Michelle Bailat-Jones

Writer, Translator, Reader

From The Discovery of Slowness:

It was an evening sky of infinite duration, shadows becoming gigantically long, and when swaths of mist rose, they turned at once into reddish clouds, changing colors up to the northern horizon.

John looked out on the ice, studied its forms, and tried to understand what they meant. It was true, then, that with its own power the sea could surpass itself. Here was the proof. Here he discovered the meaning of his dreams.

I loved this book.

Sir John Franklin was a real person and Nadolny follows his fascinating life with great care from what I can only assume came out of a formidable amount of research. The novel does so much more, however, than recount the facts of Franklin’s life. It investigates an aesthetics of thought.

On the surface the book is about Franklin’s passion for the ocean, for exploring and discovery. But Nadolny only uses this “fact” of Franklin’s life to engage with the more complex notions of intellect, empathy and honor (to oneself and to others). I was most interested in this idea of slow, deliberate thinking and how Franklin was aware of the way his mind worked. His “character” develops along with the movement of the story and the great events he lives through, but more interestingly, his perception and understanding of his capacity for reflection is subject to a more subtle, but ultimately more profound, revelation.

This book was originally published in German in 1983 and translated into English by Ralph Freedman in 1987.

5 Responses to “Sten Nadolny – The Discovery of Slowness”

  1. steve

    I’m so glad you liked this. It’s such a brave book, doing so much “wrong” in comparison to what we expect a contemporary novel to be. Apart from being a great read, I found it really inspiring both in its content and context.

  2. Study Window

    I very much want to read this book. The idea of exploring how a mind works appeals to me very much just at the moment. Thank you for the introduction.

  3. Lilian Nattel

    Slow thinking is a fascinating concept and so much the antithesis of what is currently valued. I’m going to add this to my list.

  4. Stefanie

    What a beautiful quite! The book sounds wonderful and Franklin is such an interesting character. Thanks for the tip about this one!

  5. verbivore

    Steve – I should really thank you for pointing me toward this book, one of the best I’ve read so far this year. I’m going to look for his other work now.

    Study Window – It’s beautiful, I think you would enjoy it.

    Lilian – I’d love to know what you think if you get a chance to read it. Definitely a book to take your time with, and there are parts that move more quickly than others, but it’s on-the-whole a beautiful read.

    Stefanie – Isn’t it just? I think you’d enjoy this one, Stefanie, and it would be great to read on a commute because it’s fairly easy to pick up and put down and not lose momentum.

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