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[Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance] [by: Richard Powers] (Anglais) Broché – 1 décembre 1994


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In the spring of 1914, renowned photographer August Sander took a photograph of three young men on their way to a country dance. This haunting image, capturing the last moments of innocence on the brink of World War I, provides the central focus of Powers's brilliant and compelling novel. As the fate of the three farmers is chronicled, two contemporary stories unfold. The young narrator becomes obsessed with the photo, while Peter Mays, a computer writer in Boston, discovers he has a personal link with it. The three stories connect in a surprising way and provide the reader with a mystery that spans a century of brutality and progress.


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For a third of a century, I got by nicely without Detroit. Lire la première page
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Couverture | Copyright | Table des matières | Extrait | Quatrième de couverture
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45 internautes sur 48 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
An Intelligent, Complex Novel of Ideas 26 juillet 2002
Par "botatoe" - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
In 1910, Richard Powers relates in "Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance," the German photographer August Sander came upon the idea of an epic photographic collection to be called "Man of the Twentieth Century." Sander went on, during the next several decades, to take thousands of photographs of everyday life, "a massive, comprehensive catalog of people written in the universal language-photography."
One of Sander's photographs, taken in May, 1914, depicts three German farmers standing in a muddy road, their heads turned to the camera. The three farmers are dressed in their best suits, white shirts, ties, hats, and walking sticks. They are on their way to a dance. As Powers' first person narrator writes, "the date sufficed to show that they were not going to their expected dance. I was not going to my expected dance. We would all be taken blindfolded into a field somewhere in this tortured century and made to dance until we'd had enough. Dance until we dropped."
From this intriguing beginning, Richard Powers tells three stories, each of them connected through the photograph and through time. The first is that of the narrator, who stumbles upon Sander's photograph at the Detroit Institute of Arts. He becomes obsessed with the haunting aura of the photograph and spends the next several months trying to find out more about the photographer and the three men in the photograph. The second is that of the three farmers themselves-Hubert, Peter and Adolphe-and what happens to each of them when the Great War breaks out in Europe. The third story is that of Peter Mays, a writer for a computer trade magazine in 1980s Boston, who also becomes obsessed-not with the photograph, but with a beautiful red haired woman dressed in early twentieth century period costume that he sees on the street following a Veterans' Day Parade-and ultimately finds out that he has a connection to one of the men in the picture and to the events of the Great War.
To say that "Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance" tells three stories is misleading, however, insofar as the novel is dominated not by plot, but, rather, by a range of discursive narratives on how the world has changed between the Great War, when Sander's photograph was taken, and the present day. Plot does not drive the action of Powers' densely intellectual novel; rather, it provides a touchstone for the narrator to explore certain events and fundamental ideas of the Twentieth Century. For example, when the office cleaning woman shows the narrator artifacts from the Great War, it strikes an intellectual cord that leads to a long discourse on Charles Peguy, the French thinker who, in 1913, made the subsequently oft-quoted remark that "the world had changed less since the death of Jesus than it had in the last thirty years," and the ideas "hidden" in Peguy's formulation. Similarly, the narrator's obsessive study of the 1914 photograph leads to an historical investigation of Sander's life and works. It also leads to speculations on the nature of photography and on how photography changed conceptions of art that derive closely from Walter Benjamin's classic essay, "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction."
Ideas and intellectual referents are ubiquitous in this novel; simply read the epigraphs to each chapter to get a feel for the intellectual gyroscope that orients "Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance". It is a remarkable work that demands a great deal from the reader. It is also a work that will disappoint anyone who is looking for a straightforward plot or a mere "page turner."
If you're interested in ideas, in novels with intellectual density, in narratives that force you to think deeply and reflectively about the world, "Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance" is the perfect novel. Read it, enjoy it, and move on to the rest of Richard Powers' remarkable list of fictions.
16 internautes sur 16 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Impressive First Novel. Not for Casual Readers. 30 octobre 2003
Par RV - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
This book consists of three intertwined sagas, all revolving around a picture of three farmers taken in 1914. The main idea behind this book, as I see it, is the interconnectedness of observer and observed. The lives of people who see this picture are irrevocably changed, but the prospect of having their picture seen by generations of future viewers, changes the lives of the three farmers as well. This is a recurring motif in the book.
After reading this book, I discovered two amazing facts. The first is that this is Richard Powers' first novel and as such the virtuosity and craftsmanship that Powers' exhibits in this book are truly incredible. The second incredible fact is that the picture around which the novel revolves is a real one. Had I known these facts before reading the book, I would have enjoyed it even more.
On the down side, this book is not an easy read. The story itself never really gripped me, and there are a lot of dead spots. In addition, while the prose is beautiful it demands concentration and close attention to every word and sentence. Bottom line, I will definitely read Powers' other works, but I cannot recommend this one to the casual reader.
19 internautes sur 20 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Intelligent and accessibilly written novel 5 juillet 2002
Par Virgil - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
Richard Powers is probably the most accessible of contemporary "literary" novelists. In this, his first book, he weaves the stories of three farmers on the eve of WWI with the lives of contemporary characters. The "glue" of the story is the photograph that is run across at a Detroit exhibit showing the three farmers in 1914. It's a well written and thoughtful piece on obsession, change and the 20th century. Better in some ways, than even his more highly praised later books.
Powers does a masterful job of integrating several characters into his storyline and integrating several discourses throughout. Especially interesting is his discourse on the work of photographer August Sander. I frankly had never heard of him and now find myself looking for pieces of his work in libraries and online. It's always a good sign when a piece of writing whether fiction or non-fiction spurs interests into directions you'd never have gone into.
There is a connection with the characters that I get when I read Powers that I don't get with DeLillo, Franzen or other "PoMo" writers. That's not a criticism of them but rather a praising of Powers writing.
14 internautes sur 15 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
An Intelligent, Complex Novel of Ideas 13 août 2001
Par Un client - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
In 1910, Richard Powers relates in "Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance," the German photographer August Sander came upon the idea of an epic photographic collection to be called "Man of the Twentieth Century." Sander went on, during the next several decades, to take thousands of photographs of everyday life, "a massive, comprehensive catalog of people written in the universal language-photography."
One of Sander's photographs, taken in May, 1914, depicts three German farmers standing in a muddy road, their heads turned to the camera. The three farmers are dressed in their best suits, white shirts, ties, hats, and walking sticks. They are on their way to a dance. As Powers' first person narrator writes, "the date sufficed to show that they were not going to their expected dance. I was not going to my expected dance. We would all be taken blindfolded into a field somewhere in this tortured century and made to dance until we'd had enough. Dance until we dropped."
From this intriguing beginning, Richard Powers tells three stories, each of them connected through the photograph and through time. The first is that of the narrator, who stumbles upon Sander's photograph at the Detroit Institute of Arts. He becomes obsessed with the haunting aura of the photograph and spends the next several months trying to find out more about the photographer and the three men in the photograph. The second is that of the three farmers themselves-Hubert, Peter and Adolphe-and what happens to each of them when the Great War breaks out in Europe. The third story is that of Peter Mays, a writer for a computer trade magazine in 1980s Boston, who also becomes obsessed-not with the photograph, but with a beautiful red haired woman dressed in early twentieth century period costume that he sees on the street following a Veterans' Day Parade-and ultimately finds out that he has a connection to one of the men in the picture and to the events of the Great War.
To say that "Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance" tells three stories is misleading, however, insofar as the novel is dominated not by plot, but, rather, by a range of discursive narratives on how the world has changed between the Great War, when Sander's photograph was taken, and the present day. Plot does not drive the action of Powers' densely intellectual novel; rather, it provides a touchstone for the narrator to explore certain events and fundamental ideas of the Twentieth Century. For example, when the office cleaning woman shows the narrator artifacts from the Great War, it strikes an intellectual cord that leads to a long discourse on Charles Peguy, the French thinker who, in 1913, made the subsequently oft-quoted remark that "the world had changed less since the death of Jesus than it had in the last thirty years," and the ideas "hidden" in Peguy's formulation. Similarly, the narrator's obsessive study of the 1914 photograph leads to an historical investigation of Sander's life and works. It also leads to speculations on the nature of photography and on how photography changed conceptions of art that derive closely from Walter Benjamin's classic essay, "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction."
Ideas and intellectual referents are ubiquitous in this novel; simply read the epigraphs to each chapter to get a feel for the intellectual gyroscope that orients "Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance". It is a remarkable work that demands a great deal from the reader. It is also a work that will disappoint anyone who is looking for a straightforward plot or a mere "page turner."
If you're interested in ideas, in novels with intellectual density, in narratives that force you to think deeply and reflectively about the world, "Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance" is the perfect novel. Read it, enjoy it, and move on to the rest of Richard Powers' remarkable list of fictions.
16 internautes sur 20 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
More educational than engrossing 20 novembre 2004
Par noleander - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
I like Richard Powers, in fact, I'd rate his "Galatea 2.2" as one of my top ten novels of all time.

But "Three Farmers" (which I read _after_ "Galatea" and "The Goldbug Variations" and "Gain") was a bit of a let down. Sure, it had all the intellectual stimulation that I expected. And yes, it had some great quotes (both from Powers and from others that he cites ... such as "The world has changed less since the death of Jesus than it has in the past 30 years").

What went wrong? Maybe I was just not in the mood. Maybe it was the lack of a compelling love interest (so powerful in his other novels). Maybe it was that his historical lectures (on Ford, WW I, Sarah Berndhart, and photography) were a bit too pedantic.

But what really bothered me was the gimmicky ending: in the final two pages, one of the protagonists (who is on the verge of continuing a relationship with a female character) abruptly stops and asks (the reader? the author?) "So does he [I] get the girl?" ... and he walks out of her life forever. Huh?

Okay, so Powers has just finished a lecture on how (in photography, at least) there is a fascinating relationship between photographer, subject, and viewer. They fulfill each other, they create each other, they cannot exist without each other. I get it: this same relationship exists between author, characters, and reader. But to take a 350 page narrative and have it end on this cheesy metaphysical note .. a bit of a let down. I'm not even sure what is happening: is the character stepping out of the novel and into the readers reality? If this is so important to Powers, why not at least develop it for a few pages rather than tack it on in the last page?

This device reminds me of Pirandello's "Seven Characters in Search of an Author" ... but in that case it was a successful device because it was clear what was happening, and gave the audience something to chew on.

Try one of Power's other books.
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