This book was on my bucket list. I didn't think I'd like it because it is currently popular with conservative wingnuts who do not share my political views. To my suprise, it seems to be more about rugged individualism than politics. The protagonists have a Hemmingway flavor, i.e., marching to their own tune. The plot moves well. And, contrary to what some critics say, the prose style is succinct and colorful. I heartily recommend this novel whether you are a righty or lefty. The price is right, too.
Much has been written about this wonderful classic so I'll only say that the narration is excellent. Each character has a distinctive voice so you never get confused. Well worth the money.
"Devils" (formerly translated as "The Possessed," and sometimes translated as "Demons") is one of Dostoevsky's four great long novels, the others being "Crime and Punishment," "The Idiot," and "The Brothers Karamazov."
First, don't by the version narrated by Patrick Cullen and titled "The Possessed." The narration is poor and the translation is the outdated one by Constance Garnett.
"Devils" is a very political novel and was intended to be so. In order to appreciate it, you should do a little research on the 1869 murder by the Russian revolutionary Nechayev. One of the two lead characters, Peter Stephanovich Verkhovensky, a creepy Charles Manson type, is based on Nechayev. The Wikipedia article on "Demons" is short and informative. It also helps to know a little about Dostoevsky's background because several elements are autobiographical. Last, you might want to print a list of characters because, like all Russian novels, the many patronymic names can be confusing, especially if you're listening. If you do these things you'll experience the full effect.
The plot centers on some brutal, political murders. The setting is the run-up to the Bolshevik Revolution. Lenin and company didn't come out of nowhere. Trouble had been brewing in Russia for some time. "Devils" places events in context. Like all of Dostoevsky's works, the plot is deeply psychological, though there is quite a bit of dry humor and irony (items that are often missed in Dostoevsky's works because the original translator, Constance Garnett, tended to homogenize his phrases). If you're into this thing, "Devils" is a gripping novel.
The narrator is the very accomplished George Guidall. I've listened to many of his readings, such as his outstanding performances in "Crime and Punishment" and "Don Quixote." George is perfect for "Demons." His sharp characterizations, timing, and overall feel are perfect. He has a Slavic background and takes great pride in reading the Russian greats.
Last, I can't say enough good things about this 1992 translation by Russian Studies Professor Michael R. Katz of Middlebury College. Professor Katz reinserts Dostoevsky's intentionally quirky sentence structure which was sadly washed out by earlier translators. I've read that some critics think Doestoevsky wasn't a great stylist as was Tolstoy and others. In my opinion, that's only because early translators failed to pick up his nuances. Dostoevsky was a very careful writer. Many of his supposedly awkward sentences, when carefully translated, reveal great wit and style. I compared Professor Katz's translation to others, such as the acclaimed translation by Pevear and Volokhonsky, and feel that Professor Katz's is the best going.
"Devils" is a great listen if you're willing to put in the time and effort.
Over the years, I've listened to over 350 unabridged, classic audiobooks. For some time I've waited for audiobooks by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, one of my favorite authors. I see that Audible is finally releasing several over the next few months, this being the first. Listening to this audiobook reaffirmed my appreciation of Marquez's greatness. Though the narrator's tone, diction, and pronunciation is excellent, and his casting is perfect, sadly he employed a singsong pattern of starting sentences with a higher pitch and then trailing off as he finished. If he had done this a couple of times it wouldn't have been that bad. But to do it for 16 hours became annoying. I do not blame him one jot. He is very talented and I've listened to him on other audiobooks in which he did not do this. I blame Audible 100%. If the producer (if there was one) had simply told the narrator one time, "Your voice pattern is a little singsong. Listen to this example," I'm sure the problem would have been immediately corrected. To waste this great novel and the talents of a very good narrator is unexcusable. Even still, the story itself is so great that I highly recommend you give it a listen. It's well worth the money. It's just a shame that I had to rate this audiobook anything less than 5 stars. Thanks.
Steven Weber reads with great intensity. He carves out each character with laser-like precision. Highly recommended.
Kudos to the narrator. Each character is carved out with diamond precision. Great story. Great narration.
Having enjoyed listening to audiobooks of Jeffrey Eugenides’ first two novels, "The Virgin Suicide" and "Middlesex," I looked forward to this one.
What exactly is a “marriage plot”? We encounter it frequently in novels and films. Wikipedia defines it as follows: “Marriage plot is a term used, often in academic circles, to categorize a storyline that recurs in novels most prominently and in films most recently. Until the expansion of marriage rights to same-sex couples, this plot centered exclusively on the courtship rituals between a man and a woman and the obstacles that faced the potential couple on its way to the nuptial payoff. The marriage plot became a popular source of entertainment in the 18th and 19th centuries with the rise of the bourgeois novel. The foremost practitioners of the form include some of the more illustrious names in English letters, among them Samuel Richardson, Jane Austen, George Eliot and the Brontë sisters.”
As I listened to the travails of the young, Ivy League, literati in Eugenides version of a modern day marriage plot, I thought no so much of the novels of Jane Austen and Henry James, but of the many times Shakespeare used it in his plays: by my count 23. Eugenedes puts his own spin on the marriage plot and does so in fast paced, clearly written, and enjoyable fashion. If I had one criticism, it is that his third novel does not have the same subtle Kalfkaesque strangeness which the subject matter of his first two novels afforded (suicide in "The Virgin Suicides," and genetic variation in "Middlesex"). It seemed Eugenedes attempted to use the topics of religion (Mitchell ) and mental illness (Leonard) to achieve the same effect, but fell a little short. This might have been from Eugenides' pre-conceived plan to pay homage to earlier novelists rather than create something new and non-derivative. Still, I enjoyed this novel enough to give it the highest marks.
With regard to the narrator’s performance, I don’t think he could have done a better job. His casting was perfect, and you could always tell which character was speaking.
Listened to this one 3 times in a row because I liked it so much. The female reader is a perfect fit. Easily the best book I've listened to this year. Can't recommend it enough.
The translator and narrators did a fine job. However, the novel had zero humor and was very preachy. I listened to this book because Pasternak won the Nobel Prize and the David Lean movie is a classic. But don't expect Tolstoy or Dostoevsky.
With so much maudlin advance-hype of the printed novel, I looked for reasons to criticize this audiobook. Alas, it lived up to, and in my opinion, exceeded expectations.
David LeDoux does a masterful job in performing the many voices in Freedom. I’ve watched several YouTube interviews of Fanzen. LeDoux’s voice and presentation are similar. He captures Franzen’s manner of speaking which is consistent with the tone and themes of this book. Whether this was intended by the producers is an open question since the narrator of the audiobook The Corrections had a smoky, older voice (though he did a good job).
Fanzen has been criticized for his sarcastic and cynical interviews, but to me he is entertaining, sincere, and very, very smart. Many great authors such as Joyce, Hemmingway, and Fitzgerald had big egos. They took their writing seriously and expected the same from their readers. This is not a bad thing.
I have listened to a little over 300 unabridged audiobooks, many of them recordings of classics such as Shakespeare, Dickens, Tolstoy, Joyce, etc. I don’t give inflated reviews. Offhand, the only performance that meets or exceeds LeDoux’s performance is Jeremy Iron’s reading of Lolita. This audiobook is worth the time and money, and then some. It’s that good.
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