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Omega Minor Hardcover – Oct 1 2007

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CDN$ 13.24 CDN$ 0.77 First Novel Award - 6 Canadian Novels Make the Shortlist

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Dalkey Archive Press (Oct. 1 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1564784770
  • ISBN-13: 978-1564784773
  • Product Dimensions: 22.8 x 16.1 x 4.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 522 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #690,296 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

A sprawling take on the dark legacies of WWII and its aftermath, Verhaeghen's debut follows three main characters: Paul Andermans, a Flemish postdoctoral student in Potsdam in 1995; the shadowy Goldfarb, a German nuclear scientist who now teaches at Andermans's university; and Jozef De Heer, who survived the Holocaust to live a meek existence in reunited 1995 Germany. The book unfolds as De Heer tells his life story to Andermans when the two meet by chance at a local hospital. The book's central conundrum is how De Heer's life as a survivor and refugee relates to that of Goldfarb, who plays a key role, as the narrative shifts 50-plus years backward, in the Manhattan Project and resulting arms race. But Verhaeghen is also after something much bigger: the nature of complicity in the 20th century's grim history. De Heer's Holocaust material has less gravitas than nonfiction accounts, but Verhaeghen's relentless verbal fireworks (lots of alliteration and rhyme) and comic touches (a children's magician masterminds the Berlin Wall's speedy construction) lighten things. As De Heer's and Goldfarb's lives further intertwine, the novel strains to tie together loose ends, but the big convoluted twists and outlandish ending may be part of the point. This is an ambitious, epic literary debut, and it's not surprising that Verhaeghen, in trying to orchestrate a familiar epoch, falls short of Gravity's Rainbow and Underworld. (Nov.)
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this is an uncommonly intellectually stretching- and satisfying - experience' -Matt Thorne, The Independent

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4 reviews
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
A mighty axe taken to our experience of history Jan. 30 2008
By Eric G. Anderson - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Fans of the supermassive black hole known as the postmodern novel could easily overlook this quiet English debut by a Flemish author, as I nearly did. That would be a shame, because it makes a major contribution to the genre. The sheer scale of its ambition makes it hard to describe, but here goes: both the subject and the object of the novel - both its content and its narrative experience - is the fracturing of the Western psyche in the twin events of the Holocaust and the atomic bomb.

The subjective, compromised historical accounts in the novel continuously thwart the reader's need to moralize and synthesize. One of the narrative threads audaciously deconstructs the "sanctified literary genre" of the Holocaust memoir, arguing that its cool, objective testimony, the "Style," grants the reader an undeserved identification with the victim and a false moral distance. The survivor De Beer's tale is told to Verhaeghen's own narrative proxy, the psychology student "Paul," and their tempestuous author-reader relationship elevates awareness of our own participation in smug historical distancing.

The thematic device that ties together the plot threads is the concept of dark matter, signified in Einstein's equations by the Omega symbol. Competing theories of dark matter's make-up, either as Massive Astrophysical Compact Halo Objects (MACHOs) or Weakly Interacting Massive Particles (WIMPs) provide an elegant metaphor for history: we are continually pulled into the orbit of big ideas, but we are ultimately alone on the journey and trapped by our own subjectivity.

Veraeghen's physics-history amalgamation raises obvious comparisons to Pynchon, a debt that the novel pays in a sly tribute: in one scene a woman dances to a ramshackle band "as if Benny Goodman were playing and not some poor man's orchestra led by Pig Bodine" - a reference to Pynchon's recurring character. But Verhaeghen's creation is unique, a totalizing experience of the last century's worst moments and of our own sad efforts to make sense of them. At one point De Beer suggests that a story can be "an axe to decapitate any happiness that is too-good-to-be-true," and what higher purpose can a novel serve than to take that axe to history?
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Deserves the National Book Award/ Nobel/ etc. July 5 2008
By M. Haber - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I can't believe there are only two reviews for this brilliant, all-encompassing masterpiece! Instead of talking about the stories, themes and plots of this beautiful work I'll only say - not unlike Catch-22, Lolita, The Savage Detectives or any important work - anyone with an appreciation of literature MUST read this.
9 of 14 people found the following review helpful
A Still Born Child July 30 2008
By John J. Mclennon Jr. - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Omega Minor should be substantially better than it is. Paul Verhaeghen is obviously a brilliant writer, but there are serious problems here. For my taste, there is too much pornography. I would have liked more erotica and less raunch. If you like to read about sperm spurting like a geyser, and oozing, and goozing, this is the novel for you. There is hardly a scene in which sperm doesn't play a role. In all fairness, I would say sperm is one of the major characters. The novel is way too long. Verhaeghen could add considerable life to his story simply by cutting three or four hundred gratuitous pages that slug-up the momentum. (It would be nice to see some of those sperm pages hit the waste-basket.) There are so many typos and the thing is so long that one has to wonder if it was edited at all. The story occasionally stretches one's credibility and every now and then the author intrudes himself to load the reader down with his moralizations. It doesn't happen often but is annoying when it does. For such an emotionally charged subject his story is presented without passion or pathos, much like a ryecrisp on a plate. His characters throw themselves into wild emotional contortions, but their agonies don't touch the reader, largely because the characters themselves are not sympathetic. One could hardly care what happens to them. On the positive side, Verhaeghen frequently gives the reader some beautiful prose. The passages on astronomy and scientific speculation are fascinating, and his knowledge of the holocaust is expert. This works less as a novel, I think, than a very strange essay. If, on the other hand, you like Pynchon, you might just love Omega Minor.
0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A difficult book to read Aug. 3 2012
By Dr. Aviv Weinstein - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have found the book utterly boring and tidious, despite my effort to keep on reading it I had to stop.

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