are split up, Stingo gets exclusive time with Sophie, listening to her pour out her frustrations and fears that her love for Nathan will end in tragedy, but she also shares with Stingo the horrid story of her time incarcerated by the Nazis The things she is asked to do The decisions she is forced to make are beyond what any human should ever have to do Hearing the story of her past adds poignancy in his desire for her It evokes in Stingo the longing to give her a safe, happy life that will make up for the life that war took from her William Styron Stingo has written a masterpiece The honesty and humor about Stingo s galloping sexual desire coupled with the tragedies of Sophie s life take the reader up and down the emotional scale with laughter one moment followed by the brimming of tears We experience Stingo s inept, humorous conquests as he searches for a woman liberated enough to allow himto taste in a calm, exploratory way those varieties of bodily experience which until now had existed in my head like a vast and orgiastic, incessantly thumbed encyclopedia of lustStingo also constantly suffers from his disloyal desire for Sophie while also hoping that somehow she and Nathan will figure out a way to be together Mental health is explored in detail as well, a subject close and dear to Styron as he struggled his whole life from dark depressions The older William Styron.
This book is unforgettable I have a feeling I will be able to recall scenes in vivid technicolor from this novel for the rest of my life How can I ever forget Stingo, Sophie, and Nathan Their lives have become so much a part of my life I can almost swear that I have moved into The Pink Palace for a time and listened to their Olympian bouts of lovemaking, punctuated with the thumping of the headboard and the susurrus of the bedsprings, by the groans of Stingo s growing frustrations If you wish to see of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit also have a Facebook blogger page at , Styron Styron .
Sophie s Choice William Styron s Novel of Choices, Hobson s and Otherwise This novel was chosen by members of On the Southern Literary Trail as a group read for September, 2014.
Sophie s Choice, First Ed.
, First Prtg.
, William Styron, Random House, New York, New York, 1979 The gate to Auschwitz, where those in charge choose who lives and who dies Life is but a series of choices, is it not Some easy, quickly made, given no further thought Others are difficult We worry about the outcome, the consequences After much thought, we arrive at a choice, live with it, find we worried over nothing, or become haunted by consequences we never envisioned Call it free will.
When we are very young life is much simpler, is it not Our decisions are made for us By our parents, our caretakers Perhaps caregivers sounds better We do not know about the idea of free will, so we do not worry about it We just take what comes We are grateful if we have kind parents and caregivers No, that s not right, we are simply happy because that is what we learn to expect Many children learn to expect nothing good to happen Neither the happy children or the sad children have a choice in the matter It is simply the way it is A child who expected nothing good to happen, from the film Schindler s List But Sophie s Choice by William Styron deals with choices made principally by his title character in a setting where the choices are given under duress, which are choices not freely made, or choices which have no satisfactory outcome, the classic Hobson s choice Sophie is an Aryan, not Jewish However, she is Polish The Nazi regime despises the Poles as they did the mentally ill, physically imperfect, the gypsies, homosexuals, and dissident intellectuals All will go to the camps And all will only leave up through the chimneys of the crematoria.
Styron s method of telling Sophie s story is a master stroke of plotting Rather than resort to the omniscient god like narrator, Styron inserts himself into the story as his younger self Call me Stingo Echoing the words of Herman Melville, Call me Ishmael, Styron relates key facts of his life as a young manuscript reader at McGraw Hill Publishing who aspires to become a writer Following his brief stay there, he is terminated He must move to affordable lodging His search lands him in a boarding house in 1947 Brooklyn, a time when trees still grew there The older Styron writes of himself as a younger callow figure Stingo tells us, To make matters worse, I was out of a job and had very little money and was self exiled to Flatbush like others of my countrymen, another lean and lonesome Southerner wandering amid the Kingdom of the Jews Oh, yes Stingo is a Southerner A Virginian, born and bred, with a degree from Duke University Not only is he close to impoverished and lonesome, he is lonesome for female company Among his scant belongings is an unopened box of condoms upon which he casts a wistful look from time to time.
Stingo s feverish libido is fired by the nightly sounds of unbridled and enthusiastic celebrations of the ars amatoria from the room above his It is difficult to sleep, to even think To write is impossible Bed springs squeak and a head board beats against a wall with a steadily increasing rhythm There are brief interludes of silence and then the sounds of the circle of life slowly begin again rising to crescendoing heights It drives Stingo to distraction.
Then we meet the unabashed coupling couple One Nathan Landau and Miss Sophie Zawistowska Nathan is Jewish Sophie is not She is a Polish Catholic who survived internment at Auschwitz.
Stingo walks into the boarding house to find the couple arguing Not all is well with the two lovers upstairs.
At the house Sophie and Nathan were embroiled in combat just outside the door of my room Don t give me any of that, you hear, I hear him yell You re a liar You re a miserable lying cunt, do you hear me A cunt T hat s what you are, you moron a two timing, double crossing cunt Spreading that twat of yours for a cheap, chiseling quack doctor Oh, God he howled, and his voice rose in wild uncontained rage Let me out of here before I murder you you whoreThen Nathan turned his attention on Stingo You re from the South, he said Morris told me you were from the South Said your name s Stingo Yetta needs a Southerner in her house to fit in with all the other funniesToo bad I won t be around for a lively conversation, but I m getting out of here It would have been nice to talk with youWe d have had great fun, shootin the shit, you and I We could have talked about sports I mean Southern sports Like lynching niggers or coons, I think you call them down thereToo bad Old Nathan s got to hit the road Maybe in another life, Cracker, we ll get together So long, Cracker See you in another life Odd, how those who are the targets of prejudice are among the most intolerant, is it not so Stingo immediately goes to comfort Sophie However, his feelings are conflicted Although his choice is to comfort her, his wish is to possess her He is captured by her beauty And Styron will make it clear through the novel that men are frequently drawn to Sophie by her beauty.
One important thing that the reader must realize is that Styron is dealing with two time frames He is dealing with the present in which he is writing the book He is dealing with the present of 1947 in which the action actually occurs It is through this distancing that Styron is able to set up throughout the novel moments of foreshadowing It must never be forgotten that Old Stingo Styron knows how this tale ends It is a flashback within a flashback.
Styron gradually reveals to us that Nathan Landau is brilliant, wealthy, but mentally ill He is capable of great charm, care, and generosity Nathan has chosen upon meeting Sophie who is still suffering from the after effects of her internment in Auschwitz to bring her back to health and save her life He takes her to his brother Larry who is a physician who treats her and refers her to other physicians Upon their meeting Sophie suffers from scurvy, has endured typhus, scarlet fever, and malnutrition She has lost her teeth Nathan has provided perfect dentures for her Clothing Most important to Sophie, music in the form of the latest model phonograph and records, extremely expensive in that day And Nathan restored her eroticism to her the sense of which was totally lost to her in Auschwitz.
Nathan will also make the positive choice to befriend Stingo Stingo will become part of a threesome, included in Nathan s and Sophie s adventures Nathan will come to praise Stingo s writing giving him the confidence to complete what will become his first novel, Styron s Lie Down in Darkness The novels most charming moments are when the three are together on one of Nathan s elaborately planned adventures It has the sense of Truffaut s Jules et Jim Old Stingo will recall, There are friends one makes at a youthful age in whom one simply rejoices, for whom one possesses a love and loyalty mysteriously lacking in the friendships made in after years, no matter how genuine Oddly enough, Nathan s misgivings about Stingo were not totally inaccurate Stingo has his share of Southern guilt with which to live It seems that his family once had a slave named Artiste and he was put out to work The value of that work was a large sum of money which came into his father s possession His father sent Stingo his share of that burden of Southern history It was that largesse that allowed him to continue to live in Brooklyn and write The reveal of this information instantly brought a comparison of Stingo to Quentin Compson I don t hate it, Quentin said, quickly, at once, immediately I don t hate it, he said I don t hate it he thought, panting in the cold air, the iron New England dark I don t I don t I don t hate it I don t hate it Absalom, Absalom , by William Faulkner Nathan chooses to self medicate with amphetamines and cocaine An employee at Pfizer Laboratories, he easily obtains what he needs The Bennies the cocaine make him fly It is when he begins to crash that his Mr Hyde personality appears Sophie can only hope that barbiturates can ease him into sleep before he emotionally abuses her or physically harms her.
It is during those periods of time that Nathan abandons Sophie that Stingo becomes her confidant Though she has lost her faith in the horror of Auschwitz, she treats Stingo as the priest in the confessional Stingo is a safe confidant John Steinbeck reminded us in East of Eden, Perhaps the best conversationalist in the world is the man who helps others to talk Stingo helped Sophie to talk It is in Sophie s narration to Stingo that we are gradually led to Sophie s Choice Old Stingo Styron repeatedly reveals bits and pieces that lead us to believe that it was horrible indeed It was.
In a novel as dark as this a reader is grateful for any brief respite of humor Styron provides it here in young Stingo s pursuit of sexual satisfaction There is the divine Leslie Lapidus who loves to talk dirty, and can talk the talk with expertise but cannot bring herself to do the deed She envisions Stingo with his Southern accent as some Cavalier officer of the Confederate army I mean, I don t know much about the Civil War, but whenever I think of that time I mean, ever since Gone With the Wind I ve had these fantasies about those generals, those gorgeous young Southern generals with their tawny mustaches and beards, and hair in ringlets, on horseback And those beautiful girls in crinoline and pantalettes You would never know that they ever fucked, from all you re able to read She paused and squeezed my hand I mean, doesn t it just do something to you to think of one of those ravishing girls with that crinoline all in a fabulous tangle, and one of those gorgeous young officers I mean, both of them fucking like crazy Oh yes, I said with a shiver, oh yes, it does It enlarges one s sense of history Then there s Sally Ann, the Baptist, she of the stalwart hand She leaves Stingo wrung out like a limp wash rag Stingo complains he could have done that better himself But we must return to Nathan, Sophie, Stingo, and Auschwitz.
The last time Nathan broke with reality, he threatened to murder Sophie and Stingo He believed they had made love He was wrong about that.
Stingo was determined to save Sophie from Nathan He persuaded her to go with him to a farm owned by his father in Virginia It was on that trip Sophie revealed her choice at Auschwitz It was on that trip that Sophie made love to Stingo And she asked if there was a Berlitz language school near there so she might learn to write in English There are so many things that people still don t know about that place she said fiercely There are so many things I haven t even told you Stingo, and I ve told you so much You know, about how the whole place was covered with the smell of burning Jews, day and night I ve told you that But I never even told you hardly anythng about Birkenau, when they begun to starve me to death and I go so sick I almost diedOr And here she paused, gazed into space, then said, There are so many terrible things I could tell But maybe I could write it as a novel, you see, if I learned to write English good, and then I could make people understood how the Nazis made you do things you never believed you couldI was so afraid They made me afraid of everything Why don t I tell the truth about myself Why don t I write it down in a book that I was a terrible coward, that I was a filthy collaboratrice that I done everything that was bad just to save myself She made a savage moan, so loud above the racket of the train that heads turned nearby and eyes rolled Oh, Stingo, I can t stand living with these things Viktor E Frankl wrote in Man s Search for Meaning Those who have a why to live, can bear with almost any how Perhaps Sophie lost her why at Auschwitz Birkenau Those who do not have a why to live cannot bear any how Is it not soNow we come to one Thomas Hobson who was an English Stable Keeper around 1600 He always required his customers to take the horse nearest the door or none at all It came to be known as Hobson s choice, meaning what appears to be a free choice which offers no option at all That was Sophie s choice Was it not so Let us allow young Stingo to have the last word, shall we Someday I will understand Auschwitz This was a brave statement but innocently absurd No one will ever understand Auschwitz What I might have set down with accuracy would have been Someday I will write about Sophie s life, and thereby help demonstrate how absolute evil is never extinguished from the world Auschwitz itself remains inexplicable The most profound statement yet made about Auschwitz was not a statement at all, but a response.
The query At Auschwitz, tell me, where was God And the answer Where was man I have mentioned the work of Viktor Frankl This novel stands on equal footing with Night by Elie Wiesel, The Last of the Just by Andr Schwarz Bart, and Schindler s List byThomas Keneally.
William Styron won the National Book Award for Fiction in 1980 He was a finalist for the National Critics Circle Award However, reviews were mixed Styron was criticized for having taken on a topic to huge to be taken on in any manner other than silence, ignoring earlier works in existence and widely recognized A narrower criticism was based on Styron having selected a Polish Catholic as his central character as the Holocaust s purpose was deemed the extermination of the Jewish Race Styron responded in an essay in the New York Times that the Holocaust transcended anti Semitism, that its ultimate depravity lay in the fact that it was anti human, he wrote Anti life All who suffered under the Third Reich suffered universally Was it not so Other MaterialsThe Lebensborn Program view spoiler Lebensborn translates to wellspring of life or fountain or life The Lebensborn project was one of most secret and terrifying Nazi projects Heinrich Himmler founded the Lebensborn project on December 12, 1935, the same year the Nuremberg Laws outlawed intermarriage with Jews and others who were deemed inferior For decades, Germany s birthrate was decreasing Himmler s goal was to reverse the decline and increase the Germanic Nordic population of Germany to 120 million Himmler encouraged SS and Wermacht officers to have children with Aryan women He believed Lebensborn children would grow up to lead a Nazi Aryan nation.
The program ran from 1939 1945 Polish children were particular targets of the program with allegedly over 100,000 children stolen from their parents.
In an effort to save her son, Jan, Sophie begged Auschwitz Commander Rudolp Hoess to enter him into the Lebensborn Program She doubted that he ever did anything Hoess is the only real character to appear in the pages of Sophie s Choice He did serve as the commandant at Auscwitz He was a defendant at the Nuremberg Trials and sentenced to death The author gratefully acknowledges the Jewish Virtual Library for information regarding Lebensborn and Rudoplh Hoess This library may be located at hide spoiler
Because I could not stop for Death,He kindly stopped for me The carriage held but just ourselvesAnd Immortality Emily DickinsonStyron brings the Brooklyn of the forties and its flourishing intellectualism back to life through the eyes of three characters, whose irreconcilable pasts find a common ground in the sweeping vision of optimistic America, distancing the narrative from stereotyped clich s and with the inimitable diction of a true Southern voice.
A lush, descriptive prose soaked in an acerbic humorous tone with tinges of dark eroticism that partially conceals the profoundest of grief interweaves the ongoing contradictions of a Southerner s life in the North and the collision between the remains of corrosive Puritanism and the rise of a newborn liberal society with intermittent and not always trustworthy flashbacks of mutilated lives and immeasurable suffering inflicted with perverse arbitrary during the Holocaust Sophie, a Polish Catholic seeking refuge in the plentiful land of opportunities after being released from Auschwitz, is plagued by guilt and self condemnation for the unheroic choice of sticking to the leftovers of her life rather than risking it by being politically involved for the sake of human justice Hers is tragic story mined with shame, fear and bewilderment over the aberrations perpetrated on her with no rational cause or logical explanation Her sole crime being at the wrong place at the wrong time Her everlasting punishment the unbearable loss impregnated with the odor of burning human flesh that chokes her faltering recollections of an irredeemable past that not even the possibility of a bright future can dissipate.
But when she crosses paths with Nathan, a mercurial charmer with a volatile mood and a brilliant mind who as a Jew regards himself as an authority on anguish and suffering, Sophie s desolation dissolves into his frenetic lovemaking and obsessive tendencies Nathan has chosen to make of collective calamity his personal crusade while prejudice runs ironically deep through his veins Stingo, an aspiring writer from Virginia and Styron s alter ego, witnesses Sophie and Nathan s downfall and meta narrates the doomed path they create with their decisions while nurturing a platonic adoration for this tormented woman who merely subsists in the sinister limbo provided by sexual obliteration, destructive self loathing and auto inflicted penitenceThat death force is gone, finished, kaput So now love me, Sophie Love me Love me Love lifepleads a panicky Stingo trying to undo Sophie s ultimate Choice and to urge her to listen to the plaintive melody of life that was silenced by the roaring devastation of war and unnameable monstrosity.
With composed momentum and exuberant phrasing pregnant with vivid literary and classical music references Styron directs a dichotomous dialogue between the fragile lightness of harmony and the aberrant darkness of mass destruction, the purgative power of love and the menace of its delirious addiction, the flickering candle of hope and the smothering smell of death Is life a hideous symphony played by the grotesque absurdity of serendipitous horror or the result of conscientious choices made in the fetid sinkhole of the world of the living dead, where waves of piercing agony wash all the recesses of memory, coming and going with the rhythm of cathartic writing How can those who survived the banality of evil endure the burden of the gift of life when so many perished amidst dehumanized barbarity Do individual choices matter in collective madness When man is plunged into realms that transcend reason, sanity or faith and the very notion of existence becomes a ludicrous thought When an unknown God turns his back on him and wipes out the flow of his love on all living thingsFor did not Auschwitz effectively block the flow of that titanic love, like some fatal embolism in the bloodstream of mankind Distilling on paper the very tissues of his own conflicted being, Styron navigates the murky waters of mankind s soul and the virulent currents of its morality to confront individual choices versus collective responsibility and the catastrophic propensity of human beings to dominate each other that goes beyond circumstance, gender, nationalities or religion.
Did Sophie ever have a real choice She asksAt Auschwitz, tell me, where was God Styron repliesWhere was man I read to try to understand, but some things like the expendability of human life are inexplicable to me, yet I find solace in authors like Styron who made the choice of staring unblinkingly at the abyss of evilness and still found enough courage to exorcize pain through expiatory writing, which might eventually lead not to fruitless reproach but to collective healing,excellent and fair , like the brand new morning.
I stuck with it out of curiosity, not so much to find out what her choice was, but because this is supposedly an important American novel and I kept waiting for the Aha moment when it would finally get good Unfortunately it was just way too long I now know what it s like to suffer from too much foreshadowing It was so tiresome reading hint after ominous hint about what was going to happen The narration was clumsy and over explanatory Do you really have to recap an event that you just narrated 50 pages anterior Did Styron think the audience too dumb to remember the episode well enough to comprehend an explicit allusion or god forbid an oblique reference Do you really have to hammer home over and over again how frustrated he is to not be having sex, just to build up one of the last scenes I ll grant that it might have been intentional to create a narrator so unsympathetic and annoying, but the result was irritation and a strong urge to quit the book completely Another problem with the voice was Sophie s narrative about Auschwitz There were several moments when you saw the quotes around the paragraphs, indicating she was talking, but it was grammatically perfect It was, as I already said, clumsy, and I can only suppose it was poor planning Styron clearly wanted to eat his cake and have it too.
There were some pretty passages mixed in Most of the good stuff revolved around the Auschwitz narrative and the observations it afforded Styron to make about human nature and the nature of hellish war There were some good analogies, particularly the rats in a barrel Jews vs rats in a burning building all other victims Of course, this reaffirms my opinion that it could have been a much better book by cutting 2 300 pages I m just going to assume that most of the staggering, and masterful touches to this work two adjectives employed in the praise section of the edition I read were over my head.
Not Bad Movie Book Reviews blakerosser1 The term Sophie s Choice, which derives from a critical plot point in William Styron s eponymous novel, has become a prominent American idiom You ve probably heard it in your daily life It was the subject of a relatively well received movie starring Meryl Streep Certainly, you ve come across it if you re a fan of The Simpsons A Sophie s Choice joke is the kicker to Season 10, Episode 5 s When You Dish Upon a Star Despite its prevalence in the cultural landscape, I m not going to assume you know the parameters of the choice I ve been wrong cough Moby Dick cough in my spoiler assumptions before I will say, though, that knowing those details won t in any way effect your enjoyment of this novel I ve known the twist for years the mistake I made was in thinking it was the essence of Sophie s Choice It is not Sophie s Choice is nearly overwhelming It is wildly ambitious, chronically unfocused, irritating and ostentatious, precisely detailed, overly written, soaring, gutter dwelling, psychologically acute, digressionary, complex, utterly narcissistic, and an absolute masterpiece.
This book is the best kind of sprawling mess there is It is all over the place, as though Styron s many and obvious talents just spilled out on the page and spread in every direction This book made me laugh It made me cringe Part of it made me embarrassed for Styron or the editor Other parts made me extremely envious Classics are usually works of art you must wrestle with This is a classic The story is set in post war New York City beautifully wrought in 1947 It is narrated in the first person by a young, transplanted southerner who calls himself Stingo It bears mentioning, I suppose, that Stingo is a thinly veiled version of Styron himself Like Styron, Stingo came north from the Tidewater to pursue writerly ambitions Like Styron, Stingo works at McGraw Hill Both are terminated from that position by the same act of defiance Stingo is working on a novel that bears than a passing resemblance to Styron s Lie Down in Darkness Stingo also no surprises here is fascinated by Nat Turner, and eventually writes a novel about him Stingo though not ever, I assume, Styron meets two remarkable people while staying at a NYC boarding house They are Nathan, a young, brilliant Jewish man who works at Pfizer and Sophie, a Polish woman who survived the camp at Auschwitz From the start, Stingo is both intensely attracted to the couple especially Sophie and repelled by the violent tumultuousness they openly display Living beneath them, he hears them making love and fighting, both with passionate intensity Very shortly, he becomes obsessed with them The plot, such as it is, is the gradual revealing of the many secrets shared by Sophie and Nathan including, obviously, Sophie s titular selection To say that things are moving towards a single dramatic peak, however, isn t really accurate This book is a meander than anything, equal parts frustrating and breathtaking Early on, for instance, Stingo takes a fair amount of time to describe to us the publishing job reading manuscripts and writing summaries that he is shortly to lose Included in these passages are a number of excerpts from Stingo s work product, highlighting Stingo s darkly humorous critiques What do these pages have to do with anything Absolutely nothing But that is the book s modus It goes where it wants, when it wants Towards the end, right when the endgame begins, Stingo Styron pulls back on the reins for a curious four page interlude in which Stingo bemoans his courtship with Mary Alice, a girl who only gave him hand jobs rest assured each hand job is described.
Your tolerance, and response, to Sophie s Choice is going to depend on your tolerance of Stingo He is a navel gazer of the first order There are dueling tragedies at play in this novel First, the tragedy of the Holocaust, as symbolized by Sophie and Nathan And second, the tragedy of Stingo s virginity, represented by numerous lengthy set pieces in which Stingo tries but fails to get laid All tragedy is local, I suppose It should also be noted that Stingo Styron is among the verbose storytellers you ll encounter There is never a moment in this novel in which Styron uses one word when five words will do for that matter, he won t use one normal word when one obscure one can be used See, e.
, the use of avoirdupois The Confessions of Nat Turner is Styron s most controversial novel, delving as it does into the mind of a slave I ve only just started Confessions, but I cannot imagine it topping Sophie s Choice is terms of sheer audacity Many times while reading I actually paused to ponder did he really just do that The Holocaust within this novel s world is just one of many realities that bleed into each other Styron does make any effort to partition of the all time deadly serious Auschwitz scenes from the Stingo is sexually frustrated scenes Instead, Styron veers from one to the other with a cavalier sense of I don t give a damn The passage of time allows for human tragedy to become literary drama The Holocaust has not been immune to this Even so, the friction between the fictional and real life elements that Styron mixes is so jarring that it can uncomfortably draw attention to itself There are two incredible, lengthy set pieces within Auschwitz, one of which includes a razor intense encounter with Commandant Rudolf Hoess There is also a marathon sex scene that goes on for three pages.
If this review seems conflicted, it s because I am conflicted I was conflicted while reading it Page to page, my forbearance towards Styron spiked and dipped When I put the book down, though, it didn t leave me right away It lingered on into the next book I started, which felt pallid and lifeless after the lapel grasping of Sophie s Choice This is a book that resonates It is mad and loopy it is powerful and passionate It is the kind of book that I want to read again for the first time.
Personally, I found Nathan to be a very realistic, frightening character I know people like him in real life But, Problem number 2 Styron tells this story from the first person perspective of someone who has already gathered all the information, heard everyone s side of the story and studied World War Two In other words, he seems to be telling the story in the wrong form There are a lot of flashbacks and Sophie s Choice isn t revealed to us until the rest of the present time turmoil is underway as well As a reader, I ve never felt manipulated The narrator, Stingo, reveals stuff little by little but only in a way that is sure to make everything meladramatic and painful It seems done not to prove a point but to give the book some tragic affect though it comes off beyond contrived Not only did I feel manipulated, but I just didn t seem realistic how much information Stingo knew about Sophie, no matter how close they were I m not just talking about personal information, because we all have friends who tell us personal things but he tells parts of Sophie s story as though he were inside her head It just felt like a huge narrative mistake something to be expected of a book with an unreliable narrator, though we re supposed to put our full trust and faith in this narrator.
Problem 3 It feels like Styron was trying to make a book that studied too many subjects at once It s okay to tackle multiple subjects, but he doesn t handle any of them He s trying to study psychosis and addiction, death, life, war, peace, prison camps, nazi mentality, anti semitism, growing up, sexuality, sexuality, sexuality wrapped into every other subject until it doesn t make any coherent sense any I only decided to read this after Lie Down in Darkness which is infinitely better I m surprised that this is considered a great American novel and would never recommend it.
Three Stories Are Told A Young Southerner Wants To Become A Writer A Turbulent Love Hate Affair Between A Brilliant Jew And A Beautiful Polish Woman And Of An Awful Wound In That Woman S Past One That Impels Both Sophie And Nathan Toward Destruction