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Moment of Freedom: The Heiligenberg Manuscript [Paperback]

Jens Bjorneboe , Esther Greenleaf Murer
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

May 16 1999
The first novel in the acclaimed "History of Bestiality" trilogy. Living high in the Alps in a German principality, our narrator tells us he's dutifully fulfilling his obligations as a Servant of Justice and acting as a daily witness to injustice masquerading as a court of law. One day he notices that the judge is much too engrossed in looking at pornographic photographs showing various other pillars of the town engaged in a variety of sexual activities with minors. The incident propels him on a mental journey back through his life: black-humor fantasies and suicidal drinking binges; the Roman catacombs, warm summer nights in Brooklyn; brothels in Stockholm, his childhood in Norway, and wanderings in Germany. But aside from court records he has been keeping his own long and detailed account of man's cruelty to man in a massive twelve-volume study he calls his History of Bestiality. Acknowledging his Germanic past, the narrator realizes that all his attempts to perceive order in life lead only to his acceptance of the chaos of life. We see him striving to live uncoerced by power, unpersuaded by friends, to take for himself the liberty of stating his critique in order to live in his own moment of truth, to stand "far out at the edge of the abyss." "Harshly comic and richly disturbing fiction." Kirkus Reviews

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From Kirkus Reviews

Moment Of Freedom ($15.95 paperback original; May 17; 218 pp.; 0-8023-1328-0): A new translation of the 1966 novel that begins Norwegian master Bjrneboes celebrated History of Bestiality trilogy. That highly charged phrase is also the title of the 12-volume anatomy of human depravity compiled by its protagonist, a morose court clerk whose saturnine psyche essentially resembles that of Dostoevskys misanthropic Underground Man. But this novel, like Dostoevskys, is much more than simple rant, for Bjrneboe skillfully juxtaposes jeremiads leveled at global iniquities (Nazism, the bombing of Hiroshima) with his narrators memories of encounters with vividly depicted and variously flawed other people, as well as of his own failings and hypocrisies. The result is harshly comic and richly disturbing fictionand one eagerly awaits the forthcoming later volumes of the trilogy. -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Flawed, but Horrifyingly Real April 5 2003
Format:Paperback
Jens Bjorneboe is the greatest failed novelist of the twentieth
century. His masterwork is considered the trilogy roughly called
"the History of Bestiality"--roughly, because the title actually
belongs to a twelve-volume project of his autobiographical
narrator, which is unfinished. The trilogy therefore does not
present such a history itself, but rather the experiences of
that profoundly disturbed character, along with his morbid
reflections, painful memories and alarming dreams, plus
recitations of horrible happenings drawn from his grisly
research. Not one of the novels is without structural flaws, but
each communicates a rage against cruelty and brutality with a
force that is rare in fictional literature.
MOMENT OF FREEDOM (1966) is the first of the three novels and is
virtually formless. It seems that the author cannot master his
material--the whole history of man's inhumanity to man--with a
calm analysis or fit it into a standard artistic structure, but
rather recoils in pain, retreats into dismal reflections,
indulges in sarcastic tirades, describes petty officials and
deranged villagers as monsters, relives the atrocities of the
Nazis and Communists, remembers himself wading through blood and
most of all intoxicates himself, all without any apparent order.
The effect is disorienting, but at the same time invigorating,
since it brings an electric awareness of being caught up in
something horrifyingly real. Here is someone violently
disturbed, speaking straight from the heart, grabbing you like
a bloodied, but eloquent victim of an attack. You can't expect
his urgent report to be neat and tidy.
Read more ›
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Flawed, but Horrifyingly Real April 5 2003
By Gary Kern - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Jens Bjorneboe is the greatest failed novelist of the twentieth
century. His masterwork is considered the trilogy roughly called
"the History of Bestiality"--roughly, because the title actually
belongs to a twelve-volume project of his autobiographical
narrator, which is unfinished. The trilogy therefore does not
present such a history itself, but rather the experiences of
that profoundly disturbed character, along with his morbid
reflections, painful memories and alarming dreams, plus
recitations of horrible happenings drawn from his grisly
research. Not one of the novels is without structural flaws, but
each communicates a rage against cruelty and brutality with a
force that is rare in fictional literature.
MOMENT OF FREEDOM (1966) is the first of the three novels and is
virtually formless. It seems that the author cannot master his
material--the whole history of man's inhumanity to man--with a
calm analysis or fit it into a standard artistic structure, but
rather recoils in pain, retreats into dismal reflections,
indulges in sarcastic tirades, describes petty officials and
deranged villagers as monsters, relives the atrocities of the
Nazis and Communists, remembers himself wading through blood and
most of all intoxicates himself, all without any apparent order.
The effect is disorienting, but at the same time invigorating,
since it brings an electric awareness of being caught up in
something horrifyingly real. Here is someone violently
disturbed, speaking straight from the heart, grabbing you like
a bloodied, but eloquent victim of an attack. You can't expect
his urgent report to be neat and tidy.
You must simply follow the narrator-guide, the lowly "Servant of
Justice" of the mythical Swiss town of Heiligenberg, a man so
burdened by a mind-numbing past that he can't remember his own
name, as he records the filthy injustices of the court,
denounces the sanctimonious townsmen with his drinking buddies
at an inn called "Zum Henker" ("Go to Hell"), or wanders through
bleak memories and unidentifiable towns. Don't try to keep track
of the time, or where you are going, or whether the landscape is
real or hallucinatory. After the journey you can go back and
retrace your steps, read critical studies, then some things will
fall into place, but not all.
One pointer I will give is that the "moment of freedom" is not
an episode or a single event, but more like a category--an
opportunity for truth and contact with reality that is most
often missed. Bjorneboe relates it to the bullfighting "moment
of truth" before the sword goes through the bull's shoulder
blades. His thought is that freedom is not a relief or a
liberation from duty (there is a frightening scene of murderers
breaking out of prison), but rather an insight that brings
commitment and love for another. To deny it is to deny the
responsibility of being human, to commit a sin against the Holy
Ghost and therefore to negate "the meaning of the earth and of
the starry heavens: individuation--coming into being."
Bjorneboe believes that in the moment of truth one can take the
liberty of speaking: "An author can only fulfil his human and
social duty when he is completely and unreservedly honest. Only
when he tells the truth which only he can tell, even if it
deviates totally from the officially accepted one, only then is
he contributing anything of value at all."
This novel contributes something of value. If you are seeking
escape from celebrity books and potboilers, and wish to renew
contact with the spiritual source of real literature, start
here. The translation is perfect--so rich and flowing, you'd
think the novel were written in English. Bjorneboe told the
truth that only he could tell, and therefore is one of the
greats.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The history of bestiality May 13 1999
By Bruno De Wachter (bruno.dewachter@forte.be) - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Somewhere in this book Bjorneboe wrote: "Within 10 years my knowledge of the world will be so big that it must lead to self-destruction." Exactly 10 years later, he committed suicide. A remarkable fact that shows which atmosphere this novel breathes. It is a semi-autobiographical story about absolute freedom and absolute loneliness - two sides of one coin. About depression, about 20th century Europe and about the bestiality of mankind. Despite its pitch-black vision on humanity, it is also a very funny book. A masterpiece in irony and cynism!
5.0 out of 5 stars A warning piece of a word mastery Sept. 18 2013
By Miki - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is not your average pacifistic book, not at all. It is brutal, and it is, still, the most pacifistic book I ever read.
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