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The Discovery of Slowness [Paperback]

Sten Nadolny
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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John Franklin was ten years old, and he was still so slow that he couldn't catch a ball. Read the first page
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By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I like taking this book out for a long night stroll. Maybe it's lightly raining, of course it's dark with only street lights to light up the words on the page. It moves me through and through Lord! Child! it shorely am good it good it good! it so damn good!
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5.0 out of 5 stars do yourself the favour and read this book . . . Jan. 20 1998
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
this book is unusually thruthful and gripped me from the beginning to the very end - maybe because of the fact that I have something in common with Franklin. So convincinglty written , I'd like to have met the protagonist !
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5.0 out of 5 stars German classic best-seller in English at last! July 26 1997
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
The publication (or to be more accurate, re-publication) in English of Sten Nadolny's The Discovery of Slowness is a major literary event, not only for connoisseurs of fine historical fiction, but also for those of us who concern themselves with leadership, communication and systems-thinking issues.

First published in Germany in 1983, this powerful novel of the life of explorer John Franklin has never been out-of-print in that country since. This is certainly due in part to its stature as a cleanly-written, keenly-observed literary impression of a chaotic age not dissimilar to our own, and of a man whose slower rhythm seems out of joint with that age. What has contributed to the book's longevity in the meantime, however, is the cult-status it enjoys among managers and leaders as a portrayal of a type of leadership that all eras cry out for: the ability to perceive the world not merely at the level of isolated events, but at a level of deep structure where the dynamics of the whole system are revealed, and plans can be made based on better data and profounder understanding.

John Franklin is uniquely suited to play this role: "slow" from birth, he experiences the world as an endless cycle of data-gathering, reflection, and action based on the systemic patterns that reveal themselves to his silent contemplation. The fact that that action can not only be more appropriate than what other, "faster" contemporaries would have initiated, but also swifter in execution and more permanent in its effect, only insinuates itself slowly on a society caught up in the frenetic pace of the early 1800's. One simply does not have the time; doing takes precedence over reflection and doing.
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
41 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars German classic best-seller in English at last! July 26 1997
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The publication (or to be more accurate, re-publication) in English of Sten Nadolny's The Discovery of Slowness is a major literary event, not only for connoisseurs of fine historical fiction, but also for those of us who concern themselves with leadership, communication and systems-thinking issues.

First published in Germany in 1983, this powerful novel of the life of explorer John Franklin has never been out-of-print in that country since. This is certainly due in part to its stature as a cleanly-written, keenly-observed literary impression of a chaotic age not dissimilar to our own, and of a man whose slower rhythm seems out of joint with that age. What has contributed to the book's longevity in the meantime, however, is the cult-status it enjoys among managers and leaders as a portrayal of a type of leadership that all eras cry out for: the ability to perceive the world not merely at the level of isolated events, but at a level of deep structure where the dynamics of the whole system are revealed, and plans can be made based on better data and profounder understanding.

John Franklin is uniquely suited to play this role: "slow" from birth, he experiences the world as an endless cycle of data-gathering, reflection, and action based on the systemic patterns that reveal themselves to his silent contemplation. The fact that that action can not only be more appropriate than what other, "faster" contemporaries would have initiated, but also swifter in execution and more permanent in its effect, only insinuates itself slowly on a society caught up in the frenetic pace of the early 1800's. One simply does not have the time; doing takes precedence over reflection and doing.

It is, however, through his in-born inability to act in any other manner that John Franklin's career is made, first as a seaman, then as a hero at Trafalgar, as the captain of 3 expeditions in search of the Northwest Passage that instinct tells him must exist, and as the Governor of Tasmania. Author Nadolny is, one suspects, as much concerned with his protagonist's inner journey of adaptation to the world (and the world's to him) as with the external details that lead up to the final, fateful voyage to the Arctic regions and the disappearance of the Franklin expedition in 1845. The measure of Nadolny's artistic success is that he achieves our undivided attention and caring at both levels with his breathtakingly simple prose.

Penguin books has done us a great service by re-releasing the elegant Ralph Freedman translation, once fleetingly available from Viking. For people in search of an elegant humanitarian classic, or a portrayal of the much-touted "servant leadership" in action, The Discovery of Slowness may well be the discovery of the summer. And those who agree about its status as a contemporary classic will want to investigate the same author's delicious Hermes-novel, The God of Impertinence, also newly published by Viking
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read It More Than Once Nov. 29 2007
By Jill Ireland - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
My encounter with this book was a bit magical. I arrived at a B&B in Vail and one of Mr. Nadolny's other books was on a table in the common area. I asked about it, and the proprietress said Mr. Nadolny had left that morning and had given her the book. I read it, loved it, and sought out his other works.

My favorite review of this book describes it as "a utopia of character." Truly it is. Yes, it's a nice little biography of an interesting life, but it is so much more. Sir John Franklin realized that each individual has his or her own "speed" in perception and action. Throughout his life, he observed himself and others objectively and developed his own "systems" for the most beneficial application of his own uniquely slow processing of impression and responses. He compensated with rigorous planning, precision, and observation - and by appreciating and effectively leading those who were faster.

Why is this interesting? I believe it is so because in our own times, everything moves way too fast for most of us...and those of us who might be naturally slow in the manner of Franklin suffer most from it. If Franklin were a boy today, he would likely be put on Ritalin, or diagnosed with "Sensory Integration Disorder" or some such thing, possibly placed in a "special" class at school...and his uniqueness would be deemed pathological and buried.

Franklin's qualities, and his persistent but self-accepting stuggle with them, made him the best of leaders and a deeply moral man. Rereading this book, I am led to realize that my own "true inner speed" is perhaps as slow as Franklin's, and that much unhappiness comes from not operating at that speed. This is painful - we can complain about our over-stimulated, over-informed, over-hurried times, but that is futile unless one decides to retreat completely to our own Walden.

Franklin found two things paralyzing: self-pity, and what he called "disapproval," meaning disgust with circumstances he could not change. So he resolved to avoid these and concentrated on his "systems." It worked...perhaps some of us can do the same. And if we are parents, we must make sure we understand and respect our children's "inner speed."

In sum, read this book - and do so more than once to absorb the nuances.
5.0 out of 5 stars Shifting down gears. April 2 2013
By Daniel Levi-Gomez - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The book is a pointer to a better mode of living,slowly,with intensity.I am in tha stage of my life where I am shifting to lower gears to get more traction.
2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Slowness and Respect Aug. 3 2007
By B. Yelverton - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I read "Die Entdeckung der Langsamkeit" when it came out in German in 1983, and loved it. Unfortuntately, it was a borrowed copy, and I kept looking for it among my collection of German books when I often referred it to others.

Now I again had an opportunity to refer to it while reading Patricia Wood's new (and first) novel Lottery, which is also about a very slow person, Perry, who gains respect and friendship after what could have been the devastation of winning the Washington State Lottery. Perry is also a sailor, and Perry, like Franklin, has learned to be an "auditor" and a listmaker, to turn slowness into his strength.
8 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars do yourself the favour and read this book . . . Jan. 20 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
this book is unusually thruthful and gripped me from the beginning to the very end - maybe because of the fact that I have something in common with Franklin. So convincinglty written , I'd like to have met the protagonist !
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