Read Sophie's Choice by William Styron Online

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Three stories are told: a young Southerner wants to become a writer; a turbulent love-hate affair between a brilliant Jew and a beautiful Polish woman; and of an awful wound in that woman's past--one that impels both Sophie and Nathan toward destruction....

Title : Sophie's Choice
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780679736370
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 562 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Sophie's Choice Reviews

  • Monty Merrick
    2019-02-26 16:41

    It seems a lot of people have a problem with the prose being pretentious and overwritten. However, I had a big problem with the unfolding of the plot. This was a strange book for me because I really wanted to like it and even thought I liked it after I was finished. It took me about a week to think back and realize, Wait! That was a crappy book. Problem number 1: I personally found Sophie to be an unbeleivable character. I just thought she was not-fascinating and contradictory, like, not in the way people are in real life. I'll spare you the tedium of elaborating. You can take my word for it or not but the worst is yet to come.Personally, I found Nathan to be a very realistic, frightening character. I know people like him in real life. But, Problem number 2: Styron tells this story from the first-person perspective of someone who has already gathered all the information, heard everyone's side of the story and studied World War Two. In other words, he seems to be telling the story in the wrong form. There are a lot of flashbacks and "Sophie's Choice" isn't revealed to us until the rest of the present-time turmoil is underway as well. As a reader, I've never felt more manipulated. The narrator, Stingo, reveals stuff little by little but only in a way that is sure to make everything more meladramatic and painful. It seems done not to prove a point but to give the book some tragic affect though it comes off beyond contrived. Not only did I feel manipulated, but I just didn't seem realistic how much information Stingo knew about Sophie, no matter how close they were. I'm not just talking about personal information, because we all have friends who tell us personal things but he tells parts of Sophie's story as though he were inside her head. It just felt like a huge narrative mistake ... more something to be expected of a book with an unreliable narrator, though we're supposed to put our full trust and faith in this narrator.Problem 3: It feels like Styron was trying to make a book that studied too many subjects at once. It's okay to tackle multiple subjects, but he doesn't handle any of them. He's trying to study psychosis and addiction, death, life, war, peace, prison camps, nazi mentality, anti-semitism, growing up, sexuality, sexuality, more sexuality wrapped into every other subject until it doesn't make any coherent sense anymore. I only decided to read this after Lie Down in Darkness which is infinitely better. I'm surprised that this is considered a great American novel and would never recommend it.

  • Aaron Mccloud
    2019-03-09 08:43

    William Styron's "Sophie's Choice" has to stand as one of the 20th century's great American novels. Based very loosely on his own experiences in the late 1940s in New York, Styron makes himself into a writer called Stingo who moves into a boarding house in Brooklyn, where he meets a Polish emigré named Sophie and her dangerously unpredictable lover, Nathan. With great delicacy and restraint, Styron traces the evolution of the friendship and love that entangles these three and which has stunning consequences.For those who have only seen the 1985 movie starring Meryl Streep (and for which she deservedly won the Best Actress Oscar), do yourself a favor and read the book. The movie was indeed wonderful, but the book is so much richer and more detailed and Styron's mastery of this compelling narrative is marvelous to behold. For those who have NOT seen the film, you will assume that "Sophie's Choice" has to do with Nathan and Stingo. Heartbreakingly, it both does and does not.Styron has an incredible gift for injecting humor into dark situations. He makes Stingo an inordinately horny, frustrated, pained, wise-cracking man in his early 20s--Stingo leaps off the pages as fully formed and utterly human. Nathan too, in a much different way, is three-dimensional and fiery with life. Sophie is rendered in more delicate tones than the two men, which makes the final chapters of the book all the more powerful. We see what she has withstood and what she has given up and it is inescapably heartbreaking.The book's ending is utterly right and the inexorable product of all that has gone before it. Styron has taken an enormously complex panoply of subjects--young manhood, post-WWII New York, mental illness, obsession, guilt, and more--and structured them into one of the most un-put-downable novels you will ever read.

  • Dolors
    2019-03-07 16:56

    “Because I could not stop for Death,He kindly stopped for me;The carriage held but just ourselvesAnd Immortality.” Emily DickinsonStyron brings the Brooklyn of the forties and its flourishing intellectualism back to life through the eyes of three characters, whose irreconcilable pasts find a common ground in the sweeping vision of optimistic America, distancing the narrative from stereotyped clichés and with the inimitable diction of a true Southern voice.A lush, descriptive prose soaked in an acerbic humorous tone with tinges of dark eroticism that partially conceals the profoundest of grief interweaves the ongoing contradictions of a Southerner’s life in the North and the collision between the remains of corrosive Puritanism and the rise of a newborn liberal society with intermittent and not always trustworthy flashbacks of mutilated lives and immeasurable suffering inflicted with perverse arbitrary during the Holocaust.Sophie, a Polish Catholic seeking refuge in the plentiful land of opportunities after being released from Auschwitz, is plagued by guilt and self-condemnation for the “unheroic” choice of sticking to the leftovers of her life rather than risking it by being politically involved for the sake of human justice. Hers is tragic story mined with shame, fear and bewilderment over the aberrations perpetrated on her with no rational cause or logical explanation. Her sole crime: being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Her everlasting punishment: the unbearable loss impregnated with the odor of burning human flesh that chokes her faltering recollections of an irredeemable past that not even the possibility of a bright future can dissipate.But when she crosses paths with Nathan, a mercurial charmer with a volatile mood and a brilliant mind who as a Jew regards himself as an authority on anguish and suffering, Sophie’s desolation dissolves into his frenetic lovemaking and obsessive tendencies. Nathan has chosen to make of collective calamity his personal crusade while prejudice runs ironically deep through his veins.Stingo, an aspiring writer from Virginia and Styron’s alter-ego, witnesses Sophie and Nathan’s downfall and meta-narrates the doomed path they create with their decisions while nurturing a platonic adoration for this tormented woman who merely subsists in the sinister limbo provided by sexual obliteration, destructive self-loathing and auto-inflicted penitence.“That death-force is gone, finished, kaput! So now love me, Sophie. Love me. Love me! Love life!” pleads a panicky Stingo trying to undo Sophie’s ultimate Choice and to urge her to listen to the plaintive melody of life that was silenced by the roaring devastation of war and unnameable monstrosity.With composed momentum and exuberant phrasing pregnant with vivid literary and classical music references Styron directs a dichotomous dialogue between the fragile lightness of harmony and the aberrant darkness of mass destruction, the purgative power of love and the menace of its delirious addiction, the flickering candle of hope and the smothering smell of death. Is life a hideous symphony played by the grotesque absurdity of serendipitous horror or the result of conscientious choices made in the fetid sinkhole of the world of the living dead, where waves of piercing agony wash all the recesses of memory, coming and going with the rhythm of cathartic writing?How can those who survived the banality of evil endure the burden of the gift of life when so many perished amidst dehumanized barbarity?Do individual choices matter in collective madness? When man is plunged into realms that transcend reason, sanity or faith and the very notion of existence becomes a ludicrous thought? When an unknown God turns his back on him and wipes out the flow of his love on all living things?“For did not Auschwitz effectively block the flow of that titanic love, like some fatal embolism in the bloodstream of mankind”?Distilling on paper the very tissues of his own conflicted being, Styron navigates the murky waters of mankind’s soul and the virulent currents of its morality to confront individual choices versus collective responsibility and the catastrophic propensity of human beings to dominate each other that goes beyond circumstance, gender, nationalities or religion.Did Sophie ever have a real choice? She asks: “At Auschwitz, tell me, where was God”?Styron replies: “Where was man?”I read to try to understand, but some things like the expendability of human life are inexplicable to me, yet I find solace in authors like Styron who made the choice of staring unblinkingly at the abyss of evilness and still found enough courage to exorcize pain through expiatory writing, which might eventually lead not to fruitless reproach but to collective healing,“excellent and fair”, like the brand new morning.

  • Lawyer
    2019-03-19 16:44

    Sophie's Choice: William Styron's Novel of Choices, Hobson's and OtherwiseThis novel was chosen by members of On the Southern Literary Trail as a group read for September, 2014.Sophie's Choice, First Ed., First Prtg., William Styron, Random House, New York, New York, 1979The gate to Auschwitz, where those in charge choose who lives and who diesLife is but a series of choices, is it not? Some easy, quickly made, given no further thought. Others are more difficult. We worry about the outcome, the consequences. After much thought, we arrive at a choice, live with it, find we worried over nothing, or become haunted by consequences we never envisioned. Call it free will.When we are very young life is much simpler, is it not? Our decisions are made for us. By our parents, our caretakers. Perhaps caregivers sounds better. We do not know about the idea of free will, so we do not worry about it. We just take what comes. We are grateful if we have kind parents and caregivers. No, that's not right, we are simply happy because that is what we learn to expect. Many children learn to expect nothing good to happen. Neither the happy children or the sad children have a choice in the matter. It is simply the way it is.A child who expected nothing good to happen, from the film "Schindler's ListBut Sophie's Choice by William Styron deals with choices made principally by his title character in a setting where the choices are given under duress, which are choices not freely made, or choices which have no satisfactory outcome, the classic Hobson's choice. Sophie is an Aryan, not Jewish. However, she is Polish. The Nazi regime despises the Poles as they did the mentally ill, physically imperfect, the gypsies, homosexuals, and dissident intellectuals. All will go to the camps. And all will only leave up through the chimneys of the crematoria.Styron's method of telling Sophie's story is a master stroke of plotting. Rather than resort to the omniscient "god" like narrator, Styron inserts himself into the story as his younger self. "Call me Stingo." Echoing the words of Herman Melville,"Call me Ishmael," Styron relates key facts of his life as a young manuscript reader at McGraw-Hill Publishing who aspires to become a writer. Following his brief stay there, he is terminated. He must move to more affordable lodging. His search lands him in a boarding house in 1947 Brooklyn, a time when trees still grew there. The older Styron writes of himself as a younger more callow figure. Stingo tells us,“To make matters worse, I was out of a job and had very little money and was self-exiled to Flatbush—like others of my countrymen, another lean and lonesome Southerner wandering amid the Kingdom of the Jews.”Oh, yes. Stingo is a Southerner. A Virginian, born and bred, with a degree from Duke University. Not only is he close to impoverished and lonesome, he is lonesome for female company. Among his scant belongings is an unopened box of condoms upon which he casts a wistful look from time to time.Stingo's feverish libido is fired by the nightly sounds of unbridled and enthusiastic celebrations of the ars amatoria from the room above his. It is difficult to sleep, to even think. To write is impossible. Bed springs squeak and a head board beats against a wall with a steadily increasing rhythm. There are brief interludes of silence and then the sounds of the circle of life slowly begin again rising to crescendoing heights. It drives Stingo to distraction.Then we meet the unabashed coupling couple. One Nathan Landau and Miss Sophie Zawistowska. Nathan is Jewish. Sophie is not. She is a Polish Catholic who survived internment at Auschwitz.Stingo walks into the boarding house to find the couple arguing. Not all is well with the two lovers upstairs.At the house Sophie and Nathan were embroiled in combat just outside the door of my room..."Don't give me any of that, you hear," I hear him yell. "You're a liar! You're a miserable lying cunt, do you hear me? A cunt!...[T]hat's what you are, you moron--a two-timing, double-crossing cunt! Spreading that twat of yours for a cheap, chiseling quack doctor. Oh, God!" he howled, and his voice rose in wild uncontained rage. "Let me out of here before I murder you--you whore!Then Nathan turned his attention on Stingo."You're from the South," he said.. "Morris told me you were from the South. Said your name's Stingo. Yetta needs a Southerner in her house to fit in with all the other funnies...Too bad I won't be around for a lively conversation, but I'm getting out of here. It would have been nice to talk with you...We'd have had great fun, shootin' the shit, you and I. We could have talked about sports. I mean Southern sports. Like lynching niggers--or coons, I think you call them down there...Too bad. Old Nathan's got to hit the road. Maybe in another life, Cracker, we'll get together. So long, Cracker! See you in another life."Odd, how those who are the targets of prejudice are among the most intolerant, is it not so?Stingo immediately goes to comfort Sophie. However, his feelings are conflicted. Although his choice is to comfort her, his wish is to possess her. He is captured by her beauty. And Styron will make it clear through the novel that men are frequently drawn to Sophie by her beauty.One important thing that the reader must realize is that Styron is dealing with two time frames. He is dealing with the present in which he is writing the book. He is dealing with the present of 1947 in which the action actually occurs. It is through this distancing that Styron is able to set up throughout the novel moments of foreshadowing. It must never be forgotten that Old Stingo/Styron knows how this tale ends. It is a flashback within a flashback.Styron gradually reveals to us that Nathan Landau is brilliant, wealthy, but mentally ill. He is capable of great charm, care, and generosity. Nathan has chosen upon meeting Sophie who is still suffering from the after effects of her internment in Auschwitz to bring her back to health and save her life. He takes her to his brother Larry who is a physician who treats her and refers her to other physicians. Upon their meeting Sophie suffers from scurvy, has endured typhus, scarlet fever, and malnutrition. She has lost her teeth. Nathan has provided perfect dentures for her. Clothing. Most important to Sophie, music in the form of the latest model phonograph and records, extremely expensive in that day. And Nathan restored her eroticism to her the sense of which was totally lost to her in Auschwitz.Nathan will also make the positive choice to befriend Stingo. Stingo will become part of a threesome, included in Nathan's and Sophie's adventures. Nathan will come to praise Stingo's writing giving him the confidence to complete what will become his first novel, Styron's Lie Down in Darkness. The novels most charming moments are when the three are together on one of Nathan's elaborately planned adventures. It has the sense of Truffaut's "Jules et Jim."Old Stingo will recall,“There are friends one makes at a youthful age in whom one simply rejoices, for whom one possesses a love and loyalty mysteriously lacking in the friendships made in after-years, no matter how genuine.” Oddly enough, Nathan's misgivings about Stingo were not totally inaccurate. Stingo has his share of Southern guilt with which to live. It seems that his family once had a slave named Artiste and he was put out to work. The value of that work was a large sum of money which came into his father's possession. His father sent Stingo his share of that burden of Southern history. It was that largesse that allowed him to continue to live in Brooklyn and write. The reveal of this information instantly brought a comparison of Stingo to Quentin Compson. "I don't hate it," Quentin said, quickly, at once, immediately; "I don't hate it," he said. "I don't hate it he thought, panting in the cold air, the iron New England dark: I don't. I don't! I don't hate it! I don't hate it!" Absalom, Absalom!, by William Faulkner. Nathan chooses to self medicate with amphetamines and cocaine. An employee at Pfizer Laboratories, he easily obtains what he needs. The "Bennies" the cocaine make him fly. It is when he begins to crash that his Mr. Hyde personality appears. Sophie can only hope that barbiturates can ease him into sleep before he emotionally abuses her or physically harms her.It is during those periods of time that Nathan abandons Sophie that Stingo becomes her confidant. Though she has lost her faith in the horror of Auschwitz, she treats Stingo as the priest in the confessional. Stingo is a safe confidant. John Steinbeck reminded us in East of Eden, “Perhaps the best conversationalist in the world is the man who helps others to talk.” Stingo helped Sophie to talk. It is in Sophie's narration to Stingo that we are gradually led to Sophie's Choice. Old Stingo/Styron repeatedly reveals bits and pieces that lead us to believe that it was horrible indeed. It was.In a novel as dark as this a reader is grateful for any brief respite of humor. Styron provides it here in young Stingo's pursuit of sexual satisfaction. There is the divine Leslie Lapidus who loves to talk dirty, and can talk the talk with expertise but cannot bring herself to do the deed. She envisions Stingo with his Southern accent as some Cavalier officer of the Confederate army.“I mean, I don't know much about the Civil War, but whenever I think of that time—I mean, ever since Gone With the Wind I've had these fantasies about those generals, those gorgeous young Southern generals with their tawny mustaches and beards, and hair in ringlets, on horseback. And those beautiful girls in crinoline and pantalettes. You would never know that they ever fucked, from all you're able to read." She paused and squeezed my hand. "I mean, doesn't it just do something to you to think of one of those ravishing girls with that crinoline all in a fabulous tangle, and one of those gorgeous young officers—I mean, both of them fucking like crazy?""Oh yes," I said with a shiver, "oh yes, it does. It enlarges one's sense of history.”Then there's Sally Ann, the Baptist, she of the stalwart hand. She leaves Stingo wrung out like a limp wash rag. Stingo complains he could have done that better himself. But we must return to Nathan, Sophie, Stingo, and Auschwitz.The last time Nathan broke with reality, he threatened to murder Sophie and Stingo. He believed they had made love. He was wrong about that.Stingo was determined to save Sophie from Nathan. He persuaded her to go with him to a farm owned by his father in Virginia. It was on that trip Sophie revealed her choice at Auschwitz. It was on that trip that Sophie made love to Stingo. And she asked if there was a Berlitz language school near there so she might learn to write in English."There are so many things that people still don't know about that place!" she said fiercely. "There are so many things I haven't even told you Stingo, and I've told you so much. You know, about how the whole place was covered with the smell of burning Jews, day and night. I've told you that. But I never even told you hardly anythng about Birkenau, when they begun to starve me to death and I go so sick I almost died...Or..." And here she paused, gazed into space, then said, "There are so many terrible things I could tell. But maybe I could write it as a novel, you see, if I learned to write English good, and then I could make people understood how the Nazis made you do things you never believed you could...I was so afraid! They made me afraid of everything! Why don't I tell the truth about myself? Why don't I write it down in a book that I was a terrible coward, that I was a filthy collaboratrice that I done everything that was bad just to save myself?" She made a savage moan, so loud above the racket of the train that heads turned nearby and eyes rolled. "Oh, Stingo, I can't stand living with these things!"Viktor E. Frankl wrote in Man's Search for Meaning “Those who have a 'why' to live, can bear with almost any 'how'.” Perhaps Sophie lost her why at Auschwitz.Birkenau: Those who do not have a why to live cannot bear any how. Is it not so? Now we come to one Thomas Hobson who was an English Stable Keeper around 1600. He always required his customers to take the horse nearest the door or none at all. It came to be known as Hobson's choice, meaning what appears to be a free choice which offers no option at all. That was Sophie's choice. Was it not so?Let us allow young Stingo to have the last word, shall we?“Someday I will understand Auschwitz. This was a brave statement but innocently absurd. No one will ever understand Auschwitz. What I might have set down with more accuracy would have been: Someday I will write about Sophie's life..., and thereby help demonstrate how absolute evil is never extinguished from the world. Auschwitz itself remains inexplicable. The most profound statement yet made about Auschwitz was not a statement at all, but a response.The query: "At Auschwitz, tell me, where was God?"And the answer: "Where was man?” I have mentioned the work of Viktor Frankl. This novel stands on equal footing with Night by Elie Wiesel, The Last of the Just by André Schwarz-Bart, and Schindler's List byThomas Keneally.William Styron won the National Book Award for Fiction in 1980. He was a finalist for the National Critics Circle Award. However, reviews were mixed. Styron was criticized for having taken on a topic to huge to be taken on in any manner other than silence, ignoring earlier works in existence and widely recognized. A narrower criticism was based on Styron having selected a Polish Catholic as his central character as the Holocaust's purpose was deemed the extermination of the Jewish Race. Styron responded in an essay in the New York Times that the Holocaust transcended anti-Semitism, that “its ultimate depravity lay in the fact that it was anti-human,” he wrote. “Anti-life.”All who suffered under the Third Reich suffered universally. Was it not so?Other MaterialsThe Lebensborn Program (view spoiler)[Lebensborn” translates to “wellspring of life” or “fountain or life.” The Lebensborn project was one of most secret and terrifying Nazi projects. Heinrich Himmler founded the Lebensborn project on December 12, 1935, the same year the Nuremberg Laws outlawed intermarriage with Jews and others who were deemed inferior. For decades, Germany’s birthrate was decreasing. Himmler’s goal was to reverse the decline and increase the Germanic/Nordic population of Germany to 120 million. Himmler encouraged SS and Wermacht officers to have children with Aryan women. He believed Lebensborn children would grow up to lead a Nazi-Aryan nation.The program ran from 1939-1945. Polish children were particular targets of the program with allegedly over 100,000 children stolen from their parents.In an effort to save her son, Jan, Sophie begged Auschwitz Commander Rudolp Hoess to enter him into the Lebensborn Program. She doubted that he ever did anything. Hoess is the only real character to appear in the pages of Sophie's Choice. He did serve as the commandant at Auscwitz. He was a defendant at the Nuremberg Trials and sentenced to death. The author gratefully acknowledges the Jewish Virtual Library for information regarding Lebensborn and Rudoplh Hoess. This library may be located at http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/. (hide spoiler)]Old Stingo's Soundtrack for SophieThis soundtrack is composed from the imagination of the author. Elisaveth Schwarzkopff sings with Edwin Fischer Brahms 11 Lieder, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=juMt1...Mozart's Piano Concerto 27 in B Flat Major, his last Piano Concerto, composed in 1791, the year of his death. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c9gvT...J.S. Bach, CantataJesu, Joy of Man's Desiring, Leopold Stokowski, directing in 1992. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S6OgZ... Now, the maturing Stingo builds his tribute.Samuel Barber: Agnus Dei (Adagio for strings) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KkObn... Performed by the Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge, UK.Puccini's Chrisantemi, the Chrysanthemums, an old piece but only recently rediscovered. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=buPv_...Aaron Copland. "Our Town." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YHABz...["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>

  • Chanda
    2019-03-11 10:47

    I was surprised by this book; it wasn't what I expected. It was less engaging than I anticipated it being and parts of it were rather difficult for me to get through. The 'growing pains' of Stingo were not where my interest was centered. I think he's kind of a pansy to be honest. I'm also surprised at the sexual content. I'm aware that he's a sexually frustrated young man, but god- get on with it! I'm not offended by sexual content, I just don't need to be drowning in it. I have never heard the word 'phallus' and all its derivatives used so frequently as I have in the week I read this. And to think- it didn't even come wrapped in black plastic....I feel like it would be bordering on sacrilegious for me to not like this book, due to the subject but the fact is- I wasn't in love with it. It was long and rambling and often, more focused on the struggling young adulthood of Stingo than on 'Sophie's Choice', as the title indicates. I wouldn't recommend this one. I know the movie made a big splash so I'm going to check it out, mostly to find which parts of the book were found movie worthy by the film makers. I imagine it would have been difficult to try and capture all of Stingo's inner struggles on film so I'm curious to see if Sophie and her struggles in an anti-semitic Poland take more of the center stage.http://bibliofilesbookrating.blogspot...

  • blakeR
    2019-03-02 09:47

    I stuck with it out of curiosity, not so much to find out what her choice was, but because this is supposedly an important American novel and I kept waiting for the "Aha!" moment when it would finally get good. Unfortunately it was just way too long. I now know what it's like to suffer from too much foreshadowing. It was so tiresome reading hint after ominous hint about what was going to happen. The narration was clumsy and over-explanatory. Do you really have to recap an event that you just narrated 50 pages anterior? Did Styron think the audience too dumb to remember the episode well enough to comprehend an explicit allusion or (god forbid) an oblique reference? Do you really have to hammer home over and over again how frustrated he is to not be having sex, just to build up one of the last scenes? I'll grant that it might have been intentional to create a narrator so unsympathetic and annoying, but the result was irritation and a strong urge to quit the book completely. Another problem with the voice was Sophie's narrative about Auschwitz. There were several moments when you saw the quotes around the paragraphs, indicating she was talking, but it was grammatically perfect. It was, as I already said, clumsy, and I can only suppose it was poor planning. Styron clearly wanted to eat his cake and have it too.There were some pretty passages mixed in. Most of the good stuff revolved around the Auschwitz narrative and the observations it afforded Styron to make about human nature and the nature of hellish war. There were some good analogies, particularly the rats-in-a-barrel (Jews) vs. rats-in-a-burning-building (all other victims). Of course, this reaffirms my opinion that it could have been a much better book by cutting 2-300 pages. I'm just going to assume that most of the "staggering," and "masterful" touches to this work (two adjectives employed in the praise section of the edition I read) were over my head.Not Bad Movie & Book [email protected]

  • K.D. Absolutely
    2019-02-28 14:55

    It was good that I missed the Oscar-nominated movie adaptation of this book when it was shown in 1985. My curiosity to find out what exactly was the meaning of the "choice" in the title, kept me leafing through the pages until it was revealed towards the end. There are actually two. Sophie, the beautiful Polish (non-Nazi) Holocaust survivor has to choose who to end up with between her two lovers, the Jewish Nathan Landau who is a crazy junkie but who brought her to America and the struggling American, Stingo who is also the narrator of the story. The other Sophie's choice should be hidden as it is the best part of the book. So if you have neither seen the movie nor read this book, please do not click this: (view spoiler)[ Sophie had to choose who between her son and daughter should go to the concentration camp and who should die by gassing. She choose her son to survive and her daughter to die. (hide spoiler)] That is an awful, awful choice that no parent would like to make as the options are both unbearable. Burn in hell, you Nazis.This is my first Styron and I am impressed. His prose is not really exceptional but it is very readable. He has just the tendency to be overly melodramatic like Pat Conroy's The Prince of Tides but at least his characters are multi-dimensional. There are only 3 main characters in this book but I could almost feel them rising up from the pages of this book. There are no clear heroes and villains among them. Styron just presented them as they are and so the first choice - who is the better man - should have been very hard for Sophie. In the end, I thought that her decision is unwise but having it the other way around would not result to the same impact that Styron probably wanted his readers to feel.My favorite character is Sophie and her best part is in the scene when she told Stingo that she steals menus from restaurants because she likes to take them home as souvenirs. This was Styron's way of showing the quirkiness of her character at the start then he totally transformed her afterwards by showing what she has to endure in living with Nathan and in the end, revealing what she had to go through in order to come in the US and fleeing her war-torn country, Poland.The theme is racism in all fronts: blunt vs subtle, past vs present, external vs. internal. Blunt, past and external is the Holocaust that happened in Europe. Subtle, present, internal are the many forms of racial discrimination that are still happening, in the US and even in other countries, even here in the Philippines. My only little complaint is the too much of use of F word and too much sex scenes that they could muddle the meaning of the story because sometimes I felt I was reading an erotica. I thought that Styron went a little overboard on these. Otherwise, it is a story with a strong message, heart-wrenching plot, well-developed characters and shocking ending that would be enough reason for you to continue reading. This is a long 626-page read but it is definitely worth your time.I should read Styron's more popular work, The Confessions of Nat Turner soon. He is so good I can't wait to have a second serving.

  • Cheryl
    2019-02-16 13:39

    Confessional monologues to serve as counter narratives. Flashbacks from an American boarding house to Auschwitz. An intriguing love triangle. Secrets and lies unfolding with each new chapter. Sex, written with meticulousness. This is how Styron gets you to stick with this intricately woven and stylistically stupendous novel.For synchronous with the stunning effect she made on my eyes as she stood there arrested in the doorway--blinking at the gloom, her flaxen hair drenched in the evening gold--I listened to myself give a thin but quite audible and breathless half-hiccup. I was still moronically in love with her.Madness redefined. This is madness traced from characters’ thoughts, placed delicately on the page, and transformed into drama. Psychosexual drama. The trauma experienced by a Polish woman at Auschwitz, the ideological dilemmas a Southerner-turned-New Yorker and writer must confront, the double life an intellectual Northerner must live, are all compiled to highlight the psychological feat of this novel. It is a book about “1947, that cradle year of psychoanalysis in postwar America.”There is only so much you can say about a book that almost everyone has read or seen on the big screen. But I will say this. Even with the angst and stupidity and trauma and depression and anxiety and ideology and drunken stupor and disdain of life and craft and art, each character seems to grow. With each turn of the page, something new develops, some story unwinds, some secret is revealed. This is what I liked most about this book—even with the sad ending. Plus, the telling signs that a book has deeply influenced me: when I start to see the characters in real people, when I’m sad to return the book to the library because I’m certain that it is one I must own, when I’m reminded of some writing technique and I think, Styron!There is something neurotic, melancholic and strangely pleasing about this novel—even with its gilded prose and festooned paragraphs that at first strikes you as a writer trying too hard. Yes, here, tremendous effort was put forth to write an ambitious novel. Here, the effort was successful. Now I must see the movie…

  • Himanshu
    2019-03-07 12:43

    A Study in the Faithlessness of HopeOK, first of all, let's get something over with. A young amatuer (not so Southern) writer comes to Brooklyn, meets a Polish émigré, falls straight away in love with her. But this Holocaust victim, tattooed on her hand, in her heart and soul, Auschwitz's purgatory, is hopelessly in an undetachable love, lust, anguish, masochistic, and redeeming relationship with a Northern Jew. And this prejudiced yet genius of a charmer, suffers from fatal capricious fits. Having found a friend/brother/mentor in this Golem, our writer finds himself amidst this tempest of a threesome. Oh and also, being a 22 year old hapless virgin, he is quite horny, plus there's a lot of heart-wrenching stuff from the holocaust which we all have heard about. All of this might sound like an avaricious formula of a super hit plot from Styron, thus finding in it a large section of haters which, quite frankly and obviously, misses the complete picture. Because really, there's a lot more and through this wanting review, I attempt to venture into some of that.After turning the last page of this book, like many others, I too was left with an emptiness, but the strange thing about it was that I didn't feel like filling it with anything. Especially hope, the hypocritical, stalker of a wily worm hope which creeps in like a disguised devil to fill you up with a sense of redemption, holding in abeyance the banal devil this life is. So, inevitably when the gruesome reality strikes, destroying all hope, you find yourself stranded and deserted, because with all your might you were holding onto this faith, but now you've lost it, only to find it creeping in again.Not all of us have to face such ordeal with life, but Sophie had to. Being a survivor of one of the darkest chapters in the history of mankind, Auschwitz, there are some traits which we would all expect in her: Anxiety, paranoia, inferiority complex, melancholy, apathy, they are all there, but there's love too. Mad, unreasonable love for her savior Nathan, who loves her the same and claims her to be his own. But, the humbug stability that Sophie yearns for, is never to be found. You know why? Because of hope, that someday everything will be alright knowing in her heart that that's not possible, rendering herself ever on the verge of ending her perdurable life, which seemed so irrelevant, precarious, merciless.“I have learned to cry again and I think perhaps that means I am a human being again. Perhaps that at least. A piece of human being but yes, a human being.” - SophiePerhaps, she was not a human being before, because what she saw and went through was not human? NOT HUMAN? We really need to understand that it's only humans who are capable of such atrocities and it's only humans who can endure them. As Styron rightly puts it “For did not Auschwitz effectively block the flow of that titanic love, like some fatal embolism in the bloodstream of mankind”?One of the things I particularly liked about this book is the first person narrative of the amatuer 22 year old Stingo, because perhaps the facts that he hadn't seen much of this brute world, had carried the guilt of his ancestral slavery, had found first real friends in Sophie and Nathan, altogether gave an indispensable fresh voice to this tragic tale. Of course, the credit goes to the brilliance of William Styron.In the last few pages, Styron reveals the choice that Sophie had to make and live with. The choice that drives her remaining life with unendurable guilt because she really couldn't choose. “Don’t make me choose, I can’t choose.”. But afterall she did choose: to breathe, to salvage, to hope that someday the meaning of it all will reveal itself and she will "understand". (view spoiler)[But, she couldn't take it any longer and let it go in the end. (hide spoiler)].While I'm pretty sure, I'm never going to meet people like Sophie, Nathan, or Stingo, but having known them in these last few days, they will forever be the three unforgettable strangers I almost "understood".

  • Matt
    2019-02-25 13:36

    The term “Sophie’s Choice,” which derives from a critical plot point in William Styron’s eponymous novel, has become a prominent American idiom. You’ve probably heard it in your daily life. It was the subject of a relatively well-received movie starring Meryl Streep. Certainly, you’ve come across it if you’re a fan of The Simpsons. (A Sophie’s Choice joke is the kicker to Season 10, Episode 5’s “When You Dish Upon a Star”). Despite its prevalence in the cultural landscape, I’m not going to assume you know the parameters of the choice. (I’ve been wrong – cough Moby Dick cough – in my spoiler assumptions before). I will say, though, that knowing those details won’t in any way effect your enjoyment of this novel. I’ve known the twist for years; the mistake I made was in thinking it was the essence of Sophie’s Choice. It is not. Sophie’s Choice is nearly overwhelming. It is wildly ambitious, chronically unfocused, irritating and ostentatious, precisely detailed, overly-written, soaring, gutter-dwelling, psychologically acute, digressionary, complex, utterly narcissistic, and an absolute masterpiece.This book is the best kind of sprawling mess there is. It is all over the place, as though Styron’s many and obvious talents just spilled out on the page and spread in every direction. This book made me laugh. It made me cringe. Part of it made me embarrassed for Styron (or the editor). Other parts made me extremely envious. Classics are usually works of art you must wrestle with. This is a classic. The story is set in post-war New York City (beautifully wrought) in 1947. It is narrated in the first person by a young, transplanted southerner who calls himself Stingo. It bears mentioning, I suppose, that Stingo is a thinly veiled version of Styron himself. Like Styron, Stingo came north from the Tidewater to pursue writerly ambitions. Like Styron, Stingo works at McGraw-Hill. Both are terminated from that position by the same act of defiance. Stingo is working on a novel that bears more than a passing resemblance to Styron’s Lie Down in Darkness. Stingo also – no surprises here – is fascinated by Nat Turner, and eventually writes a novel about him. Stingo – though not ever, I assume, Styron – meets two remarkable people while staying at a NYC boarding house. They are Nathan, a young, brilliant Jewish man who works at Pfizer; and Sophie, a Polish woman who survived the camp at Auschwitz. From the start, Stingo is both intensely attracted to the couple (especially Sophie) and repelled by the violent tumultuousness they openly display. Living beneath them, he hears them making love and fighting, both with passionate intensity. Very shortly, he becomes obsessed with them. The plot, such as it is, is the gradual revealing of the many secrets shared by Sophie and Nathan (including, obviously, Sophie’s titular selection). To say that things are moving towards a single dramatic peak, however, isn’t really accurate. This book is a meander more than anything, equal parts frustrating and breathtaking. Early on, for instance, Stingo takes a fair amount of time to describe to us the publishing job – reading manuscripts and writing summaries – that he is shortly to lose. Included in these passages are a number of “excerpts” from Stingo’s work product, highlighting Stingo’s darkly humorous critiques. What do these pages have to do with anything? Absolutely nothing. But that is the book’s modus. It goes where it wants, when it wants. Towards the end, right when the endgame begins, Stingo/Styron pulls back on the reins for a curious four-page interlude in which Stingo bemoans his courtship with Mary-Alice, a girl who only gave him hand-jobs (rest assured each hand-job is described).Your tolerance, and response, to Sophie’s Choice is going to depend on your tolerance of Stingo. He is a navel gazer of the first order. There are dueling tragedies at play in this novel. First, the tragedy of the Holocaust, as symbolized by Sophie and Nathan. And second, the tragedy of Stingo’s virginity, represented by numerous lengthy set-pieces in which Stingo tries – but fails – to get laid. All tragedy is local, I suppose. It should also be noted that Stingo/Styron is among the more verbose storytellers you’ll encounter. There is never a moment in this novel in which Styron uses one word when five words will do; for that matter, he won’t use one normal word when one obscure one can be used. (See, e.g., the use of avoirdupois). The Confessions of Nat Turner is Styron’s most controversial novel, delving as it does into the mind of a slave. I’ve only just started Confessions, but I cannot imagine it topping Sophie’s Choice is terms of sheer audacity. Many times while reading I actually paused to ponder: did he really just do that? The Holocaust within this novel’s world is just one of many realities that bleed into each other. Styron does make any effort to partition of the all-time deadly-serious Auschwitz scenes from the Stingo-is-sexually-frustrated scenes. Instead, Styron veers from one to the other with a cavalier sense of I don’t give a damn. The passage of time allows for human tragedy to become literary drama. The Holocaust has not been immune to this. Even so, the friction between the fictional and real-life elements that Styron mixes is so jarring that it can uncomfortably draw attention to itself. There are two incredible, lengthy set pieces within Auschwitz, one of which includes a razor-intense encounter with Commandant Rudolf Hoess. There is also a marathon sex scene that goes on for three pages.If this review seems conflicted, it’s because I am conflicted. I was conflicted while reading it. Page to page, my forbearance towards Styron spiked and dipped. When I put the book down, though, it didn't leave me right away. It lingered on into the next book I started, which felt pallid and lifeless after the lapel-grasping of Sophie’s Choice. This is a book that resonates. It is mad and loopy; it is powerful and passionate. It is the kind of book that I want to read again for the first time.

  • Petra X
    2019-03-17 16:57

    One of those books everyone else loved and I loathed. I thought the book was pointless and overwrought, rather like Meryl Streep's acting in the film of the same name.

  • Elise
    2019-02-18 14:37

    I finally finished it, yes all 600 pages, and my reaction to "Sophie's Choice" is mixed. I spent years urged by friends to read this book, but I was afraid of what I would find in its pages, especially being a mom. It turns out my fears were completely unfounded. This book is not at all what I thought it would be--a moving story of one woman's time at Auschwitz and the awful things she endures there as a mother. That description covers only about 10% of what happens in this novel. "Sophie's Choice," first of all, was a recollection told mostly through the perspective of Stingo, an aspiring writer who befriends Sohpie and her abusive Jewish boyfriend, Nathan, in 1947 Brooklyn, NY, where they all live in the same apartment complex. At first, I found the young 20-something, Stingo, annoying because of his obsession with trying to get laid. But then, after I started to get further into the novel, I became grateful for the comic relief that his perspective offered. However, it was also painfully obvious that Stingo was indeed William Styron, so the perspective was at times overly self-indulgent and out of place. That said, I am well aware that Stingo is here to represent the naive American juxtaposed with the worldly wise and world weary European perspective of Sophie (a Polish Catholic), and that Stingo brings with him the American South's dark chapter of the history of slavery to parallel the Holocaust. But frankly, as one more than familiar with these themes, one who specializes in American literature, did Styron really have to be so redundant about it? This book was screaming for a good editor to lop off at least 200 pages from it's heft, most of which didn't add to the narrative, especially the parts that read like Stingo's dissertation, secondary sources about the Holocaust and all. The other problem I have with this narrative is characterization, especially the characters of both Sophie and Nathan. There is so much missing from Sophie's characterization (maybe because she is viewed through the eyes of horny Stingo), and it keeps me from being fully emotionally connected to her throughout the narrative, and this for me is the novel's major shortcoming. And frankly, I just despised Nathan. I know Sophie is a masochistic victim who lived through some serious horrors. I know she made some choices she will never forgive herself for in the past, and so Nathan is the punishment she has inflicted on herself. But what the hell is Nathan's problem (besides the ones I won't mention here because I believe spoilers have no place in a book review)? He is an American born Jew, born into wealth and privilege, enough wealth that he can actually help himself to get better. Some of the scenes between Sophie and Nathan were more disturbing and horrific than the ones that took place at Auschwitz. Is that really what Styron hoped to accomplish? This story is as much about lies as it is about choices, lies that we hide behind to protect ourselves. So what happens when we confess the truth? That is a question worth thinking about. In spite of the fact that this book is very well written with regard to Styron's use of language and the rhythm of his prose (thus, the 3 star rating), there was just too much hype preceding the book. Likewise, there was way too much build up in the book itself regarding the nature of Sophie's actual "choice" too. Then when he finally gets there, Styron glosses over it, and that was the one place I would have liked him to linger. That detracted from the emotional effect of it, at least for this reader. Now I look forward to seeing the film. Hopefully, it cleaned up some of Styron's messes.

  • Alex
    2019-03-15 14:41

    Styron gets knocked for two reasons. The first is that he's an appropriater: in his Pulitzer-winning Confessions of Nat Turner, he appropriated the famous slave revolutionary's story, and here he's taken the Holocaust. As he's neither black nor Jewish, some black and Jewish people are like wtf are you doing with my history. The second knock is that he writes clear and exciting prose with a lot of fancy words, leading Martin Amis to call him a "thesaurus of florid commonplaces.""In my career as a writer," says Stingo, Sophie's Choice's narrator, "I have always been attracted to morbid themes - suicide, rape, murder, military life, marriage, slavery." (I love that marriage is just slipped in there.) Stingo is about to write a novel about Nat Turner, so it's not a stretch to call him a stand-in for Styron. James Baldwin, a friend and defender, said that "He writes out of reasons similar to mine - about something that hurt him and frightened him." What hurts and frightens Styron is evil, and Sophie's Choice is about evil. He's shaken by the reality of it. Stingo figures out exactly what he was doing on the morning that Sophie arrived at Auschwitz: eating a banana on a beautiful day in North Carolina. This is his point, repeated often: at any given moment, while you're living your mundane life, someone in the world is capable of the deepest evil. American slavery looms over the story: Styron would like us to remember that we're sitting around in a country built on genocide, acting horrified about what the Nazis did. Stingo is supported in part by a treasure found in an ancestor's basement; the treasure is the proceeds from the sale of a slave. The third character in the book is Nathan, Sophie's lover, and he embodies this human schizophrenia literally. He's unstable: often charming, occasionally careening into violent madness. (view spoiler)[He turns out to be a paranoid schizophrenic. (hide spoiler)] Here's humanity according to Styron. In the end, (view spoiler)[Sophie commits suicide with Nathan. (hide spoiler)] Did I mention that this book is a bummer?What was happening that morning as Sophie, our destroyed heroine, arrived at Auschwitz was the deepest evil Styron can think of. You probably know what the choice was, right? I'd never read the book or seen the movie but I've been using it as a joke for years: "Should we get burritos or fried chicken for lunch?" "Oh no, this is like Sophie's Choice." The ending of this book upset me so badly that I feel awful for ever making that joke. I've rarely been so crushed by a novel. Styron is less interested in Sophie's choice than in the fact that she was forced to make it. Here's the worst thing in the world, he says. Styron didn't make the choice up; he got it from Hannah Arendt, who says she got it from Camus. But could it happen? Of course it could; if we can't prove this exact story, we have ample proof of stories like it. Who could do it? Could you do it? Could someone be doing it right now?Styron believes that evil can happen anywhere, any time, to anyone. It could be happening now, as you read this review. Maybe you're eating a banana. You are not intrinsically better than slaveowners or Nazis. You're lucky that as yet you haven't had to decide whether to resist or submit. He asks:The query: "At Auschwitz, tell me, where was God?"And the answer: "Where was man?”Styron would like us to make sure we're prepared to be there.

  • Amber
    2019-03-16 13:39

    By the time I learned the "true" story and the big reveal I just didn't care anymore. It is horrible that this is based on millions of true stories but this particular story could have been more succinct.

  • Moses Kilolo
    2019-03-12 12:36

    First, I liked everything about this book: Stingo, Nathan, & Sophie.And the way everything that went down in Auschwitz is narrated here is very heartbreaking, just as is the relationship between Nathan and Sophie. But the question that resounds, as Styron asks, is: At Auschwitz, tell me, where was God. Well, we may blame God as much as we wish, or even do as Sophie did and say 'FUCK God and all his Hande Werk.' Or resolve to the thought that stuff like Auschwitz makes us lose faith in humanity, and hate life and Him... as Sophie did. But again comes Styron's response; At Auschwitz, where was man?This is a book that provides a heartfelt account of one of histories darkest era, as well as what such happening do to people, even after so many years. Such Damage, I think, at times, if not most, or always, may as well be permanent. Possibly, if Sophie survived it, she did not survive the damage caused, the loss suffered, the pain in the memory, of Jan, of Eva, of what could have been and never will...

  • Nathan Oates
    2019-02-23 12:34

    I read this book at Amy's prompting and found it one of the most complex reading experiences of my life. At times, I hated this book: the elaborate, excessive prose style, the occasional and hideous homophobia (not excusable by it's placement in the consciousness of the character, in my opinion), the adolescent attitude toward women and sex (again, not excusable) and yet, despite all these moments of frustration, this is an immense and beautiful and even great novel. The writing about the holocaust is riveting, horrifying and heartbreaking (I felt like vomitting from horror once or twice, felt my stomach clenching many times). It is extremely rare to find a book that manages to evoke such a complex of emotions and responses over the course of 550 pages, and this is the book's triumph: even as it is about violence, despair, terror, madness and death, it contains more life, more beauty, more love and emotion than almost any book I have ever read. All it's flaws (and there are many) merely add to the complexity of the characters, the style, the subject. Contemporary writers should look to this book for evidence of the capacities of the novel to engage with life in all its muddled, vicious evil and find a way to make beauty from it.

  • William1
    2019-02-16 12:53

    I've read it twice, maybe three times. I hope to read it again someday.

  • Nadine Doolittle
    2019-03-08 16:57

    Obviously, one star is a bit dramatic. I didn't like this book but it was beautifully written--Styron is no slouch with words--and the characters and situation were vividly drawn. The "choice" Sophie had to make was a hellish one and unlike some reviewers here, I was deeply affected and I thought it explained a lot about her character. By contrast the lives and issues of Stingo and Nathan seem thin and pathetic. Which they were. Which was the problem. A writer once said (I think it was Vonnegut) give your readers at least one character to root for. I couldn't root for any of the three main characters. Nathan was mentally ill, Stingo was insufferably self-absorbed. Even poor Sophie, (who was a brilliantly-realized character) was so without fight or self-respect by the time we meet her, that Stingo's banal lust for her bordered on necrophilia. I don't know. Perhaps in the context of post-War America and the self-hate citizens must have felt...perhaps this is a reflection of that time. Styron was suffering from manic-depression at the time he wrote it. I think that accounts for a great deal. I rarely throw books across the room. I threw this one.

  • Erika
    2019-03-18 08:51

    Well, I finished it. And I despised every moment of it, from the writing to the characters. Maybe I just don't understand or appreciate a writing style such as Styron's, but I just found it incredibly tedious and tiresome to wade through all of Stingo's incessant (and lust-fueled) rambling. I hated him and in turn ended up absolutely hating Sophie and Nathan. When you reach the climatic point in the novel and you don't feel even the slightest twinge of anything other than, thank god this means it is almost over, then you know that you should just call it a day and admit failure. So, yes. Sophie's Choice. Huge, gigantic and miserable no go for me.

  • Andrei Tamaş
    2019-03-13 09:41

    O reflecţie marca 3 ianuarie 2016, dată la care se împlinesc două săptămâni de când n-am mai citit beletristică: acum zece minute mi-am terminat ţigara şi, fumând-o, cum era linişte, căzui într-o adâncă meditaţie pe seama cărţilor în trecut citite şi care -mai mult sau mai puţin conştient!- s-au încrustat adânc în conştiinţa mea. Mi-am adus aminte deci, subit, de Nathan Landau, personajul cheie al romanului "Alegerea Sofiei". La momentul citirii cărţii, acest maniaco-depresiv mi-a lăsat o impresie peiorativ uluitoare. Nu-i puteam înţelege accesele de gelozie, nu puteam înţelege de ce trăieşte în trecutul Sofiei, nu puteam înţelege cum de ea îl acceptă ca unica ei salvare, deşi era adesea bătută în ultimul hal. Nu puteam -in fine!- înţelege contrastul dintre manierele alese -ba chiar aristocratice!- ale lui Nathan şi accesele sale distructive. Cugetarea mea anterioară -aflată într-o strânsă legatură cu procesul de cunoaştere aposteriorică- m-a făcut ca acum, când subiectul cărţii nu mai este atât de bine conturat, însă caracterul personajelor rămâne imacular, să văd în Nathan Landau un prototip uman demn de toată mila şi iubirea...Americanu' ar spune cu siguranță "WOW!!" și romanu' autentic " 'ai să-mi bag p**a ce bună a fost!" În fapt, cartea asta m-a ținut captivat și am lăsat-o din mână doar pentru că trebuia să iau aferentele pauze de masă și țigară (deși uneori fumam răsfoind paginile). Atmosfera m-a introdus în New York-ul anului 1947, în plina șubrezenie economică de după război, unde Stingo, personaj principal și narator (deci narațiune la persoană I), era angajat ca redactor la o mare editură. Este concediat ulterior pentru un "exces de zel" (disprețuia toate manuscrisele care-i picau în mână) și se retrage în Brooklyn, unde are de gând să conceapă un roman și să-l trimită apoi unei mari edituri. Întâmplarea face ca, în casa unde se mutase cu chirie, s-o întâlnească pe Sofia Zawistowska, o poleneza supraviețuitoare a lagarului de la Auschwitz, și pe iubitul ei, Nathan Landau, un tânăr intelectual evreu. Stingo are să fie cel mai bun prieten al lor. Se îndrăgostește de Sofia și devine partenerul de discuții academice al lui Nathan. Doamne! Ce iubire pătimașă între cei doi -Nathan și Sofia- și ce crize devastatoare îl atacă uneori pe evreu. Se constată ulterior că acesta este complet nebun, că are accese de furie și adeseori vrea să-și ucidă iubita pe motive de gelozie. Narațiunea scoate subtil întreaga poveste a Sofiei de la Auschwitz, întreaga atrocitate nazistă la care nu au fost supuși doar evreii, ci și polonezii, cehii și rușii. O remarcă a deținutului stereotip, citând din roman, ar fi: "Nenorocirea marchează sufletul până în adâncurile lui cu disprețul, dezgustul, chiar ura față de sine și sentimentul de vinovăție, pe care crima ar trebui, logic, să le stârnească, dar nu o face." În confesiunea Sofiei asupra lugubrelor zile de la Auschwitz apare și Rudolf Hoss (eu unul știam de Hess, dar în carte e Hoss), comandantul lagarului, un comandant al cărui spirit sobru se reflectă în crimele sale ( "majoritatea crimelor atribuite militarilor au fost săvârșite cu sfatul și consimtamanul autorităților civile"). Apare și un aspect psihologic al criminalilor în masă și anume faptul că ei se consideră victime, deoarece au văzut crima cu ochii lor și, prin urmare, au tras destule: "Așa că, în loc să zică : ce oribile suferințe le-am provocat oamenilor, asasinii erai capabili să exclame: ce orori a trebuit să privesc în timp ce îmi îndeplineam îndatoririle; cât de dureros apăsa datoria pe umerii mei!". Dacă ar fi să aduc în discuție măcar 10% din psihologia romanului, mi-ar trebui pe puțin zece pagini, dar nu îmi stă în fire. Totuși, remarci ca "îmi vine în minte numele unui fenomen obscen despre care am citit [...]: nevoia de a folosi un limbaj obscen adesea întâlnit la femeile tinere" (În context era o femeie evreică, foarte vulgară și, aparent, o curvă nobilă, dar, înaintea unui eventual act sexual, ea exclamă : "Sunt virgină!". Replică protagonistului: "Nu-i nicio supărare, crede-mă, dar am impresia că ești o virgină foarte bolnavă!" ).Romanul este totodată o confesiune lăuntrică: autorul scriind după mai bine de 20 de ani cele întâmplate (căci este, practic, o autobiografie), retraieste, prin "memoria afectivă", toate acele momente. "... bazată pe raționamentul că dacă viață e o manifestare a râului, atunci e necesar să-i grăbim sfârșitul" => "Singurul aspect neprevăzut de mine, observă el, a fost că voi fi readus la viață în dementul asta de secol douăzeci." Din confesiunea Sofiei, referitor la zilele de la Auschwitz : " somnul oferea unica scăpare certă de chinurile necruțătoare și, destul de curios, genera de obicei vise plăcute, deoarece oamenii aflați atât de aproape de demență ar fi devenit nebuni de legat dacă, scăpând de un coșmar, ar fi trebuit să înfrunte altul în somn." Ura față de lume, după o viață chinuită: "singurul motiv care ne facem să considerăm sinuciderea un gest imoral este sentimentalismul ăsta idiot, inamolit în etosul iudeo-creștin" sau "Îmi vine uneori să cred că viața nu-i decât o capcană hidoasă!". Se înțelege că, neavând pe nimeni altcineva pe lume (părinții, soțul și cei doi copii ai Sofiei fiind uciși de către naziști), îl iubea pe Nathan că ochii din cap...Titlul cărții e dat după final, un final sublim despre care nu mă cred în stare să scriu, un final care ar trebui să fie intitulat "Un studiu despre înfrângerea durerii"...10+! Andrei Tamaș,14 august 2015

  • Claudia
    2019-02-28 10:57

    "Manchmal glaube ich, das Leben ist eine einzige abscheuliche Falle"Die Geschichte ist definitiv um 200 Seiten zu lang. Man hätte aus dieser ungewöhnlichen Dreierkonstellation Stingo-Nathan-Sophie was Großes schaffen können, wenn man sich nicht so sehr auf Stingos notgeilen Dauerzustand epischen Ausmaßes konzentriert hätte. Zum Schluss kommt er doch noch zum Zug und man möchte fast erleichtert aufatmen. Auf der Rückseite des Buches wird er als "liebeshungriger Schriftsteller" beschrieben. HAHA!Stingo, Nathan und Sophie werden im heißen New Yorker Sommer 1947 zu Freunden. Die verletzliche Sophie hat Auschwitz nur knapp überlebt. In einer Bibliothek trifft sie auf den charismatischen Nathan, der sich an Ort und Stelle nach einem Zusammenbruch Sophies, ihrer annimmt. Sehr schnell werden die beiden ein Liebespaar. Beide verbindet ein dunkles Geheimnis. Sophie meint, in Auschwitz schwere Schuld auf sich geladen zu haben und Nathan scheint liebevoll und grausam zugleich zu sein. Diese beiden wandeln ständig am Rande des Abgrunds und auch Stingo, der hoffnungslos in Sophie verliebt ist, wird in diesen unheilvollen Strudel mit hinein gezogen. Sophie´s Charakter bleibt ziemlich blass. Dazu muss man aber sagen, dass sie ihr ganzes Leben die Opferrolle innehatte. Benutzt vom Vater, von Widerständlern, von Höß, von Vergewaltigern - da kann man nicht als Lichtgestalt glänzen. Die Lichtgestalt ist in ihren Augen Nathan, den sie bedingungslos liebt, ihm immer wieder seine Gewaltausbrüche und schlimmen Beleidigungen verzeiht. Sie gibt sich ihm in sexuellen Ausschweifungen hin; nur so kann sie ihre "Schuld" für Stunden vergessen.Stingo kommt letztendlich auf Nathans Geheimnis. Zu spät.Mir hat die Essenz dieser Geschichte sehr gut gefallen. Dieses Drama, das sich zwischen den Hoffnungslosen abspielt. Weniger "Stingo" wäre hier mehr gewesen.

  • Thomas
    2019-02-26 16:55

    Sophie's Choice revolves around three characters and three story lines. The protagonist, Stingo, is an aspiring writer from the South who stumbles upon Sophie and Nathan when moving into his apartment in New York. Sophie serves as the beautiful and damaged love interest, a Polish woman and a survivor of Auschwitz, a Nazi concentration camp. Nathan, a handsome and successful biologist, brings both darkness and light into their lives. Stingo's journey as an individual and a writer, Sophie's troubled past, and Sophie and Nathan's tumultuous relationship all come together in a convoluted, intensely passionate triangle that will break readers' hearts.This was my first time reading Styron. While his writing was not as superb in the literary sense as that of other authors, his prose conveyed all of the emotion essential to the story. Sophie's Choice reads like an addictive drama, sucking people in and slowly latching onto their hearts - and at the end, all heck breaks loose. The development of the characters and the conflict amazed me as well. This book reminded me of Wuthering Heights, as Styron masterfully manipulated the narration and the timeline of events by using flashbacks. This allowed him to foreshadow certain occurrences and keep other revelations secret.One minor issue I had while reading was the amount of sex. I understand that Styron included it to portray the mindset of a twenty-something-year-old man and to incorporate humor into his work, but at times it felt gratuitous. The book could have been more concise and effective if someone had eliminated some of Stingo's sexual thoughts and explorations.However, I would recommend Sophie's Choice to everybody because of how beautifully and powerfully Styron tackled themes like oppression, mental illness, abusive relationships, etc. Get ready to cry, or at least feel serious heartbreak when you reach the end. It speaks to the evil mankind is capable of, for anyone to have to make anything similar to Sophie's choice.*review cross-posted on my blog, the quiet voice.

  • Laurel
    2019-03-10 09:39

    There is a lot going on in this book. There is the story of Sophie, a beautiful Polish woman deeply scarred by her past and the incredibly heart-wrenching choice she was forced to make while a prisoner at Auschwitz during the holocaust. There's the story of her present day, turbulent love affair with an often violent, drug-addicted man and all the many complexities involved in an abusive relationship. There's also a hint of the irony of segregation and racism in post WWII America. And there's an aspiring author named Stingo in the middle of it all, revealing to us each of these stories through his eyes and ears, all the while trying REALLY hard to get laid. I was a bit surprised by all the semi-erotica in this book. I understood its purpose, but it just felt slightly odd to me in a book about the holocaust somehow. The author seemed particularly obsessed with the F word. For one who is normally very eloquent and vivid in his descriptions, it seemed he could find no other word to describe any of the sex scenes. Half a dozen times and I would have barely noticed, but the word pops up what felt like a hundred times. I could have done with a slight tone down on that front.Anyway, the real story, of course, is Sophie. Her family history, how she ended up in a concentration camp (she is not Jewish), the almost unfathomable decision she is forced to make while there, and how this secret changes who she is. The pain she feels, particularly in one scene, is so palpable it is hard even for the reader to bare. If you have seen the movie, then you know what Sophie's choice is. If you haven't, I won't say, as it is not revealed until the end of the book. I will instead simply say that the emotions stirred from its telling are just as intense and heart wrenching as the film.This book is full of volatile, raw emotion and is difficult to get through at times. However, while lengthy and flawed, I found that the compassion and humanity felt throughout made it a worthwhile and very moving read.

  • Wordsmith
    2019-03-09 10:49

    Read in the early eighties, this was a book that affected me in a profound, deeply personal way. Styron, along with so many authors of his generation, were the guides of the map that charted the course of a winding, long path. I found myself to be one of the willing seekers to their grail, inhaling all as I followed along. There I was, traipsing, skipping, meandering, flying, all the while, reading words into song, and these were from the Masters, these Mozart's and Beethoven's and Liszt's of STORY, they being ones I thought Immortal, crafting words into song that began with premise, then hit that high note, thus fulfilling their promise of a story sung to it's ultimate completion. Note: This is me making reflections as I am now, at fifty, looking back at the me I was then, at twenty: To me, these sung words of story were not only akin to but actually WERE *better* than opera—Uris, Mailer, Heller, Roth, Oates, Irving, Hemingway—I could go on, naming, forever and a day.William Styron was a part of this group. Giants, all of them. This is one book *not the movie* the book, all readers should read.If you find yourself sitting on the fence regarding THIS MASTERPIECE or this is one that you have been considering; yet still, there you sit atop that fence, holding back for whatever inconceivable reason, here's my attempt to tempt with a slight curve into coercion, call it a shade of persuasion when I say please —consider this:SOPHIE'S CHOICEWas Awarded The Pulitzer PrizeWas Awarded The National Book Award Is On The Guardian's 1,000 Novels Everyone Must Read (Annotated List)Is 82 On Le Monde's 100 Books Of The Century (Annotated List)Is 56 in Best English Language Fiction Of The 20th Century (Annotated List)Is 92 In Modern Library's 100 Best Novels: The Boards List (Annotated List)A Must Read imho

  • Laura
    2019-02-20 10:00

    First, I ran the race and finished! This author doesn't mind taking his time. The plot is adventurous to say the least. The story is the account of.....drum roll....wait for it......the happenings in NYC, the South and a German Concentration camp. So, maybe I should give Styron a break on the length of the book. Why did it take me a long time to read? This book emotionally drained me and I literally could not read big chunks out of this without feeling my family would suffer from my depressed manner.

  • Sarah
    2019-03-10 14:59

    I know, I know. At the rate I'm going, I'll soon have abandoned more books than I've finished. I'm just not so keen on contemporary literature, I suppose. Fiction, for the most part, has become indistinguishable from magazine writing: pretentious yet self-deprecating, staccato ("relatable") language, a smattering of intellectual/poetic adornment, some social commentary, and the contents of your medicine cabinet--to show that this is an intimate communication between us. Sophie's Choice is all that. And all that aside, I was really loving it...to begin with.I watched the film when I was very young and I, along with the rest of the world population, pleaded with the television, "Leave him! Sophie, leave him! Marry Stingo! He's the one who really cares about you!" Now 31 years old, I know the power of a Nathan. I too loved a nurturer/sadist. After he left me, I went into a deep depression. And after that, I met George. George is Stingo of that film,--his views, his experiences. He even looks a little like Peter MacNicol. (He hates it when I say that.) Though less gentle than my boyfriend, and less gentle than MacNicol's portrayal, this character (the narrative voice) evoked my boyfriend,--to begin with,--like no one since Sebastian Flyte. I love Stingo. I've always loved Stingo. So you can imagine my utter heartbreak as the he gradually revealed his jaded, pervy thoughts.Very early in the story there's a rape scene. The assault happens in public, in the dark, on the subway. It was tastefully, poignantly written, I must say. In no way would I characterize it as erotica. I was particularly struck by the way it was subtly paralleled against an earlier scene where Stingo pines for an unknown woman outside his window. Like Stingo, the rapist is anonymous. Like Stingo, his lust has been driven "underground," so to speak. Again, I say, well done. This book, as we all know, is largely about guilt. I certainly don't begrudge a man looking out his window at fully dressed women in broad daylight. Stingo is a good man. But there's a monster in us all. The character is made all the more appealing for his candor.What started to bother me, however, was the way he kept harping on the notion that the rape would have been less traumatic had it been less veiled. I get it: Her attacker could be anyone, anyone on the street, in the halls of her building. That is indeed terrifying. Secrets do, indeed, fester. But the way Stingo/Styron was carrying on, I started to wonder what he was getting at. Here's what he was getting at:"...her shame was anything but lessoned by the fact that she was Catholic and Polish and a child of her time and place--that is to say, a young woman brought up with puritanical repressions and sexual taboos as adamantine as those of any Alabama Baptist maiden. (It would take Nathan, she told me later, Nathan with his liberated and passionate carnality, to unlock the eroticism in her which she never dreamed she possessed.) Add to this the indwelling shame of the rape the unconventional, to say the least, the grotesque way she had been attacked--and the embarrassment she felt at having to tell [her doctor:]..."...Whereas a sexually liberated atheist, attacked openly, will be juuuust fine. (My Nathan's "passionate carnality" did more locking than unlocking, but I'll leave that alone. Sophie isn't me.) There does seem to be a hint of righteous indignation on Stingo's part.And then..."...I felt that there was being thrust on me a priceless reward for the vigor and zeal with which I had embraced my Art. Like any author worth his salt, I was about to receive my just bounty, that necessary adjunct to hard work--necessary as food and drink-- which revived the fatigued wits and sweetened all life. Of course I mean by this that for the first time after these many months in New York, finally and safely beyond peradventure, I was going to get a piece of ass."Well, again, he's just being honest..."Thus during those hours when I had not been immersed in my novel I had thought of Leslie and the approaching tryst, sucking on the nipples of those 'melon-heavy' Jewish breasts..."Okay, that's enough honesty."That the era became epitomized by Little Miss Cock Tease--the pert number who jerked off a whole generation of her squirming young coevals, allowing moist liberties but with steel-trap relentlessness withholding the big prize, sobbing in triumph as she stole back to the dorm (O that intact membrane! O those those silvery snail tracks on the silken undies!)..."Okay, seriously, William..."[It's:] no one's fault, only that of history..."Yes, it always is. < / sarcasm >"Aside from that disaster, on the afternoon when I met Leslie Lapidus my past experiences had been typically base and fruitless. Which is to say, typically of the forties. I had done a certain amount of smooching, as it was called then, in the balconies of several movie theaters; another time, stranded in the leafy and secret dark tunnel of the local lovers' lane, I had with madly pounding pulse and furtive fingers succeeded in obtaining a few seconds' worth of what was known as 'bare tit'; and once, scenting triumph but nearly fainting with exertion, I managed to wrest off the maidenform bra only to discover a pair of falsies and a boyish chest flat as a ping pong paddle."You poor thing."I had not idealized 'femininity' in the silly fashion of the time and therefore I am sure I did not foresee bedding down some chaste Sweet Briar maiden only for a trip to the altar. [Of course, not.:] Somewhere in the halcyon future, I think I must have reasoned, I would meet a cuddlesome, jolly girl who would simply gather me into her with frenzied whoopees, unhindered by that embargo placed upon their flesh by the nasty little Protestants who had so tortured me in the back seats of a score of cars."Well, hello, Ian McEwan John Updike D. H. Lawrence Creepy Creeperton."Oh, what ghoulish opportunism are writers prone to." Indeed. Holocaust/rape victims are HOT.I wonder what he had to say about the World War II...

  • Giedre
    2019-03-03 12:59

    I feel it difficult to describe this book without diminishing it's complexity and meaning. It's one of those reads that absorb you, won't let you go until you devour the last words and will haunt you long after you finish it. The main characters of the book, Stingo, Sophie and Nathan, are full of layers and represent to me the human nature itself. I couldn't but recognize myself in even the darkest of their feelings, thoughts and behavior. All that is represented by them - naivete, suffering, fear, hate, madness, comfortable ignorance - is latent in us, waiting for the right circumstances.I highly recommend this book to those who are tired of being "comfortably numb" and are not afraid of not being able to forget.

  • Josh
    2019-03-03 12:45

    (3.5)The query: "At Auschwitz, tell me, where was God?"And the answer: "Where was man?”

  • Laura Leaney
    2019-02-17 10:46

    I love this novel. It was one of the few that transported me to a time and a place so completely that I lost my own self. The narrator, Stingo, says "I was aware of the large hollowness I carried within me. It was true that I had traveled great distances for one so young, but my spirit had remained land-locked, unacquainted with love and all but a stranger to death." He calls his journey to Brooklyn a "voyage of discovery" but I am verifiable proof that the discovery is not just his but ours. What is love? I think it is answered here. What is guilt? What is evil? What is joy? All answered. And answered to the music of words. I can never listen to "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" without thinking of Sophie. And of Stingo.

  • Pantopicon
    2019-03-02 14:41

    Two stars is a bit of a disingenuous rating -- it's possibly best left unrated. At turns brilliant, and at other moments mind-numbing wading through thick, overladen prose -- the novel is as schizophrenic as Nathan.Definitely not in the Hemingway or Faulkner tradition as has been suggested by contemporary critical reviews of the text -- but, in a way this book is Styron's, and in turn Stingo's, longing to be part of that genealogy. There are much better crafted explorations of the themes that "Sophie's Choice" approaches -- on the banality of evil read Arendt, not Styron's capsule summary of Arendt, want Southern gothic -- read Faulkner, want frustrated virility -- read Hemingway, want a deconstruction of social pretension -- read Fitzgerald -- not Styron. That said, parts of the novel captivated me -- Nathan's unveiling, Sophie's narration of her experiences in Auschwitz being two of the most singular. And, as for her choice? It was no choice at all -- Freud and Lacan have taught us that much, but, Sophie would HATE that I said that.