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In Paradise [Read] ➬ In Paradise By Peter Matthiessen – Natus-physiotherapy.co.uk The bestselling final novel by a writer of incomparable range power and achievement a three time winner of the National Book Award Peter Matthiessen was a literary legend the author of than thirty ac The bestselling final novel by a writer of incomparable range power and achievement a three time winner of the National Book Award Peter Matthiessen was a literary legend the author of than thirty acclaimed books In this his final novel he confronts the legacy of evil and our unuenchable desire to wrest good from it One week in late autumn of a group gathers at the site of a former death camp They offer prayer at the crematoria and meditate in all weathers on the selection platform They eat and sleep in the sparse uarters of the Nazi officers who half a century before sent than a million Jews in this camp to their deaths Clements Olin has joined them in order to complete his research on the strange suicide of a survivor As the days pass tensions both political and personal surface among the participants stripping away any easy pretense to resolution or healing Caught in the grip of emotions and impulses of bewildering intensity Olin is forced to abandon his observer’s role and to bear witness not only to his family’s ambiguous history but to his own Profoundly thought provoking In Paradise is a fitting coda to the luminous career of a writer who was “for all readers He was for the world” National Geographic.

  • Hardcover
  • 256 pages
  • In Paradise
  • Peter Matthiessen
  • English
  • 13 April 2014
  • 9781594633171

About the Author: Peter Matthiessen

Peter Matthiessen is the author of than thirty books and the only writer to win the National Book Award for both non fiction The Snow Leopard in two categories in and and fiction Shadow Country in A co founder of The Paris Review and a world renowned naturalist explorer and activist he died in April .

10 thoughts on “In Paradise

  1. Diane S ☔ Diane S ☔ says:

    A rather strange thing happened to me while reading this novel I went to bed last night leaving forty pages unread and all set to give this book a three star rating Not because this is not well written at 86 Matthiessen has definitely perfected his craft but because I felt so distant from the characters Anyway I went to bed and dreamt this novel that I was one of the participants at the retreat trying to come to terms with the horrible things that have happened there I woke up realizing that the camp itself Auschwitz was the main character and that the characters were only a device used to tell the storyA week long retreat at Auschwitz attended by 100 people of diverse nationalities religions and sex Headed by a Zen teacher of which the author is a practioner himself they are there for remembrance meditation hoping to gain an understanding and come to terms with the past Also a man named Clements Olin who is said to be a researcher trying to figure out why the Polish author Tadeiz Borowski who wrote stories and poems of his experiences while sentenced to camp committed suicide at the age of 28 He is mentioned extensively In the first part of the novel The pervasive atmosphere effects each of these people in different waysThe second part of the novel unravels the personal lives of many of them why they are really there what they hoped to find feelThis is also when the story of Olin is revealed and he must come to terms with a past of which has only shortly been made awareThis is a novel told in a very unemotional matter the place itself provides the emotion the awareness of what when on there what the characters see and feel Many leave with a new understanding Olin among them Some find their lives changed and secrets are revealed So I had to give this a four it was amazingly constructed and the reader gets a chance to read about the many different people that have a need to remember Plus this is the first book I have ever dreamed in which I was a character Still shaking my headARC from publisher

  2. Abby Abby says:

    Peter Matthiessen was a masterful writer of both fiction and nonfiction who said that he had long wanted to write about Auschwitz but felt that as a non survivor and a non Jew – he was unualified to approach it as a journalist that only through fiction would he have the freedom to explore the complexities of the subject “In Paradise” is that fiction – his last published just days after his death at the age of 86 It gives voice to troubling uestions not just about good and evil but about what can or should even be said about the unspeakable horrors of that place and about whether even the best intentions to commemorate and bear witness are legitimate In probing these uestions the novel in fact uestions its own legitimacy Matthiessen was a dedicated Zen Buddhist and in the 1990s participated in several Zen retreats on the grounds of Auschwitz The protagonist of ”In Paradise” Clements Olin an American scholar descended from Polish aristocracy has traveled to Poland to research the life of a writer who survived Auschwitz and committed suicide after the war Olin tags along with a group of than 100 people of different nationalities and different motivations who have come on a retreat to the death camp to meditate and bear witness He struggles with the intense and conflicting emotions aroused by the ghastly crematoria and selection platform his uncomfortable interactions with the retreat participants and his profound doubts about what any of them are doing there “So even if these people witness truly what could 'truly' mean? Spreading word of their impressions of this scene of heinous crime? Too late too lateSurely the time means and goodwill of these would be 'witness bearers' might be better spent out in the world helping the hordes of refugees and other sufferers for whom some sort of existence might yet be salvaged The point of life is to help others through it – who said that? We must help the living while we can since the dead have no need of us“In this empty place then at the end of autumn 1996 what was left to be illuminated? What could the 'witness' of warm well fed visitors possibly signify? How could such 'witness' matter and to whom? No one was listening”This is a difficult novel With the exception of one episode of spontaneous joy it is chilling and bleak both in its setting and in its examination of past horrors and present ugliness There are plot points involving a tentative but impossible erotic attraction the unsurprising uncovering of a family secret and several absorbing back stories But plot seems incidental to Matthiessen's purpose almost as if he needed it to make this the novel he felt he had to write You might consider the book a deeply personal meditation in the guise of a novel but little matter; you needn't uestion its legitimacy It is a book that needs to be read for its beautiful prose and for its uncompromising willingness to confront painful truths

  3. Ron Charles Ron Charles says:

    What a haunting and bewildering novel “In Paradise” is Months ago Peter Matthiessen predicted it would be his “last word” and now sadly we know he was right The author who died Saturday at the age of 86 wrote than 30 books during his extraordinary career and is the only person to win National Book Awards for fiction and nonfictionLong a practitioner of Zen Buddhism Matthiessen always addressed big complex themes especially on natural history and the environment and his final novel ventures to Auschwitz to confront the Holocaust It does so in the most self conscious way possible by describing a writer venturing to Auschwitz to confront the Holocaust The result is part reflection part cultural criticism and oddly part romanceThe starkly ironic title of “In Paradise” comes from the Gospel of Luke during the crucifixion of Jesus and it signals the Jewish and Christian themes wound through the novel’s dark matter Inspired by Matthiessen’s participation in a Zen retreat at the Nazi death camp the story details a week in 1996 when 140 pilgrims from around the world commit themselves to “homage prayer and silent meditation in the memory of this camp’s million and victims” Among these strangers are scholars and priests relatives of the murdered and the murderers guilt ridden Germans and defiant Poles Ostensibly they’ve come to bear witness but most can’t articulate what draws them to this grief soaked placeMatthiessen approaches the Shoah as delicately and apologetically as anyone could and to a large extent “In Paradise” is about the fraught challenge of considering this unparalleled horror without being maudlin melodramatic or self indulgent Denial of the Final Solution is the most grotesue affront and ignorance about it is perhaps even harder to fathom but Holocaust voyeurism is the subtler form of disrespect that Matthiessen condemns in this novel No one he emphasizes should imagine that the pain of seeing the pits and the ovens provides any real sense of what the victims experiencedThe central character of this ruminative book is Clements Olin a 55 year old American academic who was born in Poland but shipped to America as an infant Although he has built his career on the study of Holocaust literature early in the novel he disavows any special expertise As is often the case in these pages one gets the sense that Matthiessen is speaking directly through his narrator “Olin tends to agree with the many who have stated that fresh insight into the horror of the camps is inconceivable and efforts at interpretation by anyone lacking direct personal experience an impertinence out of the uestion”Oddly Olin has never been to Auschwitz although his grandparents were Polish aristocrats and his unwed mother vanished from this area during the war He has come back to his birthplace he tells himself and others to complete research on a book about Tadeusz Borowski the writer who survived the concentration camp only to take his own life in 1951 at the age of 28Restricted to the narrow repetitive and mostly silent activities of this death camp retreat “In Paradise” moves through the week in a series of precisely drawn moments and memories as the participants tour the railroad tracks and the decrepit crematoria Matthiessen’s descriptions are poetic and scarifying Without stooping to genocide pornography he creates indelible vignettes about what remains and what took place here No reader will ever forget his brief piercing visions of terrified children pulled from the trains or panicked women shut up in the gas chambersAnd yet the book continually undercuts itself and uestions its own motives “By now” Olin thinks “every adult in the Western world has been exposed to awful images of stacked white corpses and body piles bulldozed into pits” Who needs “the unearned indignation of some damned onlooker from abroad who has no connection to the place and no meaningful witness to contribute”?That debate freuently breaks out of Olin’s head during the group’s evening meetings when members are invited to speak extemporaneously Most are stunned into silence by glimpses of the abuse their ancestors endured or perpetrated But there’s one obnoxious guest a man named Earwig who gives off a “constant air of bitter amusement” He serves as a kind of vicious court jester mocking those who testify scorning their sentimentality rejecting their New Age rubbish about “closure” and “healing” He provokes some speakers to tears and others to rage but despite the often violent tension among them the members keep meeting stumbling along in the darkness of their own grief shame and confusion Their reward — a moment of surprising communion — provides the novel’s loveliest scene and demonstrates the sonorous beauty of Matthiessen’s proseUnfortunately we come to know the many people in this retreat only superficially Flashbacks to Olin’s childhood with his exiled Polish grandparents provide richer characters and complex dynamics Here Matthiessen explores the subtler expressions of anti Semitism mingled with classicism that kept young Olin ignorant about his mother’s fate and his own identity Those memories circumscribe a secret that’s eventually revealed in a surprisingly overplayed scene that readers will anticipate long before it arrivesMore problematic is Olin’s attraction to a strident young nun who’s also attending the death camp retreat At first when Olin has a clear sense of the ridiculousness of his desire this subplot adds a degree of emotional variety to the novel’s grim tone and it rounds out our understanding of a lonely man bumbling around with his errant affections But as the conclusion nears the novel’s focus splinters We’re drawn cursorily into administrative battles within the Catholic Church Weirder Olin’s impossible tryst with the nun hijacks the novel and Matthiessen himself seems seduced by the romantic possibilities His prose grows flush with loveliness and pathos that feel incongruous given the context and theme of the story “At this fateful instant of his life right before his eyes this girl whose warmth and lovely form he will never embrace and cherish is vanishing forever as he stands there watching and he is astonished by the violence of his loss”Amid the shadows of Auschwitz and the violence of the incalculable loss that took place here Olin’s romantic sorrow — no matter how heartfelt — sounds jarringly irrelevant But perhaps as the participants at this retreat discover no response can be appropriate or adeuate or beyond reproach Like the rest of Matthiessen’s vast body of work “In Paradise” leads us into uestions that define our most profound mysteriesFrom The Washington Post

  4. Jill Jill says:

    Peter Matthiessen – who is 86 years old – has said this about his latest novel “At age 86 it may be my last word” If so that would be a pity Mr Matthiessen has a strong voice and an inimitable style For many readers this may very well be a 5 star book and the fact that it wasn’t for me has far to do with my reading tastes than it does with the uality of the writing That being said this is a book for the head than for the heart It’s a somber book Clements Olin – an American academic of Polish descent – joins others on painful missions incompletely understood at the infamous death camp of Auschwitz The ragtag group – stricken descendants of the “perpetrators” relatives of the victims morbid curiosity seekers – all gather to pay witnessBut victims to what exactly? “The emptiness? The silence? What can they hope to offer besides prayer in belated atonement?” Together and in pairs they address anti Semitism man’s capacity for evil and “confronting the Nazi within” As the days pass tensions bubble to the surface bickering becomes commonplace and core secrets begin to get unveiled And gradually Clements Olin gravitates towards Sister Catherine a young nun who is also uestioning the foundation of her lifeThere is a great deal of philosophizing Can those who were penetrated by the horror truly be transported by passion? Does the line dividing good and evil cut through the heart of every human being? Is any nation or any man truly unstained? Yet I could not shake the feeling that this gathering was a type of incubator that fertilized these musings In tone and in style a certain formality – call it a type of contemplation—distanced me from what should have been a far intense reading experience In Paradise will make you think If it makes you feel is another matter Like Clements Olin – an observer who needs to gradually remove his cloak and bear witness – the reader often has the feeling of being on the sidelines of history But maybe that is the point

  5. Neil McCrea Neil McCrea says:

    This book is nearly impossible for me to reviewI have a long history with Matthiessen's work I was introduced to him through one of my dearest friends during orientation week of my first year at college His non fiction work helped shape my nascent environmental activism and social conscience His novels along with those of Dostoyevsky proved to me that it was possible to write about complicated moral issues without becoming didactic In the intervening decades I lost that friend to cancer and I came to treat the release of each of the not very prolific Peter Matthiessen's novels as an event to be treasured I was speechless when I won the first reads giveaway for this novel overjoyed when I received it and uietly devastated when Peter Matthiessen passed away a mere two days later I put off reading In Paradise for a short time uncertain how it could possibly hold up to all the baggage I've attached to it When I finally got around to reading it I breezed through it despite the heavy subject matter It lives up to and possibly surpasses every possible expectation I may have had for itI was initially wary about reading another novel about the Holocaust In light of all the brilliant works that have come before particularly by those who are survivors of the Shoah what is there to say? Fortunately In Paradise is less about the Holocaust itself and about that very uestion In 1996 shortly after Auschwitz has been turned into a museum a retreat is held on the grounds of the camp Scholars relatives of survivors relatives of camp staff and others all attend The importance of witness and remembrance of the Holocaust is unuestioned but during the retreat other uestions arise How long is one to grieve for relatives one has never met or how long should one atone for the crimes of relatives one has never known? For those with no direct connection to the Holocaust do their own histories have no genocides that they ought to be grieving or atoning for? In the shadow of a historical moment that is as black and white as any dozens nuanced uestions of morality are raised As the retreatants examine these uestions and themselves they are in turns combative and compassionate Matthiessen takes none of this lightly and every perspective and reflection is given ample scrutiny A calm and reasoned reexamination of all one's values and behaviors will no doubt be a common reaction by readers of this novelMuch to my surprise there is also a romance sub plot throughout the novel The circumstances of the characters involved make the fumbling gestures of nascent romance in a deathcamp setting many times awkward than you are imagining and yet the whole thing rings so psychologically true that it is a wonder to readThis novel is now as important to me as any other I could care to mention Even at this later date in my life as my philosophies are beginning to calcify Matthiessen still manages to make me see things in a new and hopefully clearer way

  6. Jennifer W Jennifer W says:

    I feel weird giving this book only 2 stars It's an intense subject full of long held entrenched beliefs and in many ways Matthiessen does them justice Anger betrayal shame guilt humiliation and of course grief Christians Jews Buddhists men women Germans Poles Americans Swedes come together seeking But seeking what? for each of the characters it is different as it would be for all the world to go to Auschwitz What I would seek there is vastly different than anyone else Is that why I cannot identify with any of the characters? Or is it Matthiessen's academic confusing writing style? I think I stuck with it because it did cause me to uestion what I would get out of a visit to a concentration camp As an attendant to the US Smithsonian Holocaust Memorial Museum I was wrung out I can't even imagine how many times that would be multiplied to actually go to the most infamous place of mass murder in the world Understanding all the emotions and the reasons behind them does not mean I understood the characters Earwig in particular and what a name was baffling to me He's so angry at everyone the church for doing nothing the Germans for the Holocaust the Poles for being neighbors and witnessing but not acting and even the Jews themselves Even when I learned his back story his anger makes no sense I can understand the emotions but not all in one person Olin and his main counterpart Sister Catherine also made little to no sense What are they looking for? Why are they here? Do they find it? Are they better off for the experiences? At the end several stories come together but I could barely follow it was the priest gay? did the professor kill himself over his trip to Auschwitz? I don't mind a complicated novel but I need to be able to follow it and I would like to relate to a character or two Maybe that's not possible in less than 300 pages in a novel about the continued emotional impacts of the Holocaust And maybe it shouldn't be possible

  7. Kasa Cotugno Kasa Cotugno says:

    Auschwitz The very name strikes at the marrow In 1996 fifty years after the war ended Peter Matthiessen along with over 100 people spent a week long Zen retreat within those walls to bear witness His eyewitness accounts of that experience give this fictionalized version resilience and verisimilitude Deep in this very dense novel he makes the observation that this is the last generation to be able to give first hand account of the horror that was the genocide perpetuated by the Nazis It is important to repeat descriptions of the atrocities to never stop since there are people in the world today denying it every happened The members of the retreat are handled deftly if lightly in order to pack as much into this relatively short novel as possible Many are descendants of both the victims and of the perpetrators The uestion of what the nearby villagers made of all those trains all that land appropriated and barbed wired in And all that smoke Christians being able to move into deserted homes Since this event takes place when the Camp was a relatively new tourist destination in winter under coal smoke fog unremittingly somber and evocative it is interesting to look up UTube videos shot from the hands of tourists of today as they meander through the clean tourist friendly streets of the former death camp At one point Matthiessen muses on the fact that the land will at some point be put to other taxable use but it appears it is a destination spot and will remain as such I usually associate Matthiessen with Caribbean waters and vigilante justice in the Everglades and thus found that this his final word his phrase to be a startling departure Obviously the retreat and its participants affected him deeply enough to write this haunting book at the age of 86 He passed away only days before its publication But there is so much rich material worthy of inspiration for discussion and illumination that I am deeply grateful that he did so

  8. John John says:

    Holocaust Remembrance Novel is Among the Year's BestAcclaimed by William Styron as “a writer of phenomenal scope and versatility” Peter Mathiessen’s latest novel “In Paradise” is an unforgettable novel of Holocaust remembrance which will be viewed not only as among this year’s best but as one of his finest novels in his long storied literary career It is an especially moving often poignant novel that deals not only with history but also remembrance and reconciliation as it pertains to the Shoah the Holocaust itself During a week long remembrance by than one hundred people at Auschwitz in the late fall of 1996 Matthiessen introduces us to a most captivating uite compelling cast of characters of whom the most memorable is an American scholar Clement Olin a descendant of Polish aristocracy who attends merely to research the odd suicide of an Auschwitz survivor feeling disengaged from those in attendance as one of the few who isn’t Jewish What Olin discovers will shatter his knowledge of his family’s history immediately before and during World War II and importantly alter forever his own understanding of who he is exposing a dark secret hidden carefully by his parents for decades Matthiessen adroitly weaves in the Holocaust’s Polish history with the stories of those attending the Auschwitz memorial as we see them clash over contemporary issues like the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians as well as lingering anti Semitism expressed by some of the local Polish population near Auschwitz Matthiessen demonstrates anew why he is worthy of Styron’s notable accolade reminding readers that he is indeed a master storyteller and prose stylist who ranks among the finest writers in American fiction as well as nonfiction What Matthiessen has written is for me the best new novel I have read so far this year I won’t be surprised if “In Paradise” is short listed for many literary prizes; even if it isn’t it will be remembered as one of the best novels published this year

  9. Jeff Jeff says:

    I have never given a book zero stars before but this unfortunately deserves just thatI went into this book thinking that this would be a drama about people going on a remembrance retreat at a Holocaust death camp and trying to come to terms with and be witness to these atrocities while learning about it Let me tell you although this is the premise of the retreat it simply is not what this book is aboutThe writing is all over the place and tangled to where I simply had no idea who I was to be following or where we were in the story and over and most frustratingly why Why were these prose written? Why were these characters here? Why were they saying what they were saying? Why was this book even written?To say I dove into this book hoping for what I had originally thought I was headed into is an understatement I am very interested in the topic of the Shoah and a book about people going to the lion's den to confront the evil head on 50 years later easily could have wound up on my best of list Again please know this is not what this book is aboutI stumbled through each disjointed conversation almost gave up on the book every 5 or so pages and decided to drive through it just in case it tied something anything together By the time I realized that was not going to happen I decided to finish the book because I was already invested in itI am astonished by the rave reviews here for this book I suppose that is what makes the world go 'round and why there are so many different books to choose from We all have different tastes I just can't even begin to recommend anyone putting this one on their pallet

  10. Amy Amy says:

    Once in a great while a reader encounters a book that is so profound and poignant that the earth moves and perceptions are shifted One such book is In Paradise by Peter Matthiessen Matthiessen world renowned naturalist and activist cofounder of The Paris Review novelist and three time winner of the National Book Award has in his 86th year produced a spectacular novel Opening in the winter of 1996 the novel centers on a group of than one hundred people of diverse backgrounds nationalities and religious beliefs who have gathered in Poland at the site of a former death camp Resigned to stay for a week they will occupy the uarters of the former Nazi officers and daily offer prayer and witness to the than one million souls who perished at in the camp Clements Olin American academic of Polish descent is attending in hopes of further in his research regarding the suicide of a poet survivor He is also there to examine the secret history of his family who managed to escape shortly after his birth Not surprisingly the atmosphere at the camp is often grim and every comment has the potential to be met with hostility and as the group progressed through the week political and personal tensions arise; however bonds are formed understanding and empathy are evoked and while no clear resolutions can be made about the events that transpired at the camp the visitors and specifically Olin come to appreciate what it means to be fully alive Thought provoking and haunting In Paradise is a superb novel that will leave readers forever changed

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