Black Dogs (Anglais) Relié – novembre 1992
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Description du produit
Revue de presse
"Subtle and unforgettable." —Voice Literary Supplement
"The novel's vision of Europe is acute and alive, vivid in its moral complexities . . . we are conquered by the humanity, the urgency, of the novel's characters." —The New York Times Book Review
"Each scene is brilliantly lit, and has a characteristically strange fascination as Ian McEwan juxtaposes 'huge and tiny currents' to show the ways in which individuals react to history." —The New York Review of Books --Ce texte fait référence à une édition épuisée ou non disponible de ce titre.
Présentation de l'éditeur
Set in late 1980s Europe at the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Black Dogs is the intimate story of the crumbling of a marriage, as witnessed by an outsider. Jeremy is the son-in-law of Bernard and June Tremaine, whose union and estrangement began almost simultaneously. Seeking to comprehend how their deep love could be defeated by ideological differences Bernard and June cannot reconcile, Jeremy undertakes writing June's memoirs, only to be led back again and again to one terrifying encouner forty years earlier—a moment that, for June, was as devastating and irreversible in its consequences as the changes sweeping Europe in Jeremy's own time. In a finely crafted, compelling examination of evil and grace, Ian McEwan weaves the sinister reality of civiliation's darkest moods—its black dogs—with the tensions that both create love and destroy it.--Ce texte fait référence à une édition épuisée ou non disponible de ce titre.
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It is difficult to tidily summarize the plot, or situation, of BLACK DOGS. Suffice it to say for present purposes that Jeremy, the first-person narrator, became fascinated with his wife's parents, Bernard and June. By the time Jeremy met them, his parents-in-law had long lived apart, Bernard as a man of public affairs and liberal politics in London, and June, as a recluse and somewhat of a mystic in the Cévennes Mountains of southern France. Jeremy sets out to write their story, about how a couple who started off their lives together so joyously had drifted apart. Jeremy spends time with each of them, interviewing them, and each constantly elaborates on the failings of the other. In the course of his account, Jeremy goes back and forth between the 1940's and the 1980's, from England to Berlin (at the time the Wall came down) to Majdanek (a Nazi concentration camp outside Lublin, Poland) to the Cévennes.
Perhaps the most conspicuous theme of the novel is announced by its title. In 1946, while hiking with Bernard in the Cévennes, June had a sudden and terrifying encounter with two huge black dogs, which turn out to have been mastiffs trained by the Gestapo but left behind when the Nazis abandoned southern France. The black dogs are, for June, a manifestation or symbol of the evil in life, and in the book there are several other outbursts of violence. Indeed, the novel seems to posit periodic irruptions of evil as part of the human experience.
A competing theme is posed by the rationality of Bernard versus the spirituality of June. Seemingly, Jeremy ends up inclining towards June's antipode. But there is another aspect to the dichotomy to consider, one that is glossed over by Jeremy/McEwan. While June is much more open to the mysteries of life, she is very self-centered, whereas Bernard, despite his implacable and sometimes cold rationality, is "other-oriented". He cares about the countless other humans snagged by evil and he tries, through politics, to devise ways to reduce their number and their pain; June cares only to counter evil in her own life.
One would not be amiss, then, in classifying BLACK DOGS as a novel of ideas. It is constructed with a relatively small number of scenes or episodes, each of which is limned by McEwan economically and vividly. By and large, the narrative is handled quite deftly.
I was bothered, however, by how the narrative was conducted in one respect. At the beginning of Part IV, the narrative changes in two ways, so much so that it seems almost a completely separate account. First, Jeremy (McEwan) includes details that he had already mentioned in the first three Parts of the novel, details that would be unnecessary in one continuous, integrated narrative. Second, and more problematic, there is a shift to narrative omniscience. In the first three-quarters of the novel, Jeremy has to build his story on what June and Bernard tell him, and their memories are fading and incomplete, skewed by personal psychological and existential pressures, and, in several instances, altogether conflicting. But suddenly, in Part IV, Jeremy's account becomes all-knowing, especially in his telling in meticulous detail about June's encounter with the black dogs and the post-mortem discussion of the incident at the Hôtel des Tilleuls, events that had occurred more than forty years before Jeremy wrote his account. This shift in narrative perspective is disconcerting, and if it is not sloppy or lazy on McEwan's part then it strikes me as somewhat manipulative.
Jeremy, an orphan since eight, is always attached to other's parents. During his adolescence he preferred socializing with his friend's parents rather than his own real friends. When he married Jenny, he was immediately attracted to his new parents in law, Bernard and June, thus he started to collect, separate fragments of the life of such interesting subjects with the intention of writing a memory about them. The novel takes you through space and time and offers a vivid description of the post-WW 2's London and the French’s Languedoc region, which I discovered with amazement. McEwan also drove us to 1989's Berlin witnessing the fall of the Wall, and again to Languedoc, where Jeremy achieves a sort of conclusion.
McEwan, a master of words, represents a real challenge for one like me, that know English only as a second language and are still trying to master it. Fortunately the Kindle program in my Android tablet lets me consulting, easily and immediately, the unknown vocabulary using whether the included dictionary or the links to Wikipedia. That's a great feature!
To wrap up I rate "Black Dogs" as a very entertaining and amusing novel. The bad part is when the reading is over.
He doesn't need a plot that is a roller coaster ride of action and excitement. His trademark is analysing and dissecting his characters and in Black Dogs he does this through Jeremy who is attempting to write a memoir of his parents-in-law. Jeremy wants to get to the bottom of why their great love was torn apart almost at the very onset, and through deft writing McEwan accomplishes all of this with subtle, philosophical observation and ties it all together very nicely at the end.
Ultimately one could argue Black Dogs is a book about good versus evil but perhaps that is too simplistic.
It has dark undertones so if you want to be cheered this isn't the book for you.
If you enjoy analysis and depth and great writing this short book will be worth your while.
"Ever since I lost mine in a road accident when I was eight," begins the narrator, Jeremy, "I have had my eye on other people's parents." His preface is a kind of thank-you note to the parents of friends who have welcomed him into their homes and taught him as he was growing up. But he soon concentrates on one couple, Bernard and June Tremaine, the parents of his wife Jenny. The book is essentially a portrait of their marriage -- or rather, of the reason why their marriage broke up at the end of their honeymoon, causing them to live apart in two separate countries (England and France) for most of their lives, even though they continued to be attracted to one another and produced three children. Theirs was a union of opposites: "Rationalist and mystic, commissar and yogi, joiner and abstainer, scientist and intuitionist, Bernard and June are the extremities, the twin poles along whose slippery axis my own unbelief slithers and never comes to rest." Jeremy is an agnostic, yet this is a book about belief. He is primarily an observer, yet it is a book about political action. He was for many years a loner, yet in the end this is a book about love.
The moment when June and Bernard realized the differences in their beliefs came during their honeymoon in 1946, on a walking tour of the barren Cévennes mountains in the South of France. June's encounter with two black dogs in a rocky gorge is mentioned throughout the book, but it is only fully explained at the end. For her, it is a symbol of utter evil countered by mysterious good. Jeremy writes as an archaeological excavation to uncover the meaning of that epiphany. The facts are not in question; this is not a novel of plot and revelation. For Jeremy, it is a matter of refracting certain experiences in his life through June's prism, examining them with Bernard's more scientific lens, and comparing the two. He describes going with Bernard to Berlin as the Wall was coming down, a moment when celebration erupts into sudden violence. He describes a trip to the Majdanek camp shortly after he met Jenny, a visit that stuns him with his own reactions to the evil: "The extravagant numerical scale, the easy-to-say numbers -- tens and hundreds of thousands, millions -- denied the imagination its proper sympathies, its rightful grasp of the suffering, and one was drawn insidiously to the persecutors' premise, that life was cheap, junk to be inspected in heaps." He revisits the Cévennes, a harsh landscape but also a purifying one, and once again becomes embroiled in an apparently senseless act of violence. Every part of this book picks up themes from other parts, making one want to reread it immediately to admire the control behind its relaxed tone.
Perhaps because it was my last McEwan novel to read, I could not help seeing aspects of his other books reflected or foreshadowed here. There is the Berlin setting of THE INNOCENT, the mountain hiking of AMSTERDAM, the author shaping his subject as in ATONEMENT, the political awareness of SATURDAY, the couple who separate during their honeymoon as in ON CHESIL BEACH, and even a hint (in Bernard) of the protagonist of SOLAR. But the author who comes most to mind is WG Sebald, for his discovery of the power of a fictional memoir, as in AUSTERLITZ, and his patient archaeology of horror. But whereas Sebald incorporates grainy photographs to evoke the past, McEwan pulls even past events into an immediate present. His descriptions make photographs irrelevant; Google his locations in the Cévennes, for example, and you will find them exactly as his words had conjured them. And while horror certainly has a part in McEwan's world, the final quality to emerge from his archaeological dig is sheer unadulterated joy.