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The Sleepwalkers: a Trilogy (Vintage International) Paperback – 30 Jan 1996

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Product details

  • Paperback: 648 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Books; 1st Vintage International Ed edition (30 Jan 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679764062
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679764069
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 2.8 x 20.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,041,351 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Melmoth on 11 Feb 2009
Format: Paperback
The Sleepwalkers is a truly astounding book, a trilogy that glides with elegant, swanlike power between styles and milieus as its author strives to create a genuine work of art, both delving deep into the psyches of his characters and, at the same time, building a critique of the process of destruction of values which found its apotheosis in the First World War.
Each section of the trilogy follows a different character at a different time. First we meet Joachim von Pasenow, the priggish, innocent, aristocrat and officer who finds security only in his uniform as he vacillates between his prostitute mistress and the prospect of a respectable, loveless union with the neighbour he has been destined to marry almost since birth.
Next, the novel drops the realist style of its first section and shifts into a more expressionistic mode as it comes to 1903 and the affairs of the stolid, quondam-accountant August Esch, a man constantly seeking to balance out wrongs and rights in the great accounting book of life.
Lastly, Broch adopts a range of styles - journalistic prose, poetry, scenes rendered as extracts from plays - as he arrives at 1918 and brings both Esch and Pasenow into contact with the deserter Hugenau, a man for whom desertion of anything but the laws of commercial self-interest is no sin. Here the author also intertwines a tale of doomed love and an essay on the theme of the whole novel - the disintegration of values.
Throughout these changes of scene, character and style, Broch maintains our interest with precise, yet fluid prose and with little bombs of plot, character or simple thought, often beautifully concealed at the end of a chapter where they will cause the reader to look at everything just read in a wholly new light.
In a word, wonderful.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Joe J. on 19 Mar 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
broch excels in every department - storytelling, characterisation, sense of period and, of course, intellectual rigour. I can not understand why this book is not more widely known. whwn is kindle going to make available Broch's 'Death of Virgil'?
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Alistair Watson on 11 Aug 2014
Format: Paperback
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 14 reviews
100 of 104 people found the following review helpful
The Absolute Novel? 14 Nov 2000
By Esther Nebenzahl - Published on
Format: Paperback
Born in Vienna in 1886, Broch is considered one of the great names of 20th Century German literature. Critics will place him in a pantheon that includes Joyce, Musil, Kafka, Mann, and Proust. Son of a well-off Jewish textile manufacturer (at an early age he converted to Catholicism), Broch had thirst for high intellect. Eventually he gave up his academic plans, his future as an industrialist, in pursuit of literature, through which he would deal with ethical questions and realms of experience rejected by the Vienna Circle of logical positivists. Likewise he devoted his life to the study of mass psychology and politics.
"The Sleepwalkers" (published when the author was 40) is a trilogy, a three-dimensional work with one underlying philosophical unit. The first book, "The Romantic" portrays 19th century realism with von Pasenow as main character, a Prussian aristocrat clinging to ethical values considered outdated. The second book, "The Anarchist," portrays the accountant Esch who is in search of a "balance" of values in unstable pre-war Germany. Both characters will meet in the third book "The Realist," and will find hope in a fanatical religious sect, which foresees the coming of a Redeemer (fascism, Hitler). They will be defeated by Huguenau, an army deserter and opportunist, representing the new ethical standards of a society free of values or to put it correctly "with no values." There are several parallel plots, a number of alienated characters, and cumbrous symbolism. To make things a bit more complex and elaborate, there are 16 chapters of poetry, and 10 chapters (Desintegration of Values) of sound and intensive philosophy.
According to Broch, "sleepwalkers" refer to a gap between the death of an ethical system and the birth of another, as much as a somnambulist finds himself in a state between sleep and awake. The novel reflects the disintegration of values in Germany between 1880 and 1920, the psychological distress and disorientation of interwar Germany in which Nazism set its foot. Broch views the Renaissance as the starting point of disintegration of a unified Christian world into a multifaceted society with no ethical roots.
This is a massive piece of literature, one that wil be viewed as lenghthy and boring if the reader is not willing to go beyond the "first layer of the onion peel;" it requires patience and perseverance. For any reader who wishes to crack down on Broch's literary work, "Hermann Broch" by Ernestine Schlant is a good suggestion.
36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
Trilogy of the Disintergration of Values 26 Dec 2000
By "pouria" - Published on
Format: Paperback
Broch's Trilogy is the chronicle of the evolution of Germany in particular and the whole Europe in general between the years 1888 and 1918. The philosophical focus of the trilogy should be searched for in the third novel, Huguenau or the Realist and within that in the essay 'Disintegration of Values", which is allegedly written by a Bertrand Mueller, who according to Broch himself is the same Bertrand who appears in the first two novels of the trilogy. The essay on disintegration of values closely follows Max Weber's Protestant Ethics and the Spirit of Capitalism. In fact not before we understand Weber's theory of modernity and the role of the protestant reformation in the rise of modern Capitalism can we appreciate the full vigor of Broch's narrative. In ten separate parts, Broch explains masterfully the notion of style of an age, the relation of plastic arts with the the style, the concept of inner logic within each indididual value-system and the effect of it on the life of the individual. The third part of the novel, the realist, is the culmination of the trilogy as such. It is where all the characters meet and it is there that Broch uses all different narrative modes. A certain air of inevitablity is prevalent in Broch's narrative of the disintegration of values, which, in turn, appears to follow a certain Hegelian Historicism. This third novel of the trilogy consists of five separate parts, three of which are stories taking place in a German city near the Belgian borders and the other two are the story of the Salvation Army Girl in Berlin, which is Bertrand Mueller's journal and then his essay on the disintegration of values. It is Broch's wonderful technique to combine all five narratives as one by integrating the story of Huguenau in the essay, as though Mueller, omnisciently and from afar comments on the life of the people in this small and remote town. Bertrand Muellr, therefore, is Broch's own alter ego. He, along with Broch, is the author of Disintegration of Values. Reading The Sleepwalkers with patience is a joy. Loiter around every page, every line, every word, read them again and again and let them shine their light upon your eyes.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
philosophy or fiction? 1 Feb 1998
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
"The Sleepwalkers" deviates from the psychological novel as first conceived in the 19th century and endlessly reincarnated to this day by entering into a new territory where fiction is subserviant to and illustrative of philosophical principles. Thus the task of the reader is to decipher a surface which is at different times prosaic, irrational, symbolic, etc. This is not allegory or fable. The characters and situations are neither two dimensional nor transparently representational of secondary meanings. Rather, the author has let his intended supratext breath through more tangible and specific fictive embodiments. He does this with various success, more often than not needlessly obscuring his meaning by burying it too deeply. It is not as if the reader discovers Broch's meaning for himself so that by the end when it's spelled out in straightforward expository essay form the reader has already come to the same or deeper understanding. In fact, without Broch's plain exposition, contained in chapters entitled "Disintegration of Values," I do not think the narrative fictive segments could stand on their own. Despite this limitation, which I take to be a limitation of the creative imagination at the expense of philosophical exposition, the work offers a vision of modernity that is at core irrefutable and in many aspects unique, making the effort to decipher "The Sleepwalkers" well worth the time.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
A complex novel worth study and thought 13 April 2008
By Carol L. Emory - Published on
Format: Paperback
I could not have finished The Sleepwalkers without the able assistance of Amazon reviewers. I assumed that this would be a novel similar to Embers or The Radetzky March. I could not have been more wrong. This is a very complex novel that can be read on many levels, philosophical, moral, and psychological. Regardless of which level you read, The Sleepwalkers is not a novel to take or read lightly. It requires great concentration and will inspire much reverie about modern life, values, and philosophy.

The Sleepwalkers is a trilogy taking place in Prussia and Germany, starting in 1888 and ending in 1918. The first of the trilogy, The Romantic, takes place in 1888 and is about a Prussian aristocrat who adheres to the strict moral code of his forebears, leading to a loveless marriage that his family desires him to make. The second of the trilogy, The Anarchist, involves a bookkeeper struggling to find his place in Cologne and Mannheim in 1903. These two parts are fairly straightforward to read.

The final part of the trilogy, The Realist, is longer and more difficult to read. Taking place in the final year of the First World War, it is a combination of five parts. The most straightforward part concerns an army deserter who settles in a German small town and insinuates himself into their society. He joins The Romantic, now a much older commander, brought forth from retirement to become Town Commandant, and The Anarchist, who has become editor of the local paper. Other fairly straightforward parts involve patients at the town's hospital and an alienated young woman whose husband is away at the war. The final two parts involve a character who has appeared in the other parts of the trilogy, Bertrand, who apparently represented the author himself. One part is Bertrand's journal, relating to his relationships to the Jewish community and a young woman in the Salvation Army. The last part is Bertrand's essay titled "The Disintegration of Values". Bertrand's essay is actually the point of the novel as a whole, and is integrated to correspond to various parts of the plot. However, it is very intense and philosophical.

I recommend this book to those who want to read a complex, well-written, involving novel interspersed with profound philosophy. If you are looking for a quick read, this is not the novel for you. Although I'll probably never re-read the novel as a whole, I will read "The Disintegration of Values" again often.
13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
One of the great cultural achievements of the 20th Century 5 Jan 1997
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
"The Sleepwalkers", by Hermann Broch, is one of the great
cultual achievements of the 20th Century. Today, over
60 years after its original publication (and almost
50 years after the English translation was published),
its insights are perhaps even more relevant than before,
due to the advent of so-called "Post-Modernism", which
has made a "virtue" out of the disintegration of values
and the breakdown of life-forms in our society. Broch,
in contrast, was committed to the task of finding
a way through to meaningful life for all persons in
our time.

"The Sleepwalkers" offers diagnostic case-studies of
the problem (often with a subtle wit), and, at the
end of the book, briefly but powerfully points to a
solution, in a renewal of community in inclusive discourse.

Personally, when I first read "The Sleepwalkers", ca. 1972, it
it showed me why words might deserve to exist, and I felt
that, if I was who I wished I was, I would have written
Broch's words. I was and remained struck by the
"ekstatic" condition with which he must have been
graced to write this work (and other of his works,
e.g., "The Death of Virgil").

Perhaps the ending words of "The Virgil" characterize,
in a way different from how they are there meant,
Broch's achievement: "It was the word beyond speech".
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