It’s not unheard of for members of the Brown Baggers to arrive at our discussion without having finished the chosen title. But generally when this is the case for the majority of members, it’s because the book was dull, dry, or otherwise unenjoyable. Not so in the case of We, the Drowned by Carsten Jensen – in this instance, the 650+ page length of the book was the culprit behind so many still-bookmarked copies that appeared during our chat. Those who had yet to finish were still planning on completing the book, while those who had assured them it was worth the time and effort.
Group members also agreed that the style of We, the Drowned made this a book to savor slowly. As indicated by the title, the book is told mostly in the first person plural form. While unfamiliar at first, this gives the book almost a mythic quality by evoking a Greek chorus. Homer’s Odyssey was one comparison we considered; we also discussed how certain reviews of this book noted hints of magical realism in the style of Garcia Marquez. We agreed that this book was not as fantastical, but it did echo some of his works by spanning generations and exaggerating certain tales.
We also compared this book in some ways to Moby Dick, which the Brown Baggers read this January. Now that we’ve reached the end of our 2012 selections, perhaps it is only appropriate we have come full circle back to the sea. Some of the major themes of this work focused on not only the battle against the elements, but the very concept of survival — for the men at sea or the women and children left at home. Group members also found the exploration of familial relationships intriguing, especially those between fathers and sons, and how they related to community traditions and shared rites of passage.
The Brown Baggers really enjoyed this book overall – won’t you join us in December to help us select our chosen titles for 2013? We’ll be meeting Dec. 20th at noon. In the meantime, get a head start on January’s selection, Bleak House by Charles Dickens.
Amazon has a very interesting Q&A with the author, Carsten Jensen.
A relevant New York Times article about the first person plural (published before We, the Drowned): http://www.nytimes.com/2004/04/18/books/the-last-word-we-the-characters.html
More about the town of Marstal can be found on Wikipedia.
The official website of the Marstal Maritime Museum is in Danish, but can be browsed using a translation service such as Google Translate.