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All That Man Is (2016)

Tekijä: David Szalay

JäseniäKirja-arvostelujaSuosituimmuussijaKeskimääräinen arvioMaininnat
5622241,823 (3.84)53
Here are nine men. Each of them is at a different stage in life, each of them is away from home, and each of them is striving - in the suburbs of Prague, in an over-developed Alpine village, beside a Belgian motorway, in a crap Cypriot hotel - to understand just what it means to be alive, here and now. Vibrating with detail and intelligence, pathos and surprise, All That Man Is is a portrait of contemporary manhood, contemporary Europe and contemporary life from a British writer of supreme gifts - the master of a new kind of realism.… (lisätietoja)
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englanti (18)  hollanti (2)  italia (2)  Kaikki kielet (22)
Näyttää 1-5 (yhteensä 22) (seuraava | näytä kaikki)
I've been in a reading funk lately, and this book hasn't helped; I seem to have been labouring over it for weeks.

The blurb on the back cover states it is a 'novel of nine men', but really it's nine independent stories about nine different men. The only common thread is that they are all indescribably bleak, full of disappointment with life on various scales.

I don't often think about the sex of the authors I read, but Szalay's narrative feels very masculine. Perhaps it's a Mars and Venus thing, but his characters felt emotionless and one-dimensional even when he was trying to convey emotion, and it was difficult to like any of them.

3 stars - well written, but I just didn't like this author's voice. ( )
  AlisonY | Dec 23, 2023 |
Ha valaki nem szereti a nyitott végű novellákat, kézbe se vegye. Mindnek nyitva marad a vége. Kilenc történetben kilenc különböző férfi életének egy-egy fordulópontját látjuk, szépen felépítve, és lezárás nélkül otthagyva. A könyvben haladva egyre későbbi életszakaszban lévő főszereplőt kapunk, de nem csak a vége felé volt depresszív.

Eleinte annyira központi szerepet játszott a szex, hogy gondoltam, ha ez minden, ami férfi, akkor az azért nagyon kiábrándító. Aztán jött a nyelvész, és ott kezdett igazán tetszeni. Addig is láttam, hogy ez nagyon jól van megírva, de azt már szerettem is. Voltak iszonyúan kellemetlen főszereplők, akiknél alig vártam, hogy szabadulhassak a világukból, és voltak nagyon érdekes gondolatmenetek másoknál.

Az is eszembe jutott közben, hogy bár mindenféle nagy fordulópontokhoz érünk és idegeskednek, aggódnak, vívódnak, stb, valóban nincs az az őrületes érzelmi hullámzás vagy talán intenzitás, mint a nőknél (szokták mondani, hogy ez így van, a hormonok miatt, nem tudom, sosem voltam férfi). Mondjuk elég egy lehangolt állandó ez, akkor már inkább a hullámvasút. Viszont jó volt belelátni a férfilélekbe, a 4 3 2 1 is felidéződött bennem, amikor azt éreztem, hogy kissé talán illetéktelenül, kissé talán túlságosan belelátok remekül ábrázolt szereplők legszemélyesebb gondolataiba.

Közben bejártuk Európát, úgyhogy a nyelvmániámat abszolút kielégítette, egyedül a magyar szereplők neveit és bmegjeit volt furcsa angol szövegben olvasni – ez nyilván el is tűnik a magyar fordításban. (Látom, van olasz változat is, kíváncsi lennék, mihez kezdtek azzal a résszel, ahol a szereplő soronként fordítja az olasz kislány mondókáját.)

Nagyon tetszett, amikor felfedeztem, hogy az egyes novellák szereplői kapcsolódnak, például valószínűleg a mindenét elvesztett orosz jachtját látja a horvát tengerpartról az előző történet főszereplője; az utolsó történetben pedig valószínűleg az orosztól kapott bort issza a férfi, aki egészen biztosan az első novella főszereplőjének nagyapja.

Jó szöveg, akit a nyitott vég nem borít ki, olvassa bátran. ( )
  blueisthenewpink | Jul 2, 2022 |
I liked most of the stories. Most were really grim. Especially the last story of the 73 year old man, Tony. I wondered, "Is this what I am in for in a few short years"?? It did have a very revealing observation that most men have as they begin to understand their mortality. Tony wonders,

"It still seems incredible to him that he is actually going to die. That this is just going to stop. This. Him. It still seems like something that happens to other people –and of course friends and acquaintances are already falling. People he had known for decades. A fair few are dead already. He had attended their funerals. The numbers are starting to thin out. And still he finds it hard to understand —- to properly understand – that he will die as well. That this experience is finite. That one day it will end. The 10 years from now, quite probably, he just won't be here.

There is something very strange about trying to imagine the world without him."
Page 319

This is not an American story. The culture and perspectives in this book are far from the American model. As I read each story, I saw themes similar to my own life. For example, I shared 17 year old Simon's awkwardness with women and could relate to his being an introvert.

I can see why some rate this book a 5 and some simply rate it a three. Maybe not great reading for everybody... ( )
  writemoves | Oct 26, 2021 |
A bunch of melancholy stories about melancholy men. Nice insights, but grey, monotonous, and glum by the end... ( )
  wordloversf | Aug 14, 2021 |
"It depresses him. Depresses him out of all proportion, you would think, to what actually happened, embarrassing as that was." (pg. 396)

I'm staggered by our publishing culture sometimes, and not in a good way. This book was woefully inert. But before getting into a critique of the stories, it's also worth pointing out that, yes, these are stories. All That Man Is is a collection of nine short stories, linked together by the most desultory of threads so that the people behind the book can market it as a 'novel'. Novels sell better, you see, far better than short story collections; and they think you the reader (no, the consumer) are too thick to recognise this trend. Now, this didn't bother me so much, as I quite like short stories, but it was a further insult added to the criticisms I detail below. To my mind, writing that gets published nowadays often leaves a lot to be desired, but it seems that, increasingly, earnest readers aren't just being let down by the publishing industry, they're being actively scammed.

Once I acknowledged the sting of this slap, and with a genuine interest in engaging with short stories, I was appalled at how pointless all of the stories in All That Man Is were. It "chronicles ennui", they say, of this and books like this; it follows "directionless men" and "finds the dignity in ordinary lives". But that wasn't my experience of the book. Author David Szalay can write tolerably well – though there are caveats even of that slight praise – but he doesn't allow any of his characters any dignity. It's a sequence of wretched, feckless skirt-chasers mooching about; rootless, idle men engaging in tawdry, pitiful activities without any hope of improvement, or even change. Before reading the book, I was surprised to find that a book about masculinity had even been published in an industry dominated by painfully right-on, middle-class women, let alone nominated for a prestigious prize. But after reading – or rather, enduring – Szalay as he ritually flays, degrades and mocks his male characters, who are presented as useless, lazy, sex-obsessed shells without societal value or interests of their own, I'm no longer surprised. This is certainly not "all that man is", though it is, seemingly, all that our culture and our well-connected, artificially-elevated 'artists' can see them as.

The book is so banal that I felt humiliated; rather than any catharsis coming from laying into the author or the publishing culture, I feel embarrassed at airing my criticisms. I feel like the victim of a scam, reporting to the faceless authorities over the phone that I have been conned, and getting the impression that they think I ought to have known better. Even when Szalay's writing is tolerably good, he indulges in some basic blunders that any invested editor would have flagged. For example, Szalay has a penchant for unnecessary detail; he won't say sunglasses when he can say Ray-Ban Wayfarers, or car when he can say Audi Q3. Such detail is irrelevant and the fact that it survives in the final piece highlights that much of the rest is irrelevant too. None of the stories end with any sort of resolution or insight – not even a strong line – and the dialogue is so bland and so unconnected to anything in the plots (for what they're worth) that I just wanted everyone to stop speaking and for the book to be over already.

The problem, even then, isn't that Szalay's writing is depressing or insipid or featureless, or even that the book corrals its sad-sack male specimens simply to provide yet another morose cultural freakshow for the chattering classes to feel superior to. It's that Szalay doesn't even try to find purpose, dignity, or even a mere glimpse of clarity for his characters – and, by extension, for his readers, who presumably follow characters in order to invest in their stories and see them emerge. What sort of artist are we breeding, who doesn't see it as his purpose to elevate, through the medium of art – to provide insight or value? All That Man Is is just so damn pointless, and pointlessness appears to be the point. There are men in the world in need of direction, who might want a story to latch onto, an artist who speaks to them in their core, but they aren't likely to find it in a toneless story about a man chasing poon and being useless. No matter how craftily it's marketed.

You do have to wonder what these writers learn in their workshops, and what goes through the heads of agents and editors when they not only engage with this stuff, but choose it over the wealth of unpublished writing that must surely exist out there. Surely there must be something more original out there than this painful guff, if the self-satisfied denizens of the industry had the courage to look? There seem to be a lot of writers chronicling ennui and supposedly 'ordinary lives' nowadays, and I suspect it's because they want to be known as writers and they know the right people, but when it comes down to it none of them actually have a damn thing to say. ( )
1 ääni MikeFutcher | May 25, 2021 |
Näyttää 1-5 (yhteensä 22) (seuraava | näytä kaikki)
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Here are nine men. Each of them is at a different stage in life, each of them is away from home, and each of them is striving - in the suburbs of Prague, in an over-developed Alpine village, beside a Belgian motorway, in a crap Cypriot hotel - to understand just what it means to be alive, here and now. Vibrating with detail and intelligence, pathos and surprise, All That Man Is is a portrait of contemporary manhood, contemporary Europe and contemporary life from a British writer of supreme gifts - the master of a new kind of realism.

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