[A] meditative retreat at Auschwitz.... Passages about Olin’s family history, in particular, stand out. But the novel focuses mainly on the abstract: what it feels like to spend days on end at the death camp—the frustration, alienation, and otherworldliness of it. Throughout, there’s a hum of absurdity.
(Starred review.) Not a mere recounting but a persuasive meditation on Auschwitz's history and mythology, this novel from three-time National Book Award winner Matthiessen uses scenes of confrontation, recollection, bitterness, and self-examination to trace aspects of culture that led to the Holocaust and that still reverberate today. —Jim Coan, SUNY at Oneonta Lib.
(Starred review.) The two-time National Book Award–winner doesn’t shy away from boldly tackling the most profound of subjects… Matthiessen expertly raises the challenges and the difficulties inherent in addressing this subject matter, proving…that the creation of art "is the only path that might lead toward the apprehension of that ultimate evil . . . [that] the only way to understand such evil is to reimagine it.
In Paradise as a whole feels overly formal; the framing device of the retreat makes the philosophizing feel potted...and Clements' emotional longings, constricted. A burst of spontaneous dancing on the retreat gives the book a similarly surprising lift, but it's quickly back to hand-wringing and self-loathing. An admirable, if muted, minor-key study of the meaning of survivorship.
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