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Alguma Coisa Mudou (1974)

de Joseph Heller

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2,428256,328 (3.42)1 / 69
Bob Slocum, an average, middle-aged man with a good job, slowly becomes more and more unhappy with the routine of his life.

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Heller is geen veelschrijver. Wel een hele goede schrijver. Catch 22 is volgens mij nog altijd een van de beste boeken ooit geschreven. De film was aardig, het boek briljant. En toch heb ik nog niet alles van hem gelezen. Zeven romans en nog wat ander werk, moet toch te doen zijn. Schuin achter me staan vier titels, waarvan ik er – na deze – drie gelezen heb. Of toch alle vier? Dertig jaar is een lange tijd, het zou zo maar kunnen dat ergens in de jaren negentig ook het vierde boek al is gelezen. Ik blogde toen nog niet, hield geen lijsten bij.

Something happened werd ergens op een site aangeraden als zijn beste werk. Leek mij vrijwel onmogelijk, maar na lezing ga ik ook twijfelen. Ik kies toch voor Catch 22, de onderliggende boodschap is zo sterk, maar ook Something happened kan ik iedereen zonder enige twijfel aanraden.

Het boek is erg simpel samen te vatten. I get the willies. The office in which I work. My wife is unhappy. My daughter’s unhappy. My little boy is having difficulties. It is not true. There’s no getting away from it. My boy has stopped talking to me. Nobody knows what I’ve done. De titels van de hoofdstukken zeggen veel, bijna alles. Maar de stijl waarin het verhaal tot je komt is overrompelend. Bedrukkend. Indrukwekkend.

Zoals zijn meesterwerk een aanklacht tegen oorlog is, aan de hand van Yossarian die de vreemde regels van het leger aankaart, zo lees ik Something happened als een aanklacht tegen het kapitalisme, in dit geval de Verenigde Staten eind jaren zestig, begin jaren zeventig. Toen de hele wereld nog dacht dat dit systeem het beste was, zelfs achter het ijzeren gordijn hadden ze dat toen al door. Heller laat zien hoe vreemd de wereld in elkaar steekt als status, inkomen en de buitenkant het overnemen.

Bob Slocum vertelt feilloos hoe het op zijn werk eraan toe gaat, hoe boven een bepaalde functie er niet meer gewerkt wordt, de interne politiek heeft het overgenomen. Voor wie ben je bang, wie is je vriend en wie is geschikt voor een al dan niet korte affaire. Thuis is het niet veel beter. Het perfecte gezin, volgens anderen, is compleet disfunctioneel, de kinderen die het goed zouden moeten doen, hebben hele andere intenties dan de ouders, maar alles blijft binnen de muren, naar buiten toe is het allemaal koek en ei. Ik kan me goed voorstellen dat vele Amerikanen schrokken toen ze het boek lazen. Ik durf ook wel te gokken dat velen het verhaal, deels, herkenden, maar het niet durfden toe te geven.

De waardering voor het boek kwam veel later, met mooie recensies veertig jaar na verschijnen. Zelf las ik het later, een boek hoef je niet altijd meteen te lezen. Het blijft zijn waarde houden, soms krijgt het door de tijd juist meer waarde. In dit geval naast de trage lof, tevens het tijdsbeeld, wat Heller geweldig heeft weergegeven, zonder dat dit de intentie van het boek lijkt te zijn.

Citaat: “There is more than one of me, probably. There’s more than just an id; I know that; I could live with my id if I ever looked upon it whole, sort of snuggle up and get cozy with it, exchange smutty stories. Deep down inside, I might really be great. Deep down inside, I think not. I hope I never live to see the real me come out. He might say and do things that would embarrass me and plunge him into serious trouble, and I hope I am dead and buried by the time he does. Ha, ha.” (p.248) ( )
  privaterevolution | Mar 1, 2024 |
No, it didn't. ( )
  FinallyJones | Nov 17, 2021 |
I want to read this solely based on the excerpt included in Alfie Kohn's book No Contest: The Case Against Competition, which literally brought me to tears:

""I try to give him a will to win. He doesn't have one...He passes the basketball deliberately -- he does it deliberately, Mr. Slocum, I swear he does. Like a joke. He throws it away -- to some kid on the other team just to give him a chance to make some points or to surprise the kids on his own team. For a joke. That's some joke, isn't it? ... When he's ahead in one of the relays, do you know what he does? He starts laughing. He does that. And then slows down and waits for the other guys to catch up. Can you imagine? The other kids on his team don't like that. That's no way to run a race, Mr. Slocum. Would you say that's a way to run a race?"
"No." I shake my head and try to bury a smile. Good for you, kid, I want to cheer out loud... for I can visualize my boy clearly far out in front in one of his relay races, laughing that deep, reverberating, unrestrained laugh that sometimes erupts from him, staggering with merriment as he toils to keep going and motioning liberally for the other kids in the race to catch up so they can all laugh together and run alongside each other as they continue their game (after all, it's only a game)."
  magonistarevolt | Apr 24, 2020 |
Family dynamics and office politics are explored with acerbic wit in the ranting, eccentric ramblings of our sleaze ball narrator in Something Happened. The internal monologue is so steeped in hate and vindictive self-righteousness that it will easily polarize half the readers. But following the main character’s galloping train of thought is like having a lucid nightmare. The endless parentheses and asides, pages dripping with spittle and spite ring true to me. You don’t have to agree with anything the narrator says, or the author, for that matter.

Is it possible to write a great American novel about the depressing lie of the American dream? How oppressive and selfish it is? How the American dream every salesman, and most every man dreams, can quite possibly lead to personal tragedy? More than that though, I feel that most people can sympathize with the self-destructive tendencies of our over-stimulated, Consumerist state of mind. In this book there are a plethora of self-created problems. It reads like the sorry tale you might hear if you interviewed the well-dressed man at the end of most of the bars in America. Even so, it is indicative of, and a product of, the time in which it was written. Open commentary, racism, misogyny and nihilism played for cheap laughs, lascivious daydreaming, anxiety-ridden whimpering, and a slew of other incantatory criticisms, extrapolated and examined endlessly from a solitary point of view.

In the end, after the storm passes, a vast emptiness is left in its wake. Perhaps it is a warning against perpetuation, an entreaty to make more of an effort at kindness. More likely, it is a purgative, a way to become conscious of the little devil on your shoulder, who whispers bad things, who always points out how fat or lazy people are, which is always pointlessly going on about stupidity, incompetence and denial. The trap of self-loathing and of loathing everyone and everything is almost more natural than complacency, than quiet acceptance. It is possible to be alone, even around other people, but it is never necessary.

Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 is an established classic, cause for much grumbling in high school English classrooms, and is a more positive satire.

But if you aren’t scared of a little negativity, if you find you can rise above complainers and reflect upon the sheer volume of complaining that warrants tuning out, then there is a lot of value in this prolonged tirade against the cruel and inhuman state of our own minds, enmeshed in a prison society of corporate greed and filial pressures. Love it or hate it, you will not set the book down unmoved. ( )
  LSPopovich | Apr 8, 2020 |
"I know at last what I want to be when I grow up. When I grow up I want to be a little boy"

Firstly I have to say that the title of this novel is a bit of a misnomer because virtually nothing happens until the last two pages and my copy was 550+ pages long.

Truthfully the only character in this novel is Bob Slocum, an executive in his forties with an unnamed corporation. Although he tells us about his family and his colleagues we only hear his opinion of them. His family are filled with the qualities that Slocum has given them whereas he fears his colleagues and they fear him. Everyone appears to be suffering in some way.

"I frequently feel I'm being taken advantage of merely because I'm asked to do the work I'm paid to do."

Much of the novel is in the form of first-person narratives predominantly about the narrator, yet despite him being a promising and affluent executive with an attractive wife, three children, a nice house and as many mistresses as he wants he is still unhappy and feels that something is missing in his life. According to the blurb this is 'an expose of the horrors of prosperity and peace' but I found Slocum a whining, self-pitying misogynist and is a very distasteful character. He visits and revisits key moments of his past in particular his teenage flirtations with a former colleague called Virginia, which I personally found monotonous and tedious.

In fact tedium would best describe my opinion of this book. Whilst Slocum does have a fairly hypnotic voice I found myself struggling to stay awake and turn the next page. In particular I hated the author's overuse of brackets, some of them contained over a page of prose, meaning that I sometimes forgot what had gone before and had to re-read it. In contrast the dialogue when it appeared I found quite pithy and amusing. I did manage to finish the book but in all honesty I cannot say that I would recommend it to others. ( )
  PilgrimJess | Jan 2, 2020 |
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Bob Slocum, an average, middle-aged man with a good job, slowly becomes more and more unhappy with the routine of his life.

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