2008 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize
Berlin, Spring of 1995. While a group of neo-Nazis are preparing an anniversary bash of disastrous proportions, an old physics professor returns to Potsdam to atone for his sins, an Italian postdoc designs an experiment that will determine the fate of the universe, and, in a room at Le Charité, a Holocaust survivor tells his tale to the willing ear of a young psychologist. Who is that talking cat, why do ghosts of SS soldiers roam the city, and what is Speer's favorite actress up to?
Moving back and forth between the main stages of the past century—Berlin united and divided, Boston, Los Alamos, Auschwitz—Omega Minor is a novel of big ideas, a tale of survival of the soul cast in a whirlwind plot that is in turns smart, inquisitive, funny, violent, nutty, pornographic, moving, deeply compassionate, and profoundly moral. Or not.
Do scars ever heal? Can history be transcended? And will love, for once, save the world? Welcome to Omega Minor, where nothing is ever what it seems and nothing ever ends.
Title Omega Minor
Author Paul Verhaeghen
Title First Published 27 November 2007
Nb of pages 640 p.
Publication Date 27 November 2007
Nb of pages 640
List Price $16.00
Im Anfang war die Tat—In the Beginning was the Act.
And this is what concludes that act, that serpentine pas-de-deux so skillfully performed against the satin backdrop of the blackest night: A lightning bolt hurls upward in a blinding curve of pristine white, the laws of gravity suspended for a quarter-second. There is a scream of triumph as the gushing garland—that string of boundless energy—spouts into the springtime air: With a dull thud the alabaster blob flops on a silken belly, tan and taut and humid with moonlight, and in the panting silence after the victory cry the room echoes with the silent howl of half a billion mouths that never were: 23-chromosome cells thrash their tiny tails in terror on the bare and barren skin. An illicit hand sends another power surge through his penis, fiercer still than the first—then a compassionate tongue descends, its trembling tip dipping into the basin of his navel: For an instant, a sticky thread of pearls connects the woman with the Center of his Being, then she swallows—she drinks my seed, he thinks, she WANTS my seed, and the thought makes his heart swell, not with love but with misplaced pride—and then her lips slide full over his lingam and the last fruits of her labor slither down her shiny throat. And while the man’s mouth is still screaming in triumph, the gametic hordes yell out in Todesangst, for their worst nightmare has come true: In the woman’s churning stomach the cell membranes break open, the molecules dissolve, and the strands of code unwind, and naked lies the blueprint, the secret of who Goldfarb is—the nucleic acids adenine, cytosine, guanine, and thymine swirl around in irreparable chaos, their alchemy forever lost. Here lies a man, exulting over the demise of a world population.
Omega Minor is undoubtedly a curate's egg, but few recent novels rival its richness. And there is something admirable about an author who challenges not just the structural limitations of the novel, but also the limitations of our understanding of the universe. For all its flaws, this is an uncommonly intellectually stretching- and satisfying - experience.
Omega Minor remains in the reader's mind as a tremendous achievement, probably one of the most ambitious novels about the past century. -Florence Noiville, member of the Indpendent Foreign Fiction Prize committee
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Genres : Fiction : Europe : Western Europe
Countries : Belgium