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38
Waterland (Picador Classic, Band 22)
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TOP 500 REZENSENTam 7. August 2005
1989 veröffentlichte der konservative Politikwissenschaftler Francis Fukuyama den bis heute viel diskutierten Aufsatz "The End of History". Nach dem Fall der Mauer und dem Zusammenbruch des Kommunismus gebe es nur noch die Ideologie von Freiheit, Demokratie und Marktwirtschaft, so dass es in Zukunft keine Revolutionen und Krisen mehr geben werde. Die Geschichte sei an ihrem paradiesischen Ende angelangt.
Das Ende der Geschichte ist Hauptthema von Swifts erstmals 1983 erschienendem Erstlingswerk "Waterland". Tom Crick, Geschichtslehrer, muss erfahren, dass sein Fach aus dem Lehrplan gestrichen werden soll, da die Vergangenheit für das hier und heute nicht mehr von Belang sei. In seinen letzten Stunden erzählt Crick der Klasse seine persönliche Lebensgeschichte und setzt diese parallel zu den Ereignissen der Weltgeschichte. So fügen sich langsam die tragischen Ereignisse um den frühen Tod seiner Mutter, die Wahrheit über seinen geistig behinderten Bruder sowie die Tragödie über seine langsam dem Wahnsinn verfallenden Frau zu einem Gesamtbild zusammen.
Dazwischen wird immer wieder die alles entscheidende Frage erörtert: Warum Geschichte? Warum die Vergangenheit nicht einfach auf sich beruhen lassen? Die Geschichte von Cricks Leben enthält eigentlich die Antwort auf diese Frage, wird aber auch vom Erzähler im 8. Kapitel ausdrücklich beantwortet: "[O]nly animals live entirely in the Here and Now. Only Nature knows neither memory nor history. But man - let me offer you a definition - is the story-telling animal."
Fazit: einerseits die mitreißend erzählte Tragödie eines Menschenlebens, andererseits eine theoretische Auseinandersetzung über den Sinn und Zweck von Geschichte. Sollte Pflichtlektüre für angehende Geschichtslehrer sein.
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am 6. März 2000
Like most of the readers who posted their reviews here, I agree that Graham Swift's Waterland is indeed a masterpiece. The prose is dark, smooth, continuous and mysterious like water under moonlight; intoxicating and hypnotizing it captivates, spreads and reaches into every corner making the reader almost drunk with curiosity and inspiration. Water, alcohol, land, animals, nature, innocence, reality intermix and unravel the great tragedy of love and human character. It reminded me of a symphony where every instrument is distinct yet a part of a homogeneous whole. The words are arranged into accords; they turn, cycle and flow creating images and impressions. The same note sounds differently yet it evokes the same feeling.
The novel's prime focus is on question WHY? Why is everything the way it is? Why are we the way we are? We as human beings are always loking for an explanation and we create history to explain our behavior, our feelings, our structure and habits. We are very similar to animals, in fact we are just another kind of animal but what makes us human? What is it that makes our lives meaningful? We are animals that are curious and animals that like to tell stories--the author explains--this is our purpose and our destiny.
The notion of innocence is in the core of this book. Curiosity leads to exploration, discovery and experimantation; curiosity propels innocence. When we are no longer innocent we are no longer curious and we cease living. Like water, we move yet we remain; we die yet we continue living. Curiosity creates history, it creates love, it creates emotions, it creates us as human beings.
The author says: "we are animal that craves for meaning but knows." In order to live we must search and create these stories which we collectively call our history. In our search we are often lost either in dream or reality, unable to distinct one from another; curiosity creates balance, lack of it leaves us in the same place.
Only we then define and create ourselves; we create our meaning and establish our nature. Innocence is the unifier, a distinct trait which makes us humans--different yet the same (for even the potato-head becomes curious). Every man was "...once a tiny baby sucking his mother's milk"--every man once was, still is, or will become innocent.
This novel is a symphony--rich, moving, unfogettable. It celebrates the freedom, passion, tragedy, and struggle of being alive.
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am 16. Februar 1999
Why do we need history? That is a question asked numerous times within the novel. The narrator, Tom Crick, tries to answer this difficult question for his trouble-making student Price. Although Price thinks it is a question that is only meant to annoy his teacher Mr. Crick, Crick notices the importance of it. It is because of this inquiry, and a lesson between a teacher and his student, that the amazing stories of the Fen Country become known. The gray setting of the Fen Country only accentuates the grim, yet captivating story of Waterland. Tom Crick walks us through the history of the Crick family with stories form his past. However, this is no ordinary history lesson for the history teacher. From his stories, we learn more than just dates and the significance of them. We also learn of family secrets and mysteries. It is because of the stories of Tom Crick and his ancestors that make this novel so enveloping. One cannot read one story without wanting to know how it fits with another story. Throughout the novel, Tom tells stories of the Atkinsons and their empire during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries while pieces of his childhood and present life are intermingled. He talks of relationships between mothers and sons, fathers and daughters, but most importantly, between a father and his sons. With these relationships from the past, he is able to understand how they affected the relationships of his own lifetime. This complex, yet successful, technique of interchanging between past and present adds to the drama of the novel. It is through the switching between past and present that the reader is able to piece everything together. With each new story, something new is revealed. From this novel, you see how not all relationships, whether they are from your ancestors or from your childhood, affect how you live and relate to others in the present. The darkness of the Fens comes to light in the novel, and because of this, you end up with a masterpiece.
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am 26. Februar 1999
In On Interpretation, philosopher Paul Ricoeur writes: "by treating the temporal quality of experience as the common reference of both history and fiction, I make fiction, history and time one problem." Swift's narrator, Tom Crick, attempts to solve this big, unified problem.
Crick, a high school history teacher, has veered from the syllabus and veered vigorously. A disintegrating marriage with a baby-snatching wife, and a student who questions the point of learning about the French Revolution (and starts a "fear club" that obsesses over nuclear holocaust) contribute to Crick's decision to abandon strait-laced, traditional, timeline history.
Instead, Crick attempts to answer the essential historical question (the "WhyWhyWhy?" of events) for his own life. This "problem," as Ricoeur would have it, takes us through centuries of Crick's ancestors (which turns out to be a thorough regional history), discourses on eels and holes, stories of the people who have figured in Crick's life, and his interpretation of these sundry yarns (each of which, incidentally, is a good story, i.e.--would go over well at a bar).
What emerges, in nuance and layers, is an amalgam of fiction, history, and time; a novel obsessed with the reasons people walk onto the stage of history, the nature of revolutions and the prospects of progress. In his development of these issues Swift has, among other things, written a philosophically fascinating novel. The over-all impact is that there is more to history than the subject is generally given credit (i.e.--myths are history and so is your grandmother's sex life); and (to fearfully evoke an old cliché) only through history can we hope to have a future different from the past.
The prose this point arrives in is both quirky and muscular, engaging and complex. Swift has written a big book and he's written it well.
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am 26. Februar 1999
In On Interpretation, philosopher Paul Ricoeur writes: "bytreating the temporal quality of experience as the common reference ofboth history and fiction, I make fiction, history and time one problem." Swift's narrator, Tom Crick, attempts to solve this big, unified problem.
Crick, a high school history teacher, has veered from the syllabus and veered vigorously. A disintegrating marriage with a baby-snatching wife, and a student who questions the point of learning about the French Revolution (and starts a "fear club" that obsesses over nuclear holocaust) contribute to Crick's decision to abandon strait-laced, traditional, timeline history.
Instead, Crick attempts to answer the essential historical question (the "WhyWhyWhy?" of events) for his own life. This "problem," as Ricoeur would have it, takes us through centuries of Crick's ancestors (which turns out to be a thorough regional history), discourses on eels and holes, stories of the people who have figured in Crick's life, and his interpretation of these sundry yarns (each of which, incidentally, is a good story, i.e.--would go over well at a bar).
What emerges, in nuance and layers, is an amalgam of fiction, history, and time; a novel obsessed with the reasons people walk onto the stage of history, the nature of revolutions and the prospects of progress. In his development of these issues Swift has, among other things, written a philosophically fascinating novel. The over-all impact is that there is more to history than the subject is generally given credit; and (to fearfully evoke an old cliché) only through history can we hope to have a future different from the past.
The prose this point arrives in is both quirky and muscular, engaging and complex. Swift's written a big book and he's written it well.
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am 28. Oktober 1999
Graham Swift's Waterland is a stellar novel. Swift's use of history was the perfect vehicle with which to tell the tragic story of the Atkinsons and the Cricks. Set against the landscape of the Fenlands, this tale of love and tragedy flourishes in a land logged with despair. The circle of history is constantly replayed in the novel. More than once the reader comes face to face with madness in the forms of Ernest Atkinson, Dick Crick and Mary. Although these are different types of madness the pattern is undeniable. There is also the repetition of the nurse figure. Helen Atkinson was nurse to Henry Crick when he came back from the war. Likewise, Mary was his nurse when he was close to death. The flowing of the Leem is akin to the circle of history. References are often made to the path traveled by the water as it flows through the Ouse, the Leem and to the Ocean, completing a circle. This journey is much like that of the story itself and the characters as they travel through the stages from children to adulthood, innocence to guilt. This transition is most marked in Tom and Mary. The knowledge of their bodies is a natural stage in life, as is their consequential exploration of them. The shedding of their innocence is most firmly attached to Mary's pregnancy and abortion. Overall, Swift's novel is brilliant and well written. He keeps the reader interested by only telling so much of the story before shifting to another part that will eventually fit into the whole. The journey through the lives of the characters paints an amazing picture of loss, love and learning.
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am 9. Juni 1997
In the summary and credits of this masterpiece, Graham Swift is compared to William Faulkner, a true legend, but Mr. Swift may have surpassed all of Faulkner's works. Though that sounds sacrireligious and I hardly believe I'm saying it, I encourage any skeptic to read Waterland.

As he jumbles history with "Here and Now" and winds through time, memory, and experience, he tells the story of Tom Crick. Beer, youth, incest, and murder find there place in Waterland as Tom Crick tells his story of history. Swift, with powerful symbolism and a knack at story telling and history, forces the reader to turn each page with care.

With a resounding strength the reader is shown how all things return to where they started, and history becomes a closed line. Mr. Swift I can only beg that you give us more work like this.

Even as I plead that, I know you already have. I just completed Last Orders another brilliant work.
Thank you.
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am 28. Oktober 1999
From the descriptions of the Fens, isolated from civilization, and the lock keeper's cottage home, to the life that Swift gives to each character in his novel, a reader can visualize the settings and understand the people. Woven together are chapters which consantly move back and forth from past to present in a seamless way. The book is told in first person style by the persona of Tom Crick. He is in the present time teaching students about history, with an emphasis on his story. Most of what he tells is very sad and extremely personal. It seems as though Tom Crick cannot refrain from unburdening himself by sharing his story with the class as he ends his career. His eccentricities in teaching, along with his wife's mental breakdown and kidnapping of a baby finally result in Tom Crick's dismissal.
The book very sensitively takes the reader through school children's discovery of their sexuality, their tentative initial approach, sexual relationships and, finally, an abortion. Most touching is Swift's handling of the confusion of Tom's brother, Dick, has about sexuality. He is retarded and childlike mentally, but, physically, he is a man with desires that he can neither understand, discuss or demonstrate.
Tom Crick and his wife could never recover from the violent, seedy, botched-up abortion experience they shared in the Fens, which subsequently left Mary unable to conceive a child. They were also haunted by secrets they both held about the circumstances surrounding the death of Freddie Parr, which occured in their youth in the Fens.
The story provides a detailed account of Tom Crick's mother's family background, including the rise and fall of the Atkinson Brewery. The brewery prepared a "coronation" ale for the community's celebration of a new king. This special blend drastically changed people, making them wild. There was a night of fighting, mindless destruction of the town and the burning of the Atkinson Brewery. From one saved case of this cursed ale, one bottle killed Freddie Parr and another was consumed by Dick Crick, giving him the nerve to end his life to escape the reality that the maker of the ale, Tom's grandfather, was actually Dick's father, who conceived a child with his own daughter.
Every part of the novel ties together in an ingenious way. The writing style is absolutely stunning. It is a rare book that a reader is likely to wish, would never end.
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am 8. Dezember 1998
I agree wholehaertedly with those reviewers who found the book to be one of the best they have ever read - I had read Waterland when I was studying in Belgium three years ago - While there, I 'hit my alcoholic bottom' and closed my heart tightly. I did little else but get drunk, eat, and read that year. A few years prior I had read 'Shuttlecock' in a class and loved it, so when I saw 'Waterland' on the shelf of the nextdoor bookstore I bought it. I read my story there (I too hail from parts damp) and was stirred. I have not drank for some time and I am learning to live from an opening heart. Reading 'Waterland' marked the beginning (quite against my will - Swift's story 'caught me up' into it) of my own reclaimation process.
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am 4. Dezember 1998
What impressed me the most about this book was the way it described and disected history, while at the same time showing history at work. I wouldn't say this book is for the eternally optimistic; however, despite it's brilliantly dark picture, its very descriptions of history provides a sort of hope even after you're done reading it.
This is one book I have reread several times, something I'm not often compelled to do. In my opinion it is that good--very worth reading. And rereading. And rereading.
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