Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Europe Central by William Vollman

No, not an odd man who gives trouble in parks,
this is William Vollman
I recently finished the novel Europe Central by William Vollman. I certainly salute the artistic vision of the book but I'm not entirely sure that it really works as a novel of World War 2 or indeed as a work of fiction at all. In a weird way it reminded me of that vast Niall Ferguson history text War of the World, which is the story of the period 1914 - 1945 told from multiple perspectives. Vollman tries to do the same thing in fictious form and while it's certainly very ambitious and the research and cast of characters is impressive, like much of Vollman's work it is, however, a bit overwritten and the style is very much one you will either love or hate. (If your favourite Thomas Pynchon novel is Against The Day then you probably will like Europe Central.) Europe Central was written while Vollman was a visiting scholar in Germany and it did win the National Book Award so it's certainly got a respectable pedigree, but it just ain't my cup of tea I'm afraid. 
My favourite WW2 novels below: 

10. Slaughterhouse 5 - Kurt Vonnegut
9. Men At Arms - Evelyn Waugh
8. The Naked and the Dead - Norman Mailer
7. The Caine Mutiny - Herman Wouk
6. King Rat - James Clavell
5. Empire of the Sun - JG Ballard
4. Life and Fate - Vasily Grossman
3. Gravity's Rainbow - Thomas Pynchon
2. Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
1. The Thin Red Line - James Jones