Tag Archives: william gaddis

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.

THE SURRENDER

The Surrender is Veronica Scott Esposito’s “collection of facts” concerning how she embraced her true gender.


LADY CHATTERLEY'S BROTHER

Two long essays of 10,000 words each on sex in—and out of—literature . . .

The first essay dives in to Nicholson Baker’s “sex trilogy,” explaining just what Baker is up to here and why these books ultimately fail to be as sexy as Baker might wish.

From there the book moves on to the second essay, which explains just why Spaniard Javier Marías does right what Baker does wrong . . .


THE LATIN AMERICAN MIXTAPE

5 essays. 2 interviews.

All in all, over 25,000 words of Latin American literary goodness.

3 never-before-published essays, including “The Digression”—a 4,000-word piece on the most important digression in César Aira’s career.

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