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The Narrow Road to the Deep North [Format Kindle]

Richard Flanagan
4.3 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (3 commentaires client)

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Extrait

chapter 1

Why at the beginning of things is there always light? Dorrigo Evans’ earliest memories were of sun flooding a church hall in which he sat with his mother and grandmother. A wooden church hall. Blinding light and him toddling back and forth, in and out of its transcendent welcome, into the arms of women. Women who loved him. Like entering the sea and returning to the beach. Over and over.

Bless you, his mother says as she holds him and lets him go. Bless you, boy.

That must have been 1915 or 1916. He would have been one or two. Shadows came later in the form of a forearm rising up, its black outline leaping in the greasy light of a kerosene lantern. Jackie Maguire was sitting in the Evanses’ small dark kitchen, crying. No one cried then, except babies. Jackie Maguire was an old man, maybe forty, perhaps older, and he was trying to brush the tears away from his pockmarked face with the back of his hand. Or was it with his fingers?

Only his crying was fixed in Dorrigo Evans’ memory. It was a sound like something breaking. Its slowing rhythm reminded him of a rabbit’s hind legs thumping the ground as it is strangled by a snare, the only sound he had ever heard that was similar. He was nine, had come inside to have his mother look at a blood blister on his thumb, and had little else to compare it to. He had seen a grown man cry only once before, a scene of astonishment when his brother Tom returned from the Great War in France and got off the train. He had swung his kitbag onto the hot dust of the siding and abruptly burst into tears.

Watching his brother, Dorrigo Evans had wondered what it was that would make a grown man cry. Later, crying became simply affirmation of feeling, and feeling the only compass in life. Feeling became fashionable and emotion became a theatre in which people were players who no longer knew who they were off the stage. Dorrigo Evans would live long enough to see all these changes. And he would remember a time when people were ashamed of crying. When they feared the weakness it bespoke. The trouble to which it led. He would live to see people praised for things that were not worthy of praise, simply because truth was seen to be bad for their feelings.

That night Tom came home they burnt the Kaiser on a bonfire. Tom said nothing of the war, of the Germans, of the gas and the tanks and the trenches they had heard about. He said nothing at all. One man’s feeling is not always equal to all life is. Sometimes it’s not equal to anything much at all. He just stared into the flames.

2

A happy man has no past, while an unhappy man has nothing else. In his old age Dorrigo Evans never knew if he had read this or had himself made it up. Made up, mixed up, and broken down. Relentlessly broken down. Rock to gravel to dust to mud to rock and so the world goes, as his mother used to say when he demanded reasons or explanation as to how the world got to be this way or that. The world is, she would say. It just is, boy. He had been trying to wrest the rock free from an outcrop to build a fort for a game he was playing when another, larger rock dropped onto his thumb, causing a large and throbbing blood blister beneath the nail.

His mother swung Dorrigo up onto the kitchen table where the lamp light fell strongest and, avoiding Jackie Maguire’s strange gaze, lifted her son’s thumb into the light. Between his sobs Jackie Maguire said a few things. His wife had the week previously taken the train with their youngest child to Launceston, and not returned.

Dorrigo’s mother picked up her carving knife. Along the blade’s edge ran a cream smear of congealed mutton fat. She placed its tip into the coals of the kitchen range. A small wreath of smoke leapt up and infused the kitchen with the odour of charred mutton. She pulled the knife out, its glowing red tip glittering with sparkles of brilliant white-hot dust, a sight Dorrigo found at once magical and terrifying.

Hold still, she said, taking hold of his hand with such a strong grip it shocked him.

Jackie Maguire was telling how he had taken the mail train to Launceston and gone looking for her, but he could find her nowhere. As Dorrigo Evans watched, the red-hot tip touched his nail and it began to smoke as his mother burnt a hole through the cuticle. He heard Jackie Maguire say—

She’s vanished off the face of the earth, Mrs Evans.

And the smoke gave way to a small gush of dark blood from his thumb, and the pain of his blood blister and the terror of the red-hot carving knife were gone.

Scram, Dorrigo’s mother said, nudging him off the table. Scram now, boy.

Vanished! Jackie Maguire said.

All this was in the days when the world was wide and the island of Tasmania was still the world. And of its many remote and forgotten outposts, few were more forgotten and remote than Cleveland, the hamlet of forty or so souls where Dorrigo Evans lived. An old convict coaching village fallen on hard times and out of memory, it now survived as a railway siding, a handful of crumbling Georgian buildings and scattered verandah-browed wooden cottages, shelter for those who had endured a century of exile and loss.

Backdropped by woodlands of writhing peppermint gums and silver wattle that waved and danced in the heat, it was hot and hard in summer, and hard, simply hard, in winter. Electricity and radio were yet to arrive, and were it not that it was the 1920s, it could have been the 1880s or the 1850s. Many years later Tom, a man not given to allegory but perhaps prompted, or so Dorrigo had thought at the time, by his own impending death and the accompanying terror of the old—that all life is only allegory and the real story is not here—said it was like the long autumn of a dying world.

Their father was a railway fettler, and his family lived in a Tasmanian Government Railways weatherboard cottage by the side of the line. Of a summer, when the water ran out, they would bucket water from the tank set up for the steam locomotives. They slept under skins of possums they snared, and they lived mostly on the rabbits they trapped and the wallabies they shot and the potatoes they grew and the bread they baked. Their father, who had survived the depression of the 1890s and watched men die of starvation on the streets of Hobart, couldn’t believe his luck at having ended up living in such a workers’ paradise. In his less sanguine moments he would also say, ‘You live like a dog and you die like a dog.’

Dorrigo Evans knew Jackie Maguire from the holidays he sometimes took with Tom. To get to Tom’s he would catch a ride on the back of Joe Pike’s dray from Cleveland to the Fingal Valley turnoff. As the old draught horse Joe Pike called Gracie amiably trotted along, Dorrigo would sway back and forth and imagine himself shaping into one of the boughs of the wildly snaking peppermint gums that fingered and flew through the great blue sky overhead. He would smell damp bark and drying leaves and watch the clans of green and red musk lorikeets chortling far above. He would drink in the birdsong of the wrens and the honeyeaters, the whipcrack call of the jo-wittys, punctuated by Gracie’s steady clop and the creak and clink of the cart’s leather traces and wood shafts and iron chains, a universe of sensation that returned in dreams.

They would make their way along the old coach road, past the coaching hotel the railway had put out of business, now a dilapidated near ruin in which lived several impoverished families, including the Jackie Maguires. Once every few days a cloud of dust would announce the coming of a motorcar, and the kids would appear out of the bush and the coach-house and chase the noisy cloud till their lungs were afire and their legs lead.

At the Fingal Valley turnoff Dorrigo Evans would slide off, wave Joe and Gracie goodbye, and begin the walk to Llewellyn, a town distinguished chiefly by being even smaller than Cleveland. Once at Llewellyn, he would strike north-east through the paddocks and, taking his bearings from the great snow-covered massif of Ben Lomond, head through the bush towards the snow country back of the Ben, where Tom worked two weeks on, one week off as a possum snarer. Mid-afternoon he would arrive at Tom’s home, a cave that nestled in a sheltered dogleg below a ridgeline. The cave was slightly smaller than the size of their skillion kitchen, and at its highest Tom could stand with his head bowed. It narrowed like an egg at each end, and its opening was sheltered by an overhang which meant that a fire could burn there all night, warming the cave.

Sometimes Tom, now in his early twenties, would have Jackie Maguire working with him. Tom, who had a good voice, would often sing a song or two of a night. And after, by firelight, Dorrigo would read aloud from some old Bulletins and Smith’s Weeklys that formed the library of the two possum snarers, to Jackie Maguire, who could not read, and to Tom, who said he could. They liked it when Dorrigo read from Aunty Rose’s advice column, or the bush ballads that they regarded as clever or sometimes even very clever. After a time, Dorrigo began to memorise other poems for them from a book at his school called The English Parnassus. Their favourite was Tennyson’s ‘Ulysses’.

Pockmarked face smiling in the firelight, gleaming bright as a freshly turned out plum pudding, Jackie Maguire would say, Oh, them old timers! They can string them words together tighter than a brass snare strangling a rabbit!

And Dorrigo didn’t say to Tom what he had seen a week before Mrs Jackie Maguire vanished: his brother with his hand reaching up inside her skirt, as she—a small, intense woman of exotic darkness—leaned up against the chicken shed behind the coaching house. Tom’s face was turned in on her neck. He knew his brother was kissing her.

For many years, Dorrigo often thought about Mrs Jackie Maguire, whose real name he never knew, whose real name was like the food he dreamt of every day in the POW camps—there and not there, pressing up into his skull, a thing that always vanished at the point he reached out towards it. And after a time he thought about her less often; and after a further time, he no longer thought about her at all.

3

Dorrigo was the only one of his family to pass the Ability Test at the end of his schooling at the age of twelve and so receive a scholarship to attend Launceston High School. He was old for his year. On his first day, at lunchtime, he ended up at what was called the top yard, a flat area of dead grass and dust, bark and leaves, with several large gum trees at one end. He watched the big boys of third and fourth form, some with sideburns, boys already with men’s muscles, line up in two rough rows, jostling, shoving, moving like some tribal dance. Then began the magic of kick to kick. One boy would boot the football from his row across the yard to the other row. And all the boys in that row would run together at the ball and—if it were coming in high—leap into the air, seeking to catch it. And as violent as the fight for the mark was, whoever succeeded was suddenly sacrosanct. And to him, the spoil—the reward of kicking the ball back to the other row, where the process was repeated.

So it went, all lunch hour. Inevitably, the senior boys dominated, taking the most marks, getting the most kicks. Some younger boys got a few marks and kicks, many one or none.

Dorrigo watched all that first lunchtime. Another first-form boy told him that you had to be at least in second form before you had a chance in kick to kick—the big boys were too strong and too fast; they would think nothing of putting an elbow into a head, a fist into a face, a knee in the back to rid themselves of an opponent. Dorrigo noticed some smaller boys hanging around behind the pack, a few paces back, ready to scavenge the occasional kick that went too high, lofting over the scrum.

On the second day, he joined their number. And on the third day, he found himself up close to the back of the pack when, over their shoulders, he saw a wobbly drop punt lofting high towards them. For a moment it sat in the sun, and he understood that the ball was his to pluck. He could smell the piss ants in the eucalypts, feel the ropy shadows of their branches fall away as he began running forward into the pack. Time slowed, he found all the space he needed in the crowding spot into which the biggest, strongest boys were now rushing. He understood the ball dangling from the sun was his and all he had to do was rise. His eyes were only for the ball, but he sensed he would not make it running at the speed he was, and so he leapt, his feet finding the back of one boy, his knees the shoulders of another and so he climbed into the full dazzle of the sun, above all the other boys. At the apex of their struggle, his arms stretched out high above him, he felt the ball arrive in his hands, and he knew he could now begin to fall out of the sun.

Cradling the football with tight hands, he landed on his back so hard it shot most of the breath out of him. Grabbing barking breaths, he got to his feet and stood there in the light, holding the oval ball, readying himself to now join a larger world.

As he staggered back, the melee cleared a respectful space around him.

Who the fuck are you? asked one big boy.

Dorrigo Evans.

That was a blinder, Dorrigo. Your kick.

The smell of eucalypt bark, the bold, blue light of the Tasmanian midday, so sharp he had to squint hard to stop it slicing his eyes, the heat of the sun on his taut skin, the hard, short shadows of the others, the sense of standing on a threshold, of joyfully entering a new universe while your old still remained knowable and holdable and not yet lost—all these things he was aware of, as he was of the hot dust, the sweat of the other boys, the laughter, the strange pure joy of being with others.

Revue de presse

"Some years, very good books win the Man Booker Prize but this year a masterpiece has won it" (A.C. Grayling, Chair of Judges, Man Booker Prize 2014)

"A novel of extraordinary power, deftly told and hugely affecting. A classic in the making... Masterful" (Observer)

"Devastatingly beautiful" (Sunday Times)

"Utterly convincing... A grand examination of what it is to be a good man and a bad man in the one flesh, and, above all, of how it is to live after survival... To say Flanagan creates a rich tapestry is to overly praise tapestries" (Thomas Keneally Guardian)

"Elegantly wrought, measured and without an ounce of melodrama, Flanagan's novel is nothing short of a masterpiece" (Financial Times)

Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 3044 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 418 pages
  • Pagination - ISBN de l'édition imprimée de référence : 0804171475
  • Editeur : Vintage Digital (3 juillet 2014)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ISBN-10: 0701189053
  • ISBN-13: 978-0701189051
  • ASIN: B00J4SNT48
  • Synthèse vocale : Activée
  • X-Ray :
  • Word Wise: Activé
  • Moyenne des commentaires client : 4.3 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (3 commentaires client)
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: n°5.759 dans la Boutique Kindle (Voir le Top 100 dans la Boutique Kindle)
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Commentaires client les plus utiles
3 internautes sur 3 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Very well written 7 novembre 2014
Par Gillian
Format:Format Kindle|Achat vérifié
This books is a very well written and interesting book. It is worth reading and makes you reflect a lot on ourselves, what war is about, and on how much our behaviour is dependent on our conditioning and culture.

It did, however, jump about a lot with ideas - sometimes almost contradicting itself.
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2 internautes sur 2 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 tragically beautiful 28 novembre 2014
Par Laura
Format:Format Kindle|Achat vérifié
Though a little long at times, this book is a work of art. Amazing mastery of language and the art of conveying tragedy with an almost impossible lightness. This touched me.
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2 internautes sur 2 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 poignant and beautiful 19 octobre 2014
Format:Format Kindle|Achat vérifié
This is a moving book of intertwined, wounded lives. Beautifully crafted and thoughtful.
Consuming, poignant and so acutely observed I felt that I was at times present.
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289 internautes sur 306 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 "Life was only about getting the next footstep right." 4 juin 2014
Par Jill I. Shtulman - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit (De quoi s'agit-il?)
The very best books don't just entertain, uplift or educate us. They enfold us in their world and make us step outside of ourselves and become transformed. And sometimes, if we're really lucky, they ennoble and affirm us.

The Narrow Road to the Deep North is such a book. Once I got past the first 60 or 70 pages, there was no turning back. I turned the last page marveling at Mr. Flanagan's skill and agreeing with historian Barbara Tuchman that, "Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill."

The Narrow Road is based on an actual event: the building of the Thai-Burma death railway in 1943 by POWs commanded to the Japanese. The title comes from famed haiku poet Matsuo Basho's most famous work and sets up a truism of the human condition: even those who can admire the concise and exquisite portrayal of life can become the agents of death.

The key character, Australian surgeon Dorrigo Evans, a larger-than-life POW, is also a study in contradictions: as "Big Fella", he protects those under his command from starvation, heinous deceases and senseless dehumanizing while struggling with his own demons. The passages are haunting and heartbreaking: the skeletal bodies covered in their own excretement, the bulging ulcers, the breaking of mind and spirit.

Yet Mr. Flanagan does not depict these scenes to shock the reader. Rather, he reveals how all is ephemeral, mythologized, or forgotten: "Nothing endures. Don't you see? That's what Kipling meant. Not empires, not memories. We remember nothing. Maybe for a year or two. Maybe most of a life, if we live. Maybe. But then we will die, and who will ever understand any of this?"

And later: "For an instant, he thought he grasped the truth of a terrifying world in which one could not escape horror, in which violence was eternal, the great and only verity, greater than the civilizations it created, greater than any god man worshipped." Richard Flanagan implies again and again that were it not for poems, sketches, and narratives, the truth of an experience is gone forevermore; it is the ancient haikus that endure and prevail more than, say, a railroad that cost thousands of lives.

One of the book's strengths is that it never resorts to "us" and "them." After depositing us in the midst of hell, he delivers us back to a post-war world where Japanese and POWs alike struggle to justify and endure. The only weakness is an overwrought love affair at the beginning of the book but to Richard Flanagan's credit, he doesn't take the easy way out in crafting its culmination.

The dedication - to prisoner san byaku san ju go (335) was so enticing I Googled it, only to find that the prisoner alluded to was actually Richard Flanagan's father. As he states early on when describing the unofficial national war memorial commemorating the railroad, "There are no names of the hundreds of thousands who died building the railway...Their names are already forgotten. There is no book for their lost souls. Let them have this fragment." Richard Flanagan does honor to these unsung heroes.
79 internautes sur 83 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 How to decipher an indecipherable world? 21 juillet 2014
Par Patto - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit (De quoi s'agit-il?)
Goodness eludes the characters...

The protagonist, Dorrigo Evans, is a womanizer, an unloving husband, an unsatisfactory father, a somewhat reckless surgeon, and a war hero who considers himself a man without virtue.

The Japanese soldiers who tormented him and his men in a POW jungle camp in Siam consider themselves good men, heroically devoted to the Emperor and faithful to their idea of duty. Years later they actually do develop compassion (too late to benefit the POWs).

These shifting sands of morality are a recurrent theme in the book. It's clear that Dorrigo protected his men as best he could and saved many lives. His personal failings pale beside this. And the insane cruelty of the Japanese soldiers, although inexcusable, is clearly the result of their military training and indoctrination. So everyone can be seen as a victim of war and circumstances.

Dorrigo's experiences in the jungle camp are the most fascinating pages of the book. The vivid accounts of hunger, beatings, dysentery, lice – and surgery with improvised implements and homemade anesthetic are unforgettable. Compared to camp life, I found the account of Dorrigo's guilty love affair with his uncle's young wife to be a bit tedious. Perhaps I’m losing my romanticism.

There is a certain incoherence to the narrative; on the other hand there are some very moving scenes. So my enjoyment of this book was on and off. Certainly it’s a very ambitious novel, a valiant effort to decipher an indecipherable world.
134 internautes sur 147 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 ‘Why at the beginning of things is there always light?’ 23 décembre 2013
Par Jennifer Cameron-Smith - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Format Kindle
This novel shares its title with a poetic travelogue by the 17th century haiku poet Matsuo Basho which was published in 1694. In many respects, the journey undertaken by Matsuo Basho is very different from that undertaken by Dorrigo Evans in this novel. Matsuo Basho is largely focussed on the beauty of the world around him, whereas Dorrigo Evans’s odyssey is of evolving self, and place.

‘A happy man has no past, while an unhappy man has nothing else.’

Dorrigo Evans is the central character in Richard Flanagan’s novel. His story moves in place and time, between different aspects of his lives in a way that made me think about the kind of man Dorrigo Evans was, and about how complex humans can be. The core of the story, and of Evans’s heroism, is about his experiences as a doctor in a prisoner of war camp on the infamous Thai-Burma railway during World War II. Evans loves literature, and especially Tennyson’s ‘Ulysses’ which he reads and rereads. Evans’s memories are triggered by writing a foreword for a collection of sketches done by one of the men (Guy ‘Rabbit’ Hendricks) who did not survive the camp. We read Dorrigo Evans’s memories of the camp together with his childhood in Tasmania, his life in Melbourne, and his posting to Adelaide where he has an affair with his Uncle Keith’s much younger wife, Amy. Although Evans becomes engaged to the conventional Ella before being posted overseas, it is his affair with Amy that sustains him through his camp experiences. We are not spared from graphic descriptions of the physical consequences of life in the camps: malnutrition, minimal hygiene and physical brutality are all covered. But in all the squalor and hardship, pain and suffering, there are men who try to support each other.

‘Because courage, survival, love – all these things didn’t live in one man. They lived in them all or they died and every man with them; they had come to believe that to abandon one man was to abandon themselves.’

Others see Dorrigo Evans as a hero for his kindness to them and self-sacrifice for them, and he comes to feel trapped by the weight of their expectations. A sense of duty weighs him down, even after he has returned to civilian life.

Dorrigo Evans is not always likeable, especially once he returns to civilian life and acquires a collection of mistresses. And yet, the man whose heroic efforts made a difference to so many in the camps cannot be easily dismissed. Back in Australia, we still need (and want) our heroes.

This is a beautifully written novel which is at times harrowing to read. The descriptions of suffering in the camp are necessary to the story, but not easy to absorb. Many of the experiences are heart-wrenching, and yet Australian larrikin humour is at times on display. I came to care for many of the characters, and to cry for them. This is a novel that invites you to think about life, about situations and accommodations, and about the strengths and weaknesses in each of us. It is not an easy read, but I found it a rewarding one.

‘He could never admit to himself that it was death that had given his life meaning.’

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
59 internautes sur 69 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
2.0 étoiles sur 5 Not for me. 7 septembre 2014
Par MSJ - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Format Kindle
The Narrow Road to the Deep North is a devastating look into the construction of the Thai-Burma Railway (“The Death Railway”) during World War 2 by Australian POWs held captive by Japan. Try to imagine building a railway through the jungle during Monsoon season with no machinery and little food or shelter. The prisoner’s living conditions were deplorable: starvation, cholera, dysentery and scurvy. Death was waiting for them. Many scenes included various acts of anal defecation and you can practically smell the s*** wafting up from the pages. And I can’t forget the brutality of the Japanese Colonel’s acts of beheading that would make ISIS proud today.

Besides learning about the Death Railway, reading this book made me aware of a couple battles during World War 2 that were never taught in my school such as the New Guinea Campaign and the Syria-Lebanon Campaign. I spent much time on Wikipedia learning more about these unknown historical events.

While I liked the subject matter (if that is really possible), I did not enjoy Richard Flanagan’s prose at all. It felt too jarring and abrasive. There was nothing lyrical about it. It was very difficult to get into a rhythm due to the abrupt changes of from present to past to future and back again with no notifications. I also did not enjoy the love stories at all. They seemed completely out of place and were boring quite frankly. As the book progressed it became a chore to read. I finally put it down somewhere after the half way mark when I realized how much I was not enjoying it.

Clearly this was not the book for me. It's not surprising another Man Booker nominated book disappointed me. It seems like the judges for this literary award often create a mixed bag of books and this year’s contenders are no exception.
33 internautes sur 39 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Harrowing and beautiful 29 décembre 2013
Par Prufrock - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Format Kindle|Achat vérifié
That any POW's survived the building of the Thai Burma Railway, is a testament to something that goes beyond courage or endurance. And that those men could go forward after the war was over also staggers me. Flanagan gives us an inkling of how that might have been for many of the survivors. This is a gruelling but poignant account in fictional form and the fact that we not only see this from the perspective of Australian POW's but also their captors (some of whom were close to captives as well), makes it more compelling. I loved the use of haiku and Tennyson throughout the novel. This may be the first time I've ever put a novel ahead of anything Tim Winton has done to win the Miles Franklin Award, but this time I have to, although it's a close call.
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