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The Notebook, The Proof, The Third Lie: Three Novels

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These three internationally acclaimed novels have confirmed Agota Kristof's reputation as one of the most provocative exponents of new-wave European fiction. With all the stark simplicity of a fractured fairy tale, the trilogy tells the story of twin brothers, Claus and Lucas, locked in an agonizing bond that becomes a gripping allegory of the forces that have divided "bro These three internationally acclaimed novels have confirmed Agota Kristof's reputation as one of the most provocative exponents of new-wave European fiction. With all the stark simplicity of a fractured fairy tale, the trilogy tells the story of twin brothers, Claus and Lucas, locked in an agonizing bond that becomes a gripping allegory of the forces that have divided "brothers" in much of Europe since World War II. Kristof's postmodern saga begins with The Notebook, in which the brothers are children, lost in a country torn apart by conflict, who must learn every trick of evil and cruelty merely to survive. In The Proof, Lucas is challenging to prove his own identity and the existence of his missing brother, a defector to the "other side." The Third Lie, which closes the trilogy, is a biting parable of Eastern and Western Europe today and a deep exploration into the nature of identity, storytelling, and the truths and untruths that lie at the heart of them all. "Stark and haunting." - The San Francisco Chronicle; "A vision of considerable depth and complexity, a powerful portrait of the nobility and perversity of the human heart." - The Christian Science Monitor.


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These three internationally acclaimed novels have confirmed Agota Kristof's reputation as one of the most provocative exponents of new-wave European fiction. With all the stark simplicity of a fractured fairy tale, the trilogy tells the story of twin brothers, Claus and Lucas, locked in an agonizing bond that becomes a gripping allegory of the forces that have divided "bro These three internationally acclaimed novels have confirmed Agota Kristof's reputation as one of the most provocative exponents of new-wave European fiction. With all the stark simplicity of a fractured fairy tale, the trilogy tells the story of twin brothers, Claus and Lucas, locked in an agonizing bond that becomes a gripping allegory of the forces that have divided "brothers" in much of Europe since World War II. Kristof's postmodern saga begins with The Notebook, in which the brothers are children, lost in a country torn apart by conflict, who must learn every trick of evil and cruelty merely to survive. In The Proof, Lucas is challenging to prove his own identity and the existence of his missing brother, a defector to the "other side." The Third Lie, which closes the trilogy, is a biting parable of Eastern and Western Europe today and a deep exploration into the nature of identity, storytelling, and the truths and untruths that lie at the heart of them all. "Stark and haunting." - The San Francisco Chronicle; "A vision of considerable depth and complexity, a powerful portrait of the nobility and perversity of the human heart." - The Christian Science Monitor.

30 review for The Notebook, The Proof, The Third Lie: Three Novels

  1. 4 out of 5

    Dolors

    This is the story of Claus and Lucas or Lucas and Claus or Klaus and Lucas. This is maybe the story of none of them or of them all. This is a story of twins whose names contain the same letters in altered order, of twins who write in first person plural as if they were one, as if they were two faces of the same coin. Two souls merged in one single being? Or one single soul disjointed in two beings? Be brave and dare to play with Agota Kristof’s game of mirrors, where multiple reflections reveal su This is the story of Claus and Lucas or Lucas and Claus or Klaus and Lucas. This is maybe the story of none of them or of them all. This is a story of twins whose names contain the same letters in altered order, of twins who write in first person plural as if they were one, as if they were two faces of the same coin. Two souls merged in one single being? Or one single soul disjointed in two beings? Be brave and dare to play with Agota Kristof’s game of mirrors, where multiple reflections reveal successive mutations of the perturbed wiring of these exceptionally rare twins, elevating their appalling allegory to the hidden nature of humankind. “All this is a lie. I know very well that I was already alone in this town, with Grandmother, that even then I only fantasized that there were two of us, me and my brother, in order to endure the unbearable solitude.” (p.308) The Third Lie The present edition of “The notebook, The proof and The Third Lie” can be assimilated as a complete body of work whereas it is in fact a compilation of three independent novels published throughout the period of four years time. “Words that define feelings are very vague” is one of the twins’ first reflections in “The notebook” , a chronicle of the agony and the horrors of war narrated in the most peculiar way by these controversial twins. Unusually acute and cruel, gentle and sadistic, precociously mature and twisted, the twins unfold all kind of atrocious acts sticking to facts in a terrifying aseptic voice, devoid of any feeling, mimicking the dehumanizing effects war inflicts on human beings. According to Freud, children are by nature polymorphously perverse, which means that before education in the conventions of a civilized society, a child will not obey the rules that in adults determine “perverse” behavior. That the first notebook is related by children shatters the topic of the innocence of childhood into a thousand pieces, introducing a nihilist, devastating and bold approach that leaves no space for hope, only a shocking and crude sequential account of amoral facts where names do not exist. Innominate characters, villages and countries, nameless wars. The absence of nominalization gives horror a global nature, bringing the concept of depravity to the extreme. In the second notebook “The proof” the first person plural is replaced by first person singular and only one of the twins continue the narration introducing a new metaliterary dimension to the story. Doubts start to arise. Did the other twin ever exist? Was he just a product of the other’s imagination? Is the second notebook a proof that the very truth is too overpoweringly painful to accept and therefore it needs to be reinvented in order to become bearable? The dead are nowhere and everywhere. The title of the third notebook on its own, “The Third Lie”, forebodes the deception of the two preceding notebooks. Or it might give irrefutable evidence of their veracity. Maybe both at the same time, for how many versions of truths are out there? It is in this last installment of the trilogy where the reader is immersed in a perpetual narration within narration, becoming unwittingly mesmerized by a solipsistic voice echoing behind all the twists and turns of the story, which finally emerges as belonging to Kristof, who at the same time uses metaliterature to cover the gruesome background of reality to disclose the most naked and disturbing of truths. Kristof’s literature offers no redemption. Her unapologetic tale of woe provokes discomfort, her characters are deformed, both physically and morally: we are talking about incest, zoophilia, beggary, disfigurement, abandonment, her world is tainted by want, her story confronts literature drained of all compassion, all sentimentality, all solemnity, all beauty or lyricism. There is no use in embellishing the rawness of life, her prose is dry and brutal. Kristof’s philosophy could be crystallized in the words of one of her inconsolable twins, for whom “life is totally useless, that it’s nonsense, an aberration, infinite suffering, the invention of a non-God whose evil surpasses understanding.” I am afraid understanding comes in waves of grief through the hazy maze with the last pages of this book, one only needs enough stomach to digest it.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Garima

    Grandmother is Mother's mother. Before coming to live in her house, we didn't even know that Mother still had a mother. We call her Grandmother. People call her the Witch. She calls us "sons of a bitch." Once upon a time, the time was unpredictable. The innocence was lost in the demonic smoke of war and brutality of mature years took refuge in the childhood of Lucas and Claus. They left their home and entered a house and along entered a Notebook in which the words were written without exposing them Grandmother is Mother's mother. Before coming to live in her house, we didn't even know that Mother still had a mother. We call her Grandmother. People call her the Witch. She calls us "sons of a bitch." Once upon a time, the time was unpredictable. The innocence was lost in the demonic smoke of war and brutality of mature years took refuge in the childhood of Lucas and Claus. They left their home and entered a house and along entered a Notebook in which the words were written without exposing them to the sensitivity of daylight. In the world full of hatred and sins, they both were love and redemption for each other. They did many things which were enough to pass all sorts of judgment on the fateful twins but not good enough to claim anything with absolute surety. A new phase soon commenced and the rest is a dreaded future. Physical wounds don't matter when I receive them. But if I had to inflict them on someone else, that would wound me in a way I couldn't bear. Years passed, innocence returned in the form of a different soul but despair prevailed. Lucas was alone this time and to play among the well crafted lies and the ugly truths became a survival tactic for him. The notebook rejoined the new picture as a Proof and began to discern the latent image of Lucas’s other half. Meanwhile, the aftermath of war was apparent everywhere. Forged identities, depressed lovers, struggling artists, frustrated relationships, unfortunate deaths. The virtue of fatherhood was a single escape from vices galore and turned into a dominant force in propelling various lives but eventually met with a tragic end. The rest is a dreaded future. I say, "I don't want to. I'd rather play with your children." My brother says, "My children don't play." "What do they do?" "They are preparing to make it through life." I say, "I made it through life and haven't found anything." My brother says, "There's nothing to find. What were you looking for?" "You. Metafictional madness assumes a bigger role in telling of a Third and final Lie. Stories within stories unfold themselves but it’s difficult to recognize the true nature of bewildering reality and the surreal fiction created out of the lives of Claus and Lucas. The borders of past has turned into the thresholds of present but crossing them could be a life-changing decision. Someone is going to die and someone will be left behind. Who is Who is impossible to answer. All that remains are words. Some of them are weaved together in a manuscript to weave together lives and some are engraved on tombstones as epitaphs of loved ones. The rest is an unreliable history. My Reaction: Huh! On a serious note and as the cliché goes, this is the most powerful book I have read till date. Kristof has wickedly captured the agony of people during WWII (or simply War) with her terse and refined prose. Her style is unique and deceptively vivid with hard hitting sentences which take no prisoners. On reading this trilogy*, I felt as if I was in this huge house with several life-sized mirrors and no matter how much I tried to keep a watchful eye, it was not easy to spot the difference between real and reflected images. Within sight but not within reach. Life is the invention of a non-God whose evil surpasses understanding. The nature of good & evil and its sources are hard to grasp. The circumstances which compel a person to act as a Grim Reaper or the Messiah of Life makes no distinction between a child and an elderly person but one thing which must remain constant during bleak times as a profound consolation is the presence of love and the bonds it gives birth to. Everything else becomes ridiculously overrated. With this idea, Kristof’s trilogy makes way for both sinister and endearing tales and questions the very truth which govern a civilized and barbaric world. Highly Recommended with Five/5 Stars. * Of the three books, The Notebook is my favorite, primarily because the narrators are children. It probably says a lot how we, as a reader react differently to the actions of children in contrast to adults.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Mariel

    The Notebook, The Proof, The Third Lie: Three Novels. My copy is published under "The Book of Lies". My first book of 2012 is a favorite. I am a lucky dog. I never wanted to stop reading them. You may have heard this a lot (I definitely have as I am an identical twin) about twins being two halves of a whole. That you don't know where one ends and the other begins. I don't know where this story ends and where it begins. Where the thread of influence ends, if the tug on my line is going to reach s The Notebook, The Proof, The Third Lie: Three Novels. My copy is published under "The Book of Lies". My first book of 2012 is a favorite. I am a lucky dog. I never wanted to stop reading them. You may have heard this a lot (I definitely have as I am an identical twin) about twins being two halves of a whole. That you don't know where one ends and the other begins. I don't know where this story ends and where it begins. Where the thread of influence ends, if the tug on my line is going to reach some bottom of some well or go on falling forever and I'll wait to hear the telltale splash. I can't stop thinking about it and it feels like I am still reading it. I'm waiting to tell if it is a truth or if it is the lie. It is waiting to hear what you cannot live with as a truth. The lie is to yourself. The truth about what it means to be alone and if you can ever be another person. I love you. You don't love me. You love me. I don't love you. It's okay. We're going to kill everyone who stands in our way. Lucas. Claus. Claus-Lucas. An anagram. The twins could be the kind of anagram like how evil can be live. Or vile. Mix a letter and presto it is the same? It is interesting to be an identical twin. It is the closest you can get to knowing how it feels to be another person. People you meet who will treat you one way because of how you look. The same upbringing and the same genetic one in a million lottery chances. How enough light could photo synthesis this shit to want to live. Nature and its backhanded complimentary nurture. Enough bad days. Starvation. Feeling enough that you're not alone when you look around the faceless. This other face you could see in the mirror. Or the little bit you have to go feels too far because you get to thinking it should be coming to you. I don't know how to explain the feeling I had. It was a kind of faith that wasn't really faith, if that makes sense. Like being under water and trying to sing anyway and all of the words come at once and they mean so many different things. The words come out bubbles (by the time they float to the top they probably aren't bubbles anymore). More like a supplanted desire. All I ever want from a story is to be there and judge for myself from the community of expressions, movement, actions and words. Is there more behind it? Could it be anything more if only I could take it and run (away) with it? It means everything to me to have all the working parts to figure it out for myself with what mother nature (the, er, author) has given me. Agota Kristof is the answer to my prayers. Or was it just my dreams. (Please forgive my questioning mood. These books were fairy tale like to take me back to a childhood of the hows, whys and good and evil not sorted into their respective edges yet.) Lucas and Claus present as one person. They live with their "witch" grandmother in a fairy horror of Nazi occupied Hungary. This might be bad of me (I haven't decided yet) that I was on their side in their exploits and experimentations. I was one of them. (What are we going to do, my twins? I'll hold my breath. That's character building.) Were they, really? Was it Lucas or was it Claus severed at the conjoined will? Did he lose his might. (The image of one twin heading off the frontier and the other going back to grandmother's house in communist Hungary haunts me. Please don't let it be true.) Was any of it love and when will the will return? If no one can know another person than this is the under the bridge version of that. The belly of that is the same. It has to be filled with the same guts. (Do I not bleeeeeeeed?) The lie or the truth did the mother leave them, was one a poet and the other less. I feel like it could all be true and it's the anagram thing of switching out the letters. The whole needing anybody else. The distance (whole or otherwise). I feel like Agota Kristof showed me how that happens and what the other side of the distance feels like. I have only known my own. My letters. And I have no clue how to arrange those to communicate to anyone else why this book meant so much to me. So if you can believe me... (I could talk about moments that haunted me. When Lucas listens to record with the little girl. He has forgotten how to live and now he's forgotten how to let go. The notebook written in for the other to finish.) Lie to me. P.s. Nate's review is the best. Thank you, Nate! Goodreads is the best website ever. P.s.s. And the writing of war and communist Hungary is some kind of magic. It is! Is it what no body wanted? (One day I am going to write one of those amazing reviews other people write. Why can't I write them for books like this? I'm a Lucas. The notebook pages have a space to fill. You can write in it.)

  4. 4 out of 5

    Em Lost In Books

    “As soon as you begin to think, you can no longer love life”

  5. 5 out of 5

    Ema

    When I was younger, I used to have a recurring dream about a world I haven't experienced in real life: I found myself in a place that was being bombed. I was hiding inside a house, a deafening noise around me; through the windows I could see the planes and hear the explosions. I was living intensely in a dimension that was at war; I felt the terror, the helplessness. I have no idea why I had those dreams. I haven't lived through a war, I don't know how bombardments feel like. But my dreams felt When I was younger, I used to have a recurring dream about a world I haven't experienced in real life: I found myself in a place that was being bombed. I was hiding inside a house, a deafening noise around me; through the windows I could see the planes and hear the explosions. I was living intensely in a dimension that was at war; I felt the terror, the helplessness. I have no idea why I had those dreams. I haven't lived through a war, I don't know how bombardments feel like. But my dreams felt real nonetheless. It could have been my reality in another life, if I were to believe in it. Or it could be the reality of my dreams, a realm where my mind continues to live without my body. Ágota Kristof lived through a war but she writes her novels like they were a dream. We are never sure what is real and what is imagined, where the truth ends and where the lies start. Twins with a single voice, a common life; it could well be just one person who dreams; a lonely, scarred soul that can't bear the loneliness and torment. And yet the dream might be true; we can never be sure. Three versions of the same truth. We could pierce through the veil of lies and take a glimpse of the bare truth. But we might not find ourselves in the right dimension; a truth in one world could be a lie in the other. What if we lived in a dream? Its reality is different than the one we find when awake. I sometimes wish I could live a bit longer in the realm of my dreams. Mysterious cities, incredible adventures. Being able to kick the ground and rise in the air, flying above the city. We should be able to choose the reality we desire, the one that makes us happy. We should be able to live in the reality of our dreams - our mind does not need our weak body there. The twins do everything together, their voices are one. Their will is already strong, bent to no one. They help if they feel it is justified, but never because of being asked. An unscrupulous correctness down to the smallest details. And, more important of all, exercises to toughen the body and spirit. They learn to face hunger, pain, injustice; they learn to live with cruelty and death; they learn what it is to be blind and deaf. They observe and never judge, but they resort to vengeance when deserved; their law is the Old Testament law. They accept every experience without a flinch or wonder; they observe and learn. They tread the path of cruelty and promiscuity - or is it the path that leads to primitive life, to the original nature of man? Are they sociopaths or do they represent the new man, the product of a world at war? The twins defy the terror around them. They have their own path, their own law. They feel more scared in a crammed cellar than roaming the deserted streets, surrounded by bombs and soaring planes. Valiance, recklessness, or maybe it is indifference? We perceive the war through their eyes - the foreign soldiers, the deportation of Jews, the atrocities committed. It is a twisted world with an ugliness, cruelty and depravity distorted to the point where it becomes absurd, irrational, sickening. The twins are surrounded by a new town of Babel, where the law of survival prevails. This novel is one of the saddest and most shocking I've read. But the saddest of books can never be sadder than a life, Kristof says. How much can a human being endure? If you search for a meaning of life, there is none, she says. What about love, the universal elixir of happiness? The twins exclude the word and the notion of love from their lives. But what is the bond between them, if it is not love? Their experiments deny human feelings and weaknesses; they challenge hunger, pity, attachment. They go even further - they try to break their bond. They attempt the ultimate experiment, dividing one being into two halves. It's no longer a matter of happiness, because the important question is: can the two beings survive? Do they know how to live on their own separate way? Read this novel. Read it and experience the pain and the sadness. You'll be sick, disgusted, tormented. When you'll close the book, you'll realize you won't be able to smile for a while. You'll feel like you've really lived through a war. You survived, but you'd rather be dead. The world of lies won't suffice anymore.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Nate D

    Recently, another review of Lazlo Krasnahorkai's harrowing story of abuse of power and wartime Hungary, The Melancholy of Resistance, observed that the other reviews (presumably mine included) were "mostly perfunctory in their praise". Well, there's nothing perfunctory about my admiration for Kraznahorkai's gracefully contorted writing, or the eerie, perceptive allegoriy he spins in Melancholy. But even so, it wasn't a book that gripped me by the throat and wouldn't let me go. It wasn't seered v Recently, another review of Lazlo Krasnahorkai's harrowing story of abuse of power and wartime Hungary, The Melancholy of Resistance, observed that the other reviews (presumably mine included) were "mostly perfunctory in their praise". Well, there's nothing perfunctory about my admiration for Kraznahorkai's gracefully contorted writing, or the eerie, perceptive allegoriy he spins in Melancholy. But even so, it wasn't a book that gripped me by the throat and wouldn't let me go. It wasn't seered violently into my brain. In short, it wasn't Agota Kristof's The Notebook, the Proof, and the Third Lie. I answer that I try to write true stories but that at a given point the story becomes unbearable because of its very truth, and then I have to change it. I tell her that I try to tell my story but all of a sudden I can't -- I don't have the courage, it hurts too much. And so I embellish everything and describe things not as they happened but the way I wish they had happened. She says, "Yes. There are lives sadder than the saddest of books." I say, "Yes. No book, no matter how sad, can be as sad as a life." Also a harrowing account of wartime Hungary and its almost-eternal aftermath, this single-volume trilogy is somehow both more scathingly real and far more ambiguous. Real in that Kristof gives every indication that this is an attempt to deal with her actual, lived experiences, and ambiguous in its often bizarre utilitarian morality and initial sense of sheer contextlessness. All three parts are brilliant and resonate incredibly elegantly with eachother, but the first novel The Notebook is most focused, intense, and unique in its sense of austere perfect horror. The story is that of two hyper-rational precocious twins (joined into a single indistinguishable first person plural narrator) surviving and probing at their broken, compromised world in a murky wartime. So rational, these twins, that it's quickly certain that they're either complete sociopaths or perhaps the sanest conceivable residents of a universe completely fallen off its bearings. It's impossible to pull away from, a nightmare of depravity and deprivation rendered with a dispassionate objective precision that allows the unspeakable to be told, while somehow amplifying the dead-eyed horror of it all. And it's remarkably entertaining for all that, somehow. And desperately sad even through its frigid cold. As I said, I couldn't stop reading for anything. And this first part generated such momentum that it carried me through both subsequent books (which continuously expand upon and annihilate all that comes before and eachother) in two short days. (Unsurprising, then, that I first heard of this from someone who read it all in one day). This is writing that takes every risk in order to fight its way off the page and burn brilliantly all around the reader, writing that cannot be escaped, writing that must be read. Urgent, scathing, deadly.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Praj

    Toughening exercises....resistance....a composition. War.....mortal solitude.....a composition Love....objectivity.....a composition. Truth.....lies....a composition. Words.....immortality.....a composition. The sharpened graphite moves silently in the dark attic on naive white paper sheets, reciting nightmarish trepidation. Every thought, every word emitting a chaotic soul finds refuge in the scribbling of the graphite. Amid the sirens of an air raid, it moves zealously. New pages are explored as th Toughening exercises....resistance....a composition. War.....mortal solitude.....a composition Love....objectivity.....a composition. Truth.....lies....a composition. Words.....immortality.....a composition. The sharpened graphite moves silently in the dark attic on naive white paper sheets, reciting nightmarish trepidation. Every thought, every word emitting a chaotic soul finds refuge in the scribbling of the graphite. Amid the sirens of an air raid, it moves zealously. New pages are explored as the skeletons swing to the sad tunes of a harmonica like couple of wind chimes. It does not fear the stomping of the soldiers, the shots of a rifle, the abuse of an old lady. The pencil is fearless. It seeks truth, it endures lies. It keeps on moving even as agonizing cries of a rape fills the air, as pigs grunt to the sight of a shimmering knife and fresh graves are born under the vegetable beds in the garden. The pencil writes the darkest desires, the chaos of solitude. As the houses are destroyed, streets get vacant; the notebook overflows. While Harelip embraces the dog on her bare skin; Lucas writes. Claus writes. As Clara embraces Thomas; Lucas writes. Young Mathias writes too. Victor wants to write. To the sound of the detective movie Klaus . T. writes. Writing helps. Words release the excruciating pain that does not find a listening ear or an obliging mouth. She says, “Yes. There are lives sadder than the saddest of books.” I say, “Yes. No book, no matter how sad, can be as sad as life It is the universal truth; nobody wants a war. Wars begin on a lie. It further creates a complex mesh of lies. The lies then slowly seep into the innocent lives and become a concrete part of the living. Wars arise from the world of Utopian delusions. People live in a deluded world that the war has gifted them. If a war is commenced to bring happiness to the land, then why does the land become a grave to happiness. Lives that find death cruel for being denied the frosty embrace, plead other lives to bless them with death. To ask a life to release another life is not the liberation that a war should seek. Kristof with her lucid text makes it crystal clear, that a war- torn land can be reconstructed and restored to normality; as if it has been untouched by conflict. Sadly, it is the shattered lives that do not get the respected privilege. The wounds of the war breathe with the people as long as they live, which at times can seem forever. The war may restore the buildings, but it cannot restore the dead. Laws can exonerate the innocent lives that were executed. But, can it restore Clara’s grey hair to its original sheen? Can the war restore the lost youth that it ravenously swallowed? The only gifts that war ever bestows on the privileged citizens are the art to kill and an impassive life, dwelling in the abyss of mortal solitude. Lucas/Claus knew the exact precision of killing a life. War had taught them the skill. At times, they would offer a vulnerable life the gift of death; if one mercifully begged. It was not something they sought to do, but absolutely needed to do. The brothers had triumphed over every aspect of pain, be it heat, hunger, cold or anything that causes soreness. They never cried even when their grandmother abused them or people in the streets heckled them with tortuous condemnations. They could defend themselves just as they defended Harelip. The war had taught them. The war had become their school. Mathias did not cry either. The war had taught him too. Kristof meticulously brings a world where one is fortunate to glimpse the next sunrise or the magical sunset. People do things not because they desire to; it is absolutely needed to. A place where nauseated absurdities thrive in normality. A place where humanity wanes in a treacherous barter system. "Two or three hundred of them pass by, flanked by soldiers. A few women are carrying small children on their backs, or cradled against their breasts. One of them falls; hands reach out to catch the child and the mother; they must be carried, because a soldier has already pointed his rifle at them." Kristof’s trilogy which begins with the twins arriving at their Grandmother’s house in Little Town, is a war in itself. Alongside the periphery of the country’s war, each of Kristof’s characters is a casualty of a simmering private war. The atrocity of the external war trickles down bringing an internal chaotic conundrum. Fear and grief become the only recognizable sentiments. For some of the characters the war had begun much before their country knelt to the brutal conflict. Lucas becomes an integral part in this trilogy. His life explores the inconsistent terrains of war, communist acquisitions, counter-revolution and later on the capitalist environments. It is evident when later Claus confirms the doubts by declaring, “It is a society based on money. No place for questions on life." Although, Lucas is an interesting character; it was the characterization of Harelip, Mathias and the ‘Officer’ that intrigued me the most. Harelip’s desperation of finding love ; Mathias struggle to find a place in “societal regularity” and the isolation of the Officer from his asphyxiated love , made me ponder on whether if given a chance would they hold a placard pronouncing , “Don’t come in the world of mine.” Akin to her characters, Kristof’s prose if simple yet convoluted. Maybe, even equating to the onset of a war. Eventually, a war finds its conclusion. A war victim never gets that privilege. A war creates heroes of men, but, has the war ever thought about the women and children who have been victims and will live in deathly solitude and eternal pain. As life progresses, memories may fade, pain may diminish, but it does not disappear. Are men the only heroes of the war? Kristof audaciously makes this point. “It’s like an illness. A sort of illness of the soul.....excessive solitude”. ‘Mortal solitude’ becomes a major salient feature of the war. Kristof gives the ‘state of solitude’ a demonic personality. The desperation that stems from loneliness blurs the lines between fact and fiction. Truth and lies amalgamate into an obnoxious lattice of desire and loss. The dead are woken up by stubborn memories that never fade; sex becomes a lucrative trade in the ongoing barter system, forlorn emotions seek refuge in objective love; the panic of old wounds reopening and the skepticism over validity of the dead that are found everywhere and nowhere. It is in this curse of solitude that one seeks the comfort of a grave. --- “The best place to sleep was the grave of someone you have loved.” Lucas, Claus, Victor and the others struggle to free themselves from the ugly depths of solitude; nonetheless it was only seclusion what they searched to write their nightmares. Peace was a rare commodity in their lives. Is death then a better option? As one of the twins says, “I tell him that life is totally useless, that it’s nonsense, an aberration, infinite suffering, and the invention on a non-God whose evil surpasses understanding." All is not lost, as Kristof elucidates that beneath the ruthless layers of desperation, there lies the strongest bond of love which survives the atrocities of the war. “Love is not a reliable word.......It lacks precision and objectivity.” Kristof evaluates the idea of the so called “normality of love”. In the incongruous world of war could ‘normal love’ ever survive? All the characters in the book are in a frantic struggle to find love and be loved. The burgeoning solitude leads to the desperation of desiring a sense of belonging. With abandonment comes the wish for of a touch, an embrace; irrespective of the methods and act of achieving the idea of love. The pain of promiscuity, incest and at times even rape takes a backseat when it comes to being “loved”. Kristof compels you to question the normality of love. Who is to decide the regulations of love? Who is to define rationality of love? The soldier who rapes numerous women and goes home to a loving wife and a child? The men who fathered bastard children who were left at the orphanage? Or those who suffocate homosexuality? If you ask Victor or Lucas or Harelip or Clara or Yasmine or even the Officer who listened to the gramophone while desiring death, they may probably tell you that in the absurdities of love one seeks its normality, similarly as one seeks humanity in the inhumanity of the war. “I’m convinced---that every human being is born to write a book......he who writes nothing is lost, he has merely pass through life without leaving a trace.” Stories perish beside the bodies in the grave. While death justifies the treachery of life, it fails to recognize the agony of its journey; words are then needed bestow immortality. In this saga of love and separation, Kristof bequeaths the said honor to the lives of the anonymous war victims by immortalizing their plagued existence through her genuine words. I jot down couple sentences, stare, cry, smile and then go back to those words as if they were mine. Clutching the pages, I walk down the empty streets , the songs of the harmonica still lingering in the cafes, the blue building priding the street, the bookseller’s shop is open ; Joseph’s horse-drawn wagon lurking at the door. The desk is vacant, not a soul in sight. Next to the stack of books, a set of blank pages blush to the flirtatious breeze. A note: - ‘Chapter title - eternal words.’ The pencil in my hand smiles: - Ágota Kristóf .

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan

    Some Quotes from Robert Bresson ”I simplify everything, first by elimination on paper and then, much more so, during shooting, so as not to over-burden the pictures, so as not to render them opaque.... The poetry, if there is any, comes from the tautness. It is not a "poetic" poetry, but a cinematographic poetry. It arises out of simplification, which is only a more direct way of seeing people and things….” “The sound of a train whistle conjures up the whole station.” “Once I heard someone bein Some Quotes from Robert Bresson ”I simplify everything, first by elimination on paper and then, much more so, during shooting, so as not to over-burden the pictures, so as not to render them opaque.... The poetry, if there is any, comes from the tautness. It is not a "poetic" poetry, but a cinematographic poetry. It arises out of simplification, which is only a more direct way of seeing people and things….” “The sound of a train whistle conjures up the whole station.” “Once I heard someone being whipped through a door, and then I heard the body fall. That was ten times worse than if I had seen the whipping.” What has more prolonged, profound and intimate power? Torture porn and graphic gore or the implied violence and cruelty in films like (to stick with Bresson) Mouchette ? It is clear what the intention of a book like American Psycho was, and yet (aside from the shock factor) its vivid and detailed carnage is ultimately hollow. It is impossible to have an interest in 20th century Central and Eastern European Fiction and not come again and again upon books saturated with violence, horror and brutality. And yet what is fascinating is the range of different approaches to this same source material. There are writers who, in an attempt to force the readers gaze onto this horror, describe rape and murder in vivid, beautifully crafted detail. There are others, and Kristof is one of them, who are more of the Bresson school. They believe that an artist can gesture towards this darkness, and, if that gesture is correctly coded, can prompt an internal act of creation in the reader/viewer. This self-created horror is, by its intimacy, its closeness, imbued with unique power. The station conjured up by the sound of the whistle is mine, and only mine, it is provoked from me by the artist and thereby comes ready-weighted, as infinite in detail as my mind allows. I am a witness of the station, as I can become a witness of this brutality. So, yes, this is a novel (or three novels in one – though it truly works best as a whole) whose writing is sparse, crystalline, poetic. Facts are spoken simply, though they are often staggering in their ferocity. The first novel in particular is a masterpiece of concision and self-control. But then, upon reading the second and third novels we find that, in fact, this control is not simply an authorial device. It is a coping mechanism, an indication of the psychological damage done on the twins and, as such, deeply moving in and of itself. It becomes clear that The Notebook is, in fact, a notebook kept by the twins (or it may even be something else…though I will not spoil too much of the development by going in to that here). They were Bressonian by necessity. To be otherwise would have been unbearable. For Kristof too, one gets the sense that her own lived experiences render any other approach impossible. This is, I think, the first novel I have read where the narrative style becomes, on a purely formal level, imbued with such sorrow. It is masterfully done. There are similarities with The Painted Bird and The Museum of Love (which is deserving of much wider readership), though this surpasses them as, in my opinion, both are guilty of (on occasion) falling in love with their own lyrical evocations of violence. Kristof never allows her ego such luxury. Read it.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

    An exquisite pain, a welcome disturbance, the anti-Tractatus-Logico-Philosophicus? I often find myself defending books that people call depressing, claiming that there's so much more to it than the surface suffering, death and decay. McCarthy's The Road is at once a love-letter to his son and an extended border case, a proving ground for philosophical ethics. Faulkner's As I Lay Dying is not just an epic farce, but a highlight of modernist form expansion, a cubist novel. Kafka is funny. There wi An exquisite pain, a welcome disturbance, the anti-Tractatus-Logico-Philosophicus? I often find myself defending books that people call depressing, claiming that there's so much more to it than the surface suffering, death and decay. McCarthy's The Road is at once a love-letter to his son and an extended border case, a proving ground for philosophical ethics. Faulkner's As I Lay Dying is not just an epic farce, but a highlight of modernist form expansion, a cubist novel. Kafka is funny. There will be no such defense here. This book destroyed me in some ways that will never be repaired. Perhaps that is a bit grandiose. The prose is stripped down, dehumanized (as many have noted) reflecting the devastating effects of war. And we can't blame this on the translator as this edition has three, all of which present nearly the same sparse active narrative. And that Kristof's work is at the same time incredibly complex is a wonder. The fourth lie: The shifting point of view as well as the characters themselves raise the question of identity. Does Lucas really have a twin or is this a coping schizophrenia? In the third book we get a plausible way to defend either position. But thinking about which is the stronger or correct interpretation invites a hall of mirrors vertigo. The first book is The Notebook. The text is written by the characters themselves. The second book is Lucas' narration-- the first book becoming the proof of his identity-- entitled The Proof. But Lucas admits that he has continuously gone back to revise and edit, to delete that which is superfluous, to leave only that which is essential. And so, in the third book, The Third Lie, we lose our footing completely. What is truth and what is artifice? You will have to be the judge. For my part, I think Kristof wants us to accept that what is essential is what is true: that our selves have little to do with the superficial facts of the matter which are constitutive of our lives in only a limited sense. In fact, like Lucas, we construct our self for ourself, revising day by day (would Sartre smile here?). And if we don't recognize this, we miss the chance to manipulate the art of the artifice.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Declan

    Contains spoilers By the time I had finished this trilogy of novels I had no idea what had happened. I though of Escher's famous drawing in which one hand draws another hand drawing the other hand. Except to properly represent the procedure Agota Kristof adopts in these short novels one of the hands should contain an eraser and be in the process of eliminating the hand that is drawing it. In the fractured society she creates; in the dislocated time in which these characters have to live and in th Contains spoilers By the time I had finished this trilogy of novels I had no idea what had happened. I though of Escher's famous drawing in which one hand draws another hand drawing the other hand. Except to properly represent the procedure Agota Kristof adopts in these short novels one of the hands should contain an eraser and be in the process of eliminating the hand that is drawing it. In the fractured society she creates; in the dislocated time in which these characters have to live and in the desolate location where the twin boys who are central to this story are brought to live, there is no certainty, except the usual one: death. Those two boys - names unknown in 'The Notebook' - tell a story that is frequently startling in its plainly told brutality. They narrate in the first person plural (like the boys in The Virgin Suicides) and so we are there with them, horrified that we can begin to see and comprehend the world as they do. We begin to feel included and implicated in their "we". Kristof's great skill is to always be convincing as she brings us through the process by which - to better survive the wartime situation of which they are unavoidably a part - the twins rid themselves of all instinctive feeling and manage, by a series of exercises, to locate all pain outside of their bodies. By this method they can be witness to the most distressing events and be, apparently, unaffected. They have an anthropologist's detachment in viewing the circumstances of their own lives: they beg, for example, not for money, but "to observe people's reactions". It also means that they are prepared to aid others in what, in other circumstances would be thought to be acts of empathy and kindness, but are in the boys world-view merely practical solutions to a dilemma of which they have become aware. The extent of their detachment is made especially clear in a final act of stark, numbing nonchalance. And then..."we" becomes "he" and one boy is lost and one boy is lost without him. The he has a name now, Lucas, a young adult, functioning to some degree in society and displaying some sense of humanity by giving shelter to a young woman and her baby. He evinces little warmth however and as the baby becomes a boy he is savagely protective of him, but lacks any understanding of the boy's need for assurance and that element so little seen in this trilogy: love. It seems absent too in Lucas' relationships with women. How could it be otherwise? The consequences of this lack, more than any other, are horrific. Not since seeing the throat slitting scene in Haneke's 'Hidden' have I gasped as I did when Lucas is presented with the results of his neglect of the boy Mathias. By the end of 'The Proof' we are forced to ask questions we should have asked earlier. Who is writing this? What is the significance of those notebooks of which we have heard so much? How can this narrator see everything? A brother returns and everything becomes unclear. And then...we are lost. "He" has become "I" and nobody is where they should be. Twins or one boy alone with his imagination? Parents dead or alive, or one dead and one alive? Who crossed the border, father or unknown soldier? This is all deftly done, the shifted reality is clear and convincing, like the minute alterations that signal some momentous changes in 1Q84. This unstable, perturbing narrative is less fraught than much of what has occurred before but it does still demand our acceptance. Nothing is easily given in this extraordinary trilogy and this is a wonderful way to conclude it. We should be bewildered by all we have experienced. There can be no certainty, no consolation, no resolution. There can only be doubt (and I doubt all of the above).

  11. 4 out of 5

    Bern

    Well, I have to write this review in English in order to achieve wide-ranged opinions... I had to wait to think over and overcome the enchantment and astonishment a bit. Friends having read the triology and me exchanged our views and I read other reviews(especially the ones including spoilers, in order to feel that other people have sensed the same way :) ). I've been reading a lot of books about WW2 (also "The Painted Bird by Kosinski, which is about the war-story of a child too), but this trio Well, I have to write this review in English in order to achieve wide-ranged opinions... I had to wait to think over and overcome the enchantment and astonishment a bit. Friends having read the triology and me exchanged our views and I read other reviews(especially the ones including spoilers, in order to feel that other people have sensed the same way :) ). I've been reading a lot of books about WW2 (also "The Painted Bird by Kosinski, which is about the war-story of a child too), but this triology (published in my mother tongue as one book) surpassed all others with all its surprises and mind games. To be honest, I was really confused when reading the second part (The Proof) and thinked about leaving the book unread. Fortunately I insisted and now I am looking forward to receiving your thoughts.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl

    Where to begin? There is no entry point. Maybe, like history, it will become apparent only with time and distance. The more I think about the three books together, the more knotted I become. Perhaps I should stop thinking about it as a puzzle. The Notebook is powerful, disturbing, startling. It is a gripping read, an adult fairy tale. One marvels and squirms at the relentless cruel logic of these twin children. It wasn’t originally written as a trilogy. The Notebook was a stand-alone book, but afte Where to begin? There is no entry point. Maybe, like history, it will become apparent only with time and distance. The more I think about the three books together, the more knotted I become. Perhaps I should stop thinking about it as a puzzle. The Notebook is powerful, disturbing, startling. It is a gripping read, an adult fairy tale. One marvels and squirms at the relentless cruel logic of these twin children. It wasn’t originally written as a trilogy. The Notebook was a stand-alone book, but after it was published she kept thinking of the twins, and wanted to come back to them, to see what happened. So she wrote the second, and the third. The Notebook stands on its own as a story with stylish but conventional narrative. You could stop there and be satisfied. But reading the next books completely alters the meaning of the first. Victor the bookstore owner, says to Lucas, “…every human being is born to write a book, and for no other reason. A work of genius or mediocrity, it doesn't matter, but he who writes nothing is lost, he has merely passed through life without leaving a trace.” So to write a book, a notebook, is to leave a trace, to have left proof of existence. But is it fiction or fact, and who wrote it? Here it becomes mirrors of reflections — identities, truth, history, lies. This only started to make any kind of sense if I thought of it in the context of the larger canvas of history. Consider the history of a country / countries, especially around the time of upheavals of war. Countries are split and are merged, their histories are manipulated, retold, omitted. Stories are fantastical, hyperbolic, fanciful -- they exaggerate the barbarity of the enemy. They have fragmented identities, like these characters. There is no single truth. There are only versions of it. After a war, is a newly created geographic zone now one country, or inherently two countries, as it was before? Does it exist just because it has been written into history? Is that the proof of its existence? And what of the names, the first names, and then the next names. Which one(s) are true? Are they not all true? Or are not all names given to it lies? Or do they matter — do they affect the fundamental identity? History is unreliable. Narrators are unreliable. There are multiple truths that are simultaneously lies. But at least if we write it, we exist.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Aubrey

    I would have rated this higher had not I fallen out of love with sadists a while ago. The vengeful hero, the vigilante serial killer, the commander, the mastermind, the Manhattan Project brain who believed wiping out whole sections of certain hemispheres would bring about world peace. All white, all male, all done to death. Forgive me my lack of impressed engagement upon encountering the latest prototype of trangressive film; for all their displayed atrocities, they refuse to show a woman's body I would have rated this higher had not I fallen out of love with sadists a while ago. The vengeful hero, the vigilante serial killer, the commander, the mastermind, the Manhattan Project brain who believed wiping out whole sections of certain hemispheres would bring about world peace. All white, all male, all done to death. Forgive me my lack of impressed engagement upon encountering the latest prototype of trangressive film; for all their displayed atrocities, they refuse to show a woman's body in its natural state of body hair, so really, what exactly are my priorities supposed to be? Over his head, lit by the moonlight shining through the gable window, the skeletons of his mother and her baby hang from a beam. I know this is World War II. I know that this is greatly influenced by the author's own experiences. I know that I, pampered US Millennial that I am, cannot even begin to comprehend what it must have been like to live through such a time. However, I do know fiction, especially when it proclaims itself "objective". I do know what goes into scientific writing, reports and experiments and the distant pall that covers both number and organism. I do know this "objectivity" and its extensions in the writings of government and journalism and everything else that here, in the US, funnels the empathy into the sector of white patriarchy and renders us sadistic to every other tale of horror and woe where the physical characteristics do not fit. I have been moved in the past by such machinations, but not anymore. "We killed many people by mistake, but at present everything is being sorted out. We apologize and promise that such mistakes will not be allowed to happen in the future." The problem is not that I am desensitized to such violence, but that I have been conditioned to see only certain breeds of violence as worthy of not being desensitized to. This realization is what made me take a break from the inundation of WWII fiction, but when I saw the reviews for this book, I was reminded of Purge and Blood Meridian and thought, maybe, this would be different. It was, and yet not, for as per usual all the women were sacrificed for the pain of men, and neither the internalized garroting of Oksanen nor the apocalyptic patriarchy of McCarthy was achieved. "I say, "But he won't be here anymore. Order doesn't mean much to me if he isn't here anymore." The old man says "On the contrary. From now on he'll always be with you wherever you go." The book had its moments, as evidenced by the quotes. However, had I gotten my hands on Le grand cahier before the others were translated, I would not have continued. "Age doesn't matter. I'm her lover. Is that all you wanted to know?" "No, that's not all. I knew that already. But do you love her?" Lucas opens the door. "I don't know the meaning of that word. No one does. I didn't expect that sort of question from you, Peter." "Nevertheless, you will be asked that sort of question many times in the course of your life. And sometimes you will be obliged to answer it." "And you, Peter? One day you will also be obliged to answer certain questions. I've been to some of your political meetings. You make speeches, the audience applauds. Do you really believe in what you say?" "I have to believe it." "But in your deepest self, what do you think?" "I don't think. I can't allow myself the luxury. I've lived with fear since I was a child.

  14. 5 out of 5

    M. Sarki

    http://msarki.tumblr.com/post/7493537... He says to me, "We're all dying of one thing or another. That's what all the experts say, anyway." "What else do they say, the experts?" "That the world is fucked. And that there's nothing to do about it. It's too late." My wife and I have an English Golden Retriever, a cream-colored animal, a thoroughbred of the dog genus, handsome, smart, dignified, with nary a mean bone in his body. Still a pup, he loves to play and wrestle hard, but at two-and-a-half year http://msarki.tumblr.com/post/7493537... He says to me, "We're all dying of one thing or another. That's what all the experts say, anyway." "What else do they say, the experts?" "That the world is fucked. And that there's nothing to do about it. It's too late." My wife and I have an English Golden Retriever, a cream-colored animal, a thoroughbred of the dog genus, handsome, smart, dignified, with nary a mean bone in his body. Still a pup, he loves to play and wrestle hard, but at two-and-a-half years old now he is gradually maturing. But he isn't the typical humanized domestic pet. He moseys around the house to whatever room we might be in in order to check-in once and a while, but rarely does he hang out with the two of us, that is, my wife and I, we being leftovers and the extent of our family at home these days. We believe we are witnessing again, in doggy world lingo, an only-child syndrome. A situation in which there is perhaps too much togetherness within our present family of three, and the dog-child ends up needing more space and sense of its own separateness, as in protecting his precious autonomy. My wife, at times, thinks perhaps Bob doesn't like us, or is pouting, or even as our own human son for a time exhibited, an awful, erratic teenage attitude. But I think Bob the dog is simply letting us know he is an animal, that he likes being an animal, and though he appreciates being fed and looked after by us two-legged people he has no desire to be moulded into some anthropomorphic version of a lap dog we see other dog owners seemingly so proud of and comfortable with. Golden Retrievers are known to be people-dogs, loving and tender, a true friend for their entire life span. Bob is one cool character, though a bit aloof, and his adoptive parents are too, in the sense we are friendly enough to acquaintances but have no great desire to be best friends and hang out together. Our dog, as they say, has taken on the personality of his owners. And that anecdote related above is basically how I felt while reading this wonderful trilogy written by Ágota Kristof. To be more forthcoming I would describe the novel as being brief sentences erupting from a fragmented mind. It is a trilogy that easily takes one in, seamlessly connects the reader emotionally, and generates a momentum and desire to read through to the end. Great story lines, but still none you can really count on. There are lies aplenty here, with fictions enough to get us everywhere we need to go. But it isn't always where we want to be. I much rather preferred the first book, The Notebook, to the last two. However, I did enjoy very much the second book titled The Proof. By the time I got to book three it was both understandable and disconcerting to me for it to be called The Third Lie. But what is a serious and addictive reader to do? There is really nothing for me to say to expound on anything gifted others have already said about this trilogy. For me, there was something very enjoyable in reading it and also it was discomfiting in a perverted sort of way. I absolutely loved the sex scenes, and they seemed to be little enough, though they were placed just where they needed to be. I also think it helped that this particular woman wrote them. I loved that, and she made me wish for more indiscretions involving her characters. But that is not at all what the books were about. If a reader is looking for an aggressive war novel there is plenty of that going on, but the story comes at you as collateral damages instead of gallant, patriotic victories we seem to be so inundated with today. There is a distance to cross in this master work. But there is also a gap in it that cannot be bridged. The book is most certainly a tender love story that remains for me aloof. Just as Bob the dog is the most loving animal on the planet he steadfastly protects his sacred space. I have to believe The Notebook Trilogy does so too. I go to bed and before falling asleep I talk to Lucas in my head the way I have for many years. What I tell him is just about what I usually do. I tell him if he's dead he's lucky and I'd very much like to be in his place. I tell him he got the better deal, that it is I who is pulling his greater weight. I tell him that life is totally useless, that it's nonsense, an aberration, infinite suffering, the invention of a non-God whose evil surpasses understanding.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Lee Klein

    The first part ("The Notebook") was wonderfully effed-up reading: first-person plural ("we") narrator and short chapters, studded with sensationalist psychoerotic gruesomeness, focused on supersmart sinister twins during wartime. Spareness plus unspecified time/space coordinates gave it a mythic/fabulist vibe. Two-hundred pages of controlled horrifics, albeit with maybe a bit of a guilty sense for me that this wasn't quite "Waiting for the Barbarians," "Blindness," or "In the Penal Colony" -- ma The first part ("The Notebook") was wonderfully effed-up reading: first-person plural ("we") narrator and short chapters, studded with sensationalist psychoerotic gruesomeness, focused on supersmart sinister twins during wartime. Spareness plus unspecified time/space coordinates gave it a mythic/fabulist vibe. Two-hundred pages of controlled horrifics, albeit with maybe a bit of a guilty sense for me that this wasn't quite "Waiting for the Barbarians," "Blindness," or "In the Penal Colony" -- maybe I was more into it for the psychoerotic insanities than stuff about how folks endure the genocidal atrocities, enemy occupations, etc, that warp them? The second and third sections fell way off from the first section, mostly I think because the awesome first-person plural point of view in "The Notebook" shifts to third person ("The Proof"), then first person ("The Third Lie"). Also, it turns out I must've really been swayed by the psychoerotic nastinesses in the first book because their lack in the other two I very much noted. I skimmed the last book, admittedly -- not engaged by the writing (mainly) or the unreliable nature of storytelling subtextual schtuff. But still, the first book was 4.75 stars for me (at least) and some of the second one was not so bad either (3 stars?). Something else: it's clear that the author also writes for the theatre. The first two parts are so spare they're practically scripts. Very little exposition, mostly dialogue, a few stage directions. Works perfectly for the very young, sympathetic, batshit narrator(s). (The Lars Von Trier adaptation is gonna rock.)

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jimmy

    Exercise in Leaving Things Out Whatever you do, do not tell the whole story. Leave out entire scenes, only to be hinted at later in a thrown off line. Leave out the feelings. Especially love, don't mention love at all. Describe the cruelties but do not say why they were performed. Tell the story, but leave almost everything out so that it can grow wild like an untended garden in the reader's mind. Exercise in Shifting Perspectives Tell the story together, conjoined as one. Then tell the story apar Exercise in Leaving Things Out Whatever you do, do not tell the whole story. Leave out entire scenes, only to be hinted at later in a thrown off line. Leave out the feelings. Especially love, don't mention love at all. Describe the cruelties but do not say why they were performed. Tell the story, but leave almost everything out so that it can grow wild like an untended garden in the reader's mind. Exercise in Shifting Perspectives Tell the story together, conjoined as one. Then tell the story apart. Tell the story in the third person. The third person tells the third lie. Tell the story in the first person, but then move outwards from that person as if you're in the midst of an out of body experience. Call that person simply 'the child'. Exercise in Lying Lie all the truth, but lie it slant. A lie can sometimes start for no reason, like a wildfire. Other times, it is to protect someone you love, but remember don't mention the word love. Other times, a lie can protect something, a manuscript scrawled in a notebook from being destroyed by the officials. Still other times, a lie is preferred because the truth is too painful. Names are hidden like children under the baseboards. Lie about your past, about your family, about where you were all night. But most of all, lie so that the truth comes out stronger. Exercise in Writing a Book Review I loved this book so much. Sorry, I wasn't supposed to say that word. Her sentences are spare, pared down to just enough to convey, but then she leaves in a little bit of detail in, just the right ones to paint the entire scene. In this, it reminded me of some of Emmanuel Bove's sentences, though his tone is very different. Much of the story is conveyed in bits and pieces, you find out later in their dialogue what happens, but you can only imply what they felt when that happened. This makes it all the more powerful. I'm still not sure what I think of the third part of the trilogy. (SPOILERS ahead:) The third lie is the third book, meaning the first two books are lies too. I want to be a better reader, I want to be able to take the metafictional element in stride, but maybe because the first two parts were so powerful, it hurts me to think of them as lies. Although different versions of the same truth. Then again, I am reading fiction, i.e. lies. But oh how I hate to be reminded! Or at least, it feels like she is doing something completely different in the third part, that I also admire, but wish it wasn't connected to the first two parts. Something akin to If On a Winters Night a Traveler in a book that's already established itself as something else. But I still love the third part, just as something completely different. I would give the first book 5 stars, the second 4.5 stars and the third 4 stars.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Ray

    A linked series of novellas, which tells the tale of two boys in WW2 eastern Europe. The country is not spelt out but I assume it is Hungary. A fascinating book. It is almost impossible to do this book justice in a review, but here goes. Claus and Lucas are twins. They are left by their mother with their grandmother. They grow up in their own world, almost oblivious to the chaos of war all around them. They develop their own rules of conduct and are utterly immoral. Theft, blackmail and murder are A linked series of novellas, which tells the tale of two boys in WW2 eastern Europe. The country is not spelt out but I assume it is Hungary. A fascinating book. It is almost impossible to do this book justice in a review, but here goes. Claus and Lucas are twins. They are left by their mother with their grandmother. They grow up in their own world, almost oblivious to the chaos of war all around them. They develop their own rules of conduct and are utterly immoral. Theft, blackmail and murder are nothing to them. When the Soviets drive out the Nazis one of the boys escapes to the West, leaving the other behind - who forms his own little family and manages to create a life for himself in the socialist utopia. It is difficult at times as he has very little paperwork to prove his existance In the final novella the other twin comes back from the West. But his memories are all screwed up - and where is his twin? Did he even exist? These books play with what is truth and what is memory in a way that is hard to portray but utterly compelling and effective. There are shades of The Tin Drum in the way that you are never quite sure what has happened (these two and Oscar Matzerath in a play group would be a sight to behold, best have an ambulance on standby too) Do read it.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Em*bedded-in-books*

    This book was added to a monthly challenge by one of my friends and I had no interest to read it. But then a discussion arose and people were polarised . This sparked my interest . Loved the first 2 books , but was totally disoriented by the third until the last 15 percent clicked with me. 4.25 stars ... Would easily have been 5 stars on one of my more generous days .

  19. 4 out of 5

    Michael Livingston

    I'm still processing this a bit - the first book is simple, brutal and utterly mind-blowing and the next two twist it all around and tear it to pieces before rebuilding the story into something entirely different. The writing is simple, but the book is anything but - an extraordinary look at trauma. I'm still processing this a bit - the first book is simple, brutal and utterly mind-blowing and the next two twist it all around and tear it to pieces before rebuilding the story into something entirely different. The writing is simple, but the book is anything but - an extraordinary look at trauma.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Liviu

    This one contains one short novel that should be by all means be a "new classic" of our times - ok the late 1980's when it was first published. This is The Notebook which is just awesome, mind blowing and something utterly original - very dark, graphic and explicit so not for everyone but awesome nonetheless The Proof that directly continues The Notebook and The Third Lie that reinterprets all that came before are excellent too, but they are a bit superfluous and The Notebook should have been lef This one contains one short novel that should be by all means be a "new classic" of our times - ok the late 1980's when it was first published. This is The Notebook which is just awesome, mind blowing and something utterly original - very dark, graphic and explicit so not for everyone but awesome nonetheless The Proof that directly continues The Notebook and The Third Lie that reinterprets all that came before are excellent too, but they are a bit superfluous and The Notebook should have been left on its own. The other two are much more conventional with stuff we have seen before - still dark and occasionally explicit - and they cannot help but lessen the impact of the Notebook. The stark, short sentences, short chapters structure of The Notebook as it befits its children POV(s) is just un-replicable in a more conventional tale like the next two. Here we have a case where the one part is much superior to the whole despite that the other two parts would have been great without it too...

  21. 5 out of 5

    Shankar

    Stoic is the word that comes to my mind. Agota Kristof’s three sub part novel covers differing time periods of the Claus (Krause) and Lucas brothers. For some strange reason I was reminded of the depressing environment of Auschwitz and the tough life conditions people faced and live through. Except in this case how their lives turn out due to the choices they make in this environment. This review does no justice to the storyline. In thinking about what Agota may have envisioned as a message from Stoic is the word that comes to my mind. Agota Kristof’s three sub part novel covers differing time periods of the Claus (Krause) and Lucas brothers. For some strange reason I was reminded of the depressing environment of Auschwitz and the tough life conditions people faced and live through. Except in this case how their lives turn out due to the choices they make in this environment. This review does no justice to the storyline. In thinking about what Agota may have envisioned as a message from this novel I am reminded about Stoics who displayed character ( quirky as it may seem at times ) during tough times. I enjoyed this book. Not sure this review gives any input to the potential reader. Will you choose “Want to Read” ? I may never know.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Tiffany Miss.Fiction

    This is not a book. This is a lifetime experience. A travel into your doppelganger and inside your most intimate fears and weakness. I loved and hated every minute of it, it made me cry and made me feel uneasy all the time. I think this is what makes a great book. It doesn't have to be pretty and predictable, it should preferably cut your throat when it finds you unguarded and make you feel uncomfortable, question your safe areas and give you no rest. This is not a book. This is a lifetime experience. A travel into your doppelganger and inside your most intimate fears and weakness. I loved and hated every minute of it, it made me cry and made me feel uneasy all the time. I think this is what makes a great book. It doesn't have to be pretty and predictable, it should preferably cut your throat when it finds you unguarded and make you feel uncomfortable, question your safe areas and give you no rest.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Lotus

    This book recently displaced my previous favorite book "Cruddy" and is the only book I have ever turned around and reread immediately afterwards. The writing is bare-bones, stark prose, dark & cruel, yet somehow managing to be, as well, poetic & beautiful. I could not stop thinking about this book after I read it which is why I had to reread it again immediately afterwards to try to gain a better understanding of all that went on within it's pages. I already look forward to reading it again, it This book recently displaced my previous favorite book "Cruddy" and is the only book I have ever turned around and reread immediately afterwards. The writing is bare-bones, stark prose, dark & cruel, yet somehow managing to be, as well, poetic & beautiful. I could not stop thinking about this book after I read it which is why I had to reread it again immediately afterwards to try to gain a better understanding of all that went on within it's pages. I already look forward to reading it again, it is just tremendous and definitely now my absolutely favorite book ever. Update, 2013, I have now read this book several times since 2009 passed and I first discovered it. And I enjoy it just as much every time. This book is a masterpiece.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Lorenzo Berardi

    Icy. I can't find a better adjective to describe The Notebook, the first part of this trilogy. There are no feelings. There are merely words. Everything is objective. Even blood looks like black ink on a white paper. Death is just an analytic phenomenon. And then the second and the third part of the trilogy are a complicated mechanism in which what you read is not what you get and while you get it, it gets you. Icy. I can't find a better adjective to describe The Notebook, the first part of this trilogy. There are no feelings. There are merely words. Everything is objective. Even blood looks like black ink on a white paper. Death is just an analytic phenomenon. And then the second and the third part of the trilogy are a complicated mechanism in which what you read is not what you get and while you get it, it gets you.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Stef Smulders

    I hate this book! The first chapter is very effective in shocking the reader but then it turns out in subsequent chapters that the two children are really nasty little robots. It is not clear how they became like this (trauma?) and their behaviour is therefore not very convincing. At one time they speak in full, complicated sentences as only grown ups do, then they talk like kids again in short, simple statements. Their behaviour is equally erratic. I guess one should read the story as a kind of I hate this book! The first chapter is very effective in shocking the reader but then it turns out in subsequent chapters that the two children are really nasty little robots. It is not clear how they became like this (trauma?) and their behaviour is therefore not very convincing. At one time they speak in full, complicated sentences as only grown ups do, then they talk like kids again in short, simple statements. Their behaviour is equally erratic. I guess one should read the story as a kind of dark fairytale or fable, but I do not see the sense of it.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Lidia

    4,5. ¡Boom!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Ruby Tombstone Lives!

    1)This book tells the story of Hungarian twin brothers, Lucas & Claus growing up together in the house of their grandmother during WWII. 2)This book is heavy-going, with a challenging writing style. 3)This book is a multi-layered study of the effects of grief, isolation and unbearable loss upon the mind and memory. 4)This book shows how metafiction can be used to best effect in demonstrating how memory, reality, truth and identity are all completely subjective and mutable. 5)This book is bleak from 1)This book tells the story of Hungarian twin brothers, Lucas & Claus growing up together in the house of their grandmother during WWII. 2)This book is heavy-going, with a challenging writing style. 3)This book is a multi-layered study of the effects of grief, isolation and unbearable loss upon the mind and memory. 4)This book shows how metafiction can be used to best effect in demonstrating how memory, reality, truth and identity are all completely subjective and mutable. 5)This book is bleak from start to finish. 6)This book is one of the most deeply affecting books I've ever read. These are my notes, in which there are three lies. The Lies 1) The book does tell the story of twins, but the big question throughout the three novels is what really happened to these two young boys growing up. Whatever it was, it was terrible. Their country (never named) was continually occupied by one force or another, times were tough, loss and grief pervaded their world. There was separation, hardship and need, but the boys were adaptive. They did what they needed to in order to survive - including reinventing themselves, each other and those around them. The book is as much the story of the human brain and how it copes with trauma as anything else. 2) This book is not at ALL heavy-going. The style of writing is sparse, pared back to the bare essentials. It flies by far too quickly. The first novel is written in the form of short compositions, as in the notebook the children keep. As they explain it, " ..we have a very simple rule: the composition must be true. We must describe what is, what we see, what we hear, what we do. For example, it is forbidden to write, "Grandmother is like a witch"; but we are allowed to write, "People call Grandmother the Witch." The other two novels are similarly styled, more descriptive, but still very spare. 5) This book is not ALL bleak. True, there are more than enough heartbreaking stories in it to last a lifetime. Take this, for example: " ..I answer that I try to write true stories but that at a given point the story becomes unbearable because of it’s very truth, and then I have to change it. I tell her that I try to tell my story but all of a sudden I can’t-I don’t have the courage, it hurts too much. And so I embellish everything and describe things not as they happened but the way I wished they happened. She says, “Yes, there are lives sadder than the saddest of books.” I say, “Yes. No book, no matter how sad, can be as sad as a life.” As a whole, the book is devastating. But there is also a black humour that runs through it, particularly the first novel, and scenes that are quite beautiful and compassionate. I truly did not want this book to end. This is as an absolutely astonishing piece of literature. I wish I could say more about it without giving away too much. All I CAN say is that if you're thinking of giving Hungarian literature a go, this is an excellent place to start.

  28. 5 out of 5

    bobbygw

    Though published as a trilogy, this is effectively one novel, fragmented into three parts, written by an unreliable narrator. The first part, which won two prestigious European literary awards and was Kristof's debut novel, published when the author was 51, is so utterly astonishing and brilliantly written - in the voice of a moral fable and using beautifully simple, compelling language - that it drives the whole narrative of a troubling conflict both psychological and circumstantial. It's writte Though published as a trilogy, this is effectively one novel, fragmented into three parts, written by an unreliable narrator. The first part, which won two prestigious European literary awards and was Kristof's debut novel, published when the author was 51, is so utterly astonishing and brilliantly written - in the voice of a moral fable and using beautifully simple, compelling language - that it drives the whole narrative of a troubling conflict both psychological and circumstantial. It's written, as they all are, from a first person narrator viewpoint. What's remarkable is the pure clarity of voice and language and - most importantly - the absence of judgement and conventional, socially acceptable behaviour. With the onslaught of WW2, in an unnamed Hungary, identical twin brothers C(K)laus and Lucas record an objective narrative of each day or days of significance that each agrees must be dependent solely on fact. Any emotional, moral or adjectival judgement or even sentiment in their respective stories is eliminated by the brothers. Only once both approve of each other's handwritten version (the day's events being transcribed by each on a daily basis and every script is swapped between the brothers to be evaluated by each in turn), the best one (ie objective, without judgement) is then transcribed and only then written up in The Notebook. Their purity of purpose and determination to lead lives grounded in their own way, extends to them deciding to strip themselves of emotion as they learn to disregard and be invulnerable to the devastating consequences of war. They also choose to act on occasion in ways that threaten and harm those who harm others, and always based upon their own distinctive, yet always logical, moral code. As a metaphor for the impact of war on children it's a powerful and compelling one. The more you read, the more troubling the story, yet the more enriched and nuanced the story becomes. The trilogy resonates in a framework of war and its concomitant troubles and horrors. Limbs and people destroyed, antisemitism wreaked, loved ones blown apart. Life goes on, but always the factual narrative strips life of value and meaning. Yet the brothers survive, though it's clear they're not in any meaningful way living. There's no joy felt or shared, and the tone becomes increasingly despairing and melancholic, as WW2 transitions to what is clearly meant to be Russia's occupation of the country. To describe the plots would be to undermine the intensity of loss, sadness, disorientation and trauma of war inflicted upon the narrator(s). What matters most is the extraordinary perspective of the brothers/unreliable narrator. It's a troubling, powerful, moving story, driven by conflict, often disturbed and disorientating. It never resolves, which, given the subject matter of loss, is surely a morally honest conclusion and one free from false sentiment.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kru

    The Notebook - narrated from the perspective of the Twins (not named till end of book 1) in first person plural - was shocking. The exercises they subject themselves to, sounded harsh, but considering the war and poverty of the times, could be taken as crude reality presented raw. The name of the places, and the details of the war, who were the foreigners go unmentioned, with little demarcation on the historical background of the story and the associated facts. But then war is horrible and so The Notebook - narrated from the perspective of the Twins (not named till end of book 1) in first person plural - was shocking. The exercises they subject themselves to, sounded harsh, but considering the war and poverty of the times, could be taken as crude reality presented raw. The name of the places, and the details of the war, who were the foreigners go unmentioned, with little demarcation on the historical background of the story and the associated facts. But then war is horrible and so are all that it brings upon innocents. Enter the girl with the hare-lip and the story takes off on a different trajectory. Her part of the story is gruesome but more so with all those graphic details that don't seem necessary, considering the age of the kids narrating. After revolving around several characters be it the foreign officer or the priest or the housekeeper, the story comes back to the Twins, their grandmother and their mother. A few questions are left unanswered as Book 1 ends. Around 2.5 - 2.8 stars, as the entire book kept me wondering whether I was reading the same book as everyone else did. The Proof- started better, with the Twins getting a name. There are many characters that make an entry, and create multiple branches to the main story. But book 1 prepared you for this, and this is still better than book 1, especially Mathias, and his relationship with Lucas. Deserved 3 stars. The Third Lie- 3 the finale, started with a declaration that everything in books 1 and 2 were lies (in fact book 2 ended as a precursor to this revelation). I have read books with unreliable narrator, what keeps them interesting is the twist to all that the reader believed so far, and the actual reasons behind the narrator's twisting of them. Does this unreliability add value to this plot? I don't think so, considering these twists really don't make it intriguing. Book 3 has two parts, first declaration of everything in two books as lie, followed by part 2 that twists part 1 itself, and the story was moving all zigzag to such an extent I hardly cared, be they Twins with no names, or with homonyms for names, or siblings or whatever. After 92% it was just pure perseverance and my OCD, that kept me going to complete this. To summarize in her own words, -I try to write true stories but that at a given point the story becomes unbearable because of its very truth, and then I have to change it. I tell her that I try to tell my story but all of a sudden I can't—I don't have the courage, it hurts too much. And so I embellish everything and describe things not as they happened but the way I wish they had happened. Highly disappointing to say the least for putting up with all the biting raw and crude details.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Bjorn

    A staggering literary kaleidoscope - the same story three times, except shaken up between every telling to extend the timeframe (war, post-war, post-wall) and change all the details. Heartbreaking, yet a complete joy to read, a language that remains crystal clear and enthralling even as we're led deeper into a labyrinth of unspeakable (and therefore changed) details. A staggering literary kaleidoscope - the same story three times, except shaken up between every telling to extend the timeframe (war, post-war, post-wall) and change all the details. Heartbreaking, yet a complete joy to read, a language that remains crystal clear and enthralling even as we're led deeper into a labyrinth of unspeakable (and therefore changed) details.

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