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Just How Big Is Peter Nadas’ Parallel Stories?

Hungarian author Peter Nadas wrote one of my favorite novels in recent memory: it was A Book of Memories, published in English translation in 2008 by Picador and clocking in at a chunky 720 pages. Memorably, in the New York Review Deborah Eisenberg wrote in a piece entitled “The Genius of Peter Nadas“:

And although it’s certain, insofar as anything can be, that Péter Nádas would have become an extraordinary writer no matter what his circumstances, life in Hungary under a Soviet-backed regime has left a burning imprint on his writing. His work’s frank claims to be on a high level, its ambition, assurance, rigor, and tone of urgency, as well as the extent to which it sometimes makes free with the reader’s stamina, not only suggest irrepressible artistic and moral force but also seem unburdened by personal arrogance. What is at issue for him, clearly, is to discover truth and tell it in whatever way possible.

This fall FSG is publishing Nadas’ titanic (there is no other word) Parallel Stories, 15 years in the writing and 5 years in the translating. How big is it? I took some photos for comparison’s sake:

First of all, let’s put it up against WIlliam T. Vollmann’s gargantuan Fathers and Crows, a big book from a guy who knows about writing big books.

Parallel Stories: 1152 pages
Fathers and Crows by William T. Vollmann: 1008 pages

Nadas v. Vollmann? Advantage Nadas.

What about The Recognitions, a notably huge book?

Parallel Stories: 1152 pages
The Recognitions by William Gaddis: 976 pages

Nadas v. Gaddis? Advantage Nadas.

Then there’s everybody’s go-to book when thinking of huge books, War and Peace (which, in fact, is name-checked on the back copy of Parallel.)

Parallel Stories: 1152 pages
War and Peace by Tolstoy: 1200 pages

Too close to call. Let’s go to the photo:

In fact, the photo is deceptive on this one, as the Norton critical edition uses transparently thin paper. But given all the critical apparatus that comes with the Norton, I have to give this one to Parallel Stories.

Nadas v. Tolstoy? Advantage Nadas.

You can even stack this book up against a trilogy–like Cormac McCarthy’s masterful Border Trilogy.

Parallel Stories: 1152 pages
The Border Trilogy by Cormac McCarthy: 1056 pages

Nadas v. McCarthy? Advantage Nadas.

And then there’s the size of Nadas’ own prior Book of Memories.

Parallel Stories: 1152 pages
A Book of Memories by Peter Nadas: 720 pages

Nadas v. Nadas? Advantage Nadas.

About the only thing I could find to rival Parallel Stories was the legendarily long Infinite Jest, which, though a dab shorter by pagecount has much bigger pages and packs in more words per page.

Parallel Stories: 1152 pages
Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace: 1104 pages

Nadas v. Wallace? Let’s go to the photo.

You call it.

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15 comments to Just How Big Is Peter Nadas’ Parallel Stories?

  • dglen

    And if the Paris Review excerpt is indicative, we have a LOT to look forward to.

  • anon

    Can you post pics of the cover/TOC/first page???

    Also- it looks like your review copy is a paperback. Any idea if the real thing will be published in pb or in hardcover first (Amazon’s page says it comes out in October in hardcover)?

  • admin

    Sure, I can post pics, but I think they’ll be disappointing. The copy I have is a galley, which is why it’s paperback. For $40 I hope FSG gives its readers a hardback.

  • I don’t know if this is an actual “thing”, but it’s always seemed to me that galleys are disproportionately large. Obviously this is one chunkster of a book, but I think a better indicator is how the book looks once it’s published in paperback. It’d probably be less bloated, better quality paper, etc.

  • Ah, but is it bigger than Miss Macintosh, My Darling? Or Laura Warholic? Or Against the Day? Or John Sayles’s new A Moment in the Sun? Or Clarissa?

    Probably, but this is fun.

  • Neil Griffin

    I was wondering if that Paris Review novella was an excerpt from something bigger. I guess I have my answer.

  • [...] Reading looks at Peter Nadas’s forthcoming novel Parallel Stories – specifically, the fact that it is a physically massive work of fiction. [...]

  • [...] blog got a little upset that I was being too mean to Jonathan Franzen and his vision… »Just How Big Is Peter Nadas’ Parallel Stories?Hungarian author Peter Nadas wrote one of my favorite novels in recent memory: it was A Book of [...]

  • I have The Book of Memories on my shelf. I better get to it soon. This new one looks really interesting. Thanks.

  • Thomas McGonigle

    I find that this is a book that carefully slows down one’s reading… I have not figured out how he is doing this but I think one can only read 3 pages at a sitting…

  • l

    I purchased the Kindle version on the 25th and have done little else since then but read it. Did a Google search for the title & found this site, so am using it to gush & exclaim about this book. I’m about 15% through the book, and it is absolutely unbelievably wonderful. Never even heard of Nadas before, I’m ashamed to say. But as a big reader who most loves endless 19th century novels, I am, I guess the best word is ‘shocked’ at the precision and scope of the world described in this novel. With this length, you would expect a loose fabric of description, allowing a rather relaxed pace and attention to detail. Nope. Each sentence is carefully chiseled, with endless juxtapositions that are unexpected, somewhat shocking even, yet resonate as true, believable when you stop to consider them.

    And stop to consider is imperative. You simply can’t read this book very quickly. I want to underline so much that I actually put the book down yesterday & went out for a walk to rearrange in my mind what I wanted to underline, since underlining everything is the same as underlining nothing. Never in my life have I had this dilemma.

    God what a book! I’ve already ordered his entire back catalog, which depressingly is essentially available at $.01 per book plus postage. Thank goodness for FSG’s continued commitment to translations. This one took 4 years, which is no surprise.

  • [...] 1,000-page marker. Also in autumnal lit fic, Adam Levin’s The Instructions and Peter Nadas’s Parallel Stories both managed to produce 1,000-plus pagers. And that’s what’s changed about the size [...]

  • [...] 1,000-page marker. Also in autumnal lit fic, Adam Levin’s The Instructions and Peter Nadas’s Parallel Stories both managed to produce 1,000-plus pagers. And that’s what’s changed about the size [...]

  • [...] Posted on January 20, 2014 Sometimes the best surprises arrive in unmarked brown boxes. In this case the mysterious contents appeared to be harmless enough, despite the intimidating immensity of the thing: it was the new novel by the great Hungarian writer Péter Nádas, a 1,000-plus-page behemoth called Parallel Stories. [...]

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