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The Discovery of Slowness


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About the Author

Sten Nadolny has been an historian and filmmaker in addition to having written four novels and two collections of essays. His books have garnered numerous prizes--the first was awarded to him based on just the opening chapter of The Discovery of Slowness. He now lives in Berlin.


This fictionalized biography chronicles the life of 19th-century explorer Sir John Franklin (1786-1847), credited with discovering the Northwest Passage. A slow, deliberate, and strange child, Franklin joins the Navy at 14. After many years of seafaring, he becomes governor of Van Diemen's Land, later renamed, by him, Tasmania. Despite his much-needed prison reforms and remarkable humanitarian efforts, Franklin is eventually removed from office and returns to a life of adventure on the sea. Unfortunately, the Franklin that Nadolny gives us is an admirable but oddly colorless character. Constructed on the unoriginal premise that ``slow'' people can achieve great things, this tale is an endless narrative of stilted, stifling prose. Ronald L. Coombs, SUNY Downstate Medical Ctr. Lib., Brooklyn, N.Y.

Brutal stuggleagainst Arctic ice, enveloping seas off the coast of Australia, the death ships of Napoleon's navyis etched here upon a canvas of the contemplative and methodically slow thought of John Franklin, whose brain sends no signals to speak or move until it has fully conceptualized a situation. From boyhood John's slowness has been phenomenal, allowing him to hold a rope taut for hours, his arm upright, and gather superhuman strength in the process. The sea, volatile but profoundly changeless, is his precise home; to be the captain of a ship is his goal from the time he is ten. He becomes an expert navigator and learns the function and capacity of every sail, spar and sheet. By age 14 Franklin is a midshipman, at 29 a captain at last. His progress is strewn with naval battles, exploration of unknown coasts and experiences of starvation and mutinyadventures that are conveyed with spellbinding skill. Finally his most compelling dream is realized and he leads a first and then a second expedition to the still and silent Arctic. Fame and riches follow; at age 60 he again sails to the Arctic, where he dies. This remarkable, superbly translated novel derives from the life of the real 19th century explorer John Franklin, who bestowed the name ``District of Franklin'' to the northern archipelago above Canada. (October)

Praise for Sten Nadolny and The Discovery of SlownessAbsolutely stunning.--Times Literary SupplementThis remarkable, superbly translated novel derives from the life of the real 19th century explorer John Franklin...[whose] adventures are conveyed with spellbinding skill.--Publishers WeeklyNadolny evinces remarkable empathy with his unlikely Odysseus and Ralph Freedman's translation captures the crystalline freshness of the author's imagery.--Washington Post Book WorldThe Discovery of Slowness is a masterpiece of characterization, a portrait of inwardness in the most outward-thrusting of lives.--The New RepublicFluid and suspenseful, a thought-provoking reminder of contemporary society's tendency to speed through everyday life.--The Providence Journal-BulletinAmazing...His book is a historical painting, a seafarer's novel, a love story, an outcast's story all in one. This variety appears very harmonious, just as it incidentally, almost secretly, reflects on our right to discover the world at our own, personal pace.--Frankfurter Allegemeine ZeitungSir John Franklin is the embodied contrast to the frenetic agitation of the modern world. The discovery of slowness is the slowness of discovery.--New York Review of BooksNadolny's vision is conveyed with restraint and charm...He has written a Utopia of character.--New York Times Book ReviewIts appeal lies in its observation of the texture of life, seen by a character who has to work everything out from first principles. It needs to be read slowly, to be absorbed as much as understood.--Scotland On SundayThis is more than an adventure; it's a meditation on time and perception...Not to be rushed, or forgotten.--The HeraldNadolny brilliantly sets the narrative pace to the rhythms of the frozen landscape, and to the 'slowness which is bred by hunger.'--Robert MacFarlaneThis is both a wonderful historical novel and a spell-binding individual portrait...This is a marvellous translation of a masterly work.--The Observer

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