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Troubles (1970)

de J. G. Farrell

Séries: Empire Trilogy (1)

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1,4325112,691 (4.01)2 / 541
"1919: After surviving the Great War, Major Brendan Archer makes his way to Ireland, hoping to discover whether he is indeed betrothed to Angela Spencer, whose Anglo-Irish family owns the once-aptly-named Majestic Hotel in Kilnalough. But his fiance;e is strangely altered and her family's fortunes have suffered a spectacular decline. The hotel's hundreds of rooms are disintegrating on a grand scale; its few remaining guests thrive on rumors and games of whist; herds of cats have taken over the Imperial Bar and the upper stories; bamboo shoots threaten the foundations; and piglets frolic in the squash court. Meanwhile, the Major is captivated by the beautiful and bitter Sarah Devlin. As housekeeping disasters force him from room to room, outside the order of the British Empire also totters: there is unrest in the East, and in Ireland itself the mounting violence of 'the troubles.' Troubles is a hilarious and heartbreaking work by a modern master of the historical novel"--Publisher description.… (mais)
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Reason Read: 2023/November botm
I've owned this one for awhile and I liked the previous novel by Farrell that I read but never seemed to get around to reading this one.
This is the Lost Booker that was awarded for books of 1970 that never got a chance to win the Booker. Farrell wrote this Trilogy about the British Empire and the end of that empire. In this one, we are emersed in "the troubles" which was an ethno-nationalist conflict in Northern Ireland that lasted about 30 years from the late 1960s to 1998 and perhaps it isn't completely resolved. The story is told around a hotel called The Majestic. We think grandeur but it is a decaying ruin. I saw the hotel as representing the British government in Ireland that was no longer grand and losing its hold on Ireland. I saw the two girls; Angela (protestant) and Sarah (Catholic) also representing "the troubles". One reserved and dying out and the other growing in strength from wheelchair to ambulatory. The story occurs at this hotel so in many ways it is isolated from what is happening outside the hotel but slowly the outside turmoil invades the hotel. Another great read by the author who died too young. ( )
1 vote Kristelh | Nov 11, 2023 |
I started this book thinking it would be centered around The Troubles that plaqued Ireland after World War 1. Unfortunately that wasn't the case. The Troubles did play a role in the novel but for the most part, this novel was nothing more than soap opera with comic overtones. And while it was amusing at times; it was not at all what I expected. And in some sense, I felt it was a disservice to the people of Ireland who actually did suffer through The Troubles. ( )
  kevinkevbo | Jul 14, 2023 |
Año 1919, tras sobrevivir a la Gran Guerra, el comandante Brendan Archer viaja a Irlanda pa­ra descubrir si todavía sigue prometido a Angela Spencer, cuya familia regenta el hotel Majestic en Kilnalough. Pero al llegar encuentra a su prometida extrañamente alterada y a su futura familia política en plena decadencia económica: el hotel se desmorona poco a poco, los escasos huéspedes que quedan se pasan el día cotilleando y jugando al whist, hordas de gatos salvajes se van adueñando del bar Imperial y de las plantas superiores, el bambú amenaza con colonizar los cimientos del edificio y los lechones campan a sus anchas por la pista de squash. Mientras el comandante Archer atiende los desastres domésticos que aumentan día tras día, fuera de los muros del hotel el Imperio británico también se tambalea y desmorona: los disturbios son diarios, el malestar crece por momentos y en la propia Irlanda la violencia arrecia. Farrell nos traza, con un humor centelleante e irrepetible, un cuadro desolador de la decadencia y del final, no sólo de un imperio, sino de toda una época.
  Natt90 | Mar 22, 2023 |
Troubles is a historical fiction, set in the Hotel Majestic on the Horth peninsula, close to Dublin, and taking place in the teens of the 20th century, in the midst of the Independence troubles. There are 300 rooms, though many have fallen into disrepair.
the Major, now invalided out of the army, comes to stay there, and gets to know the owner Edward Spencer.
The Major's character drives me crazy, because first, going back there to see what the situation is with his "fiancee," a young woman he had met before the war, in Brighton, and shared a brief kiss with, seems like such an unlikely situation. He had never really proposed matrimony to her, but while he was in the trenches of World War I, in France, she would write him weekly letters, signing herself as his fiancee.
SHe's the daughter of Edward, the proprietor of the Majestic. But she's strangely reticent around the Major, and eventually retires to her rooms, and all Major knows of her is Traces of uneaten food coming to and from her room, by the cook.
When Angela is no longer available to him (she died from TB), the Major focuses on her "Best friend," Sarah, the daughter of the Manager of the bank in nearby Kilnalough.

Descriptions of the Majestic or something to imagine:
"The Palm Court proved to be a vast, shadowy cavern in which Dusty white chairs stood in silent, empty groups, just visible here and there amid the gloomy foliage. For the palms had completely run riot, shooting out of their wooden tubs ( some of which had cracked open to trickle little cones of black soil onto the tiled floor ) towards the distant murky skylight, hammering and interweaving themselves against the greenish glass that's sullenly glowed overhead. Here and there between the tables beds of oozing mold supported banana and rubber plants, hairy ferns, elephant grass and creepers that dangled from above like emerald intestines. In places there was a hollow ring to the tiles -- there must be some underground irrigation system, the major reasoned, to provide water for all this vegetation. But now, here he was."

The room that the servant Murphy shows him to has an ugly surprise waiting for him. The Major had noticed a rather sickeningly sweet smell upon entering the room and putting down his bag. When he investigated, he found a horror:
"a small cupboard stood beside the bed. He wrenched open the door. On the top shelf there was nothing. On the bottom shelf was a chamber-pot and in the chamber-pot was a decaying object crawling with white maggots. From the middle of this object a large eye, bluish and corrupt, gazed up at the Major, who scarcely had time to reach the bathroom before he began to vomit Brown soup and steamed bacon and cabbage. Little by little the smell of the object stole into the bathroom and enveloped him."

Edward spencer, the proprietor of the majestic hotel, is a protestant, and loathe the Roman Catholicism population surrounding him. I was baptized, had for communion, and confirmation in the Catholic church; moreover, I went to Catholic School from 1st through 5th grade. This is so hilarious to me:
"little by little, as they moved back towards each other, Edward's thoughts turned to the main and unbridgeable chasm, the Roman Catholicism of the Noonans [Sarah's family]: the unhealthy smell of incense, the stupefying and bizarre dogmatic precepts, the enormous families generated by ignorance and a doctrine of 'the more souls the better' ( no matter whether their corporeal envelopes went barefoot or not ), the absurd squadron of saints buzzing overhead like chaps in the Flying Corps supposedly ever ready to lend a hand to the blokes on the ground ( and each with his own speciality ), the Pope with all his unhealthy finery, the services in a gibberish of Latin that no one understood, least of all the ignorant, narrow-minded and hypocritical priests. well, such thoughts do not actually have to occur by a process of thinking; they run in the blood of the Protestant irish."

A supposed miracle ( a bloke in a pub had a small crucifix, that he swore bled drops of blood from the Christ wounds ) draws a huge crowd of the villagers. Edward and the Major are "motoring" to the Golf Club, when the author shares the character of the Major's feelings toward the Irish with us:
" 'what a rabble!' he thought unsympathetically. He hated the Irish. He stared at the faces that floated by as the Daimler inched its way through against the tide of humanity sounding its horn. Dull, granitic faces, cheekbones sculpted like axe-handles, purple cheeks and matted hair, bovine, the women huge and heavy-breasted, arms dimpled and swollen like loaves of bread. But no, they did not look like refugees; in their faces he read a strained, expectant look. Something was up. The Major shouted at a toothless old man dangling his legs on the back of a cart to ask him what it was all about. But the fellow did not seem to understand, merely touched his forelock and looked away furtively."

From The aforementioned Palm Court, whose plants are running riot, comes more problems, seemingly contagious:
"By now they were strolling in the residents' lounge, shielded from the curiosity of the whist players by a bank of potted shrubs which had been evacuated from the Palm Court by Edward.
" 'Take a look at this. Grasping a heavy plush sofa that stood in the middle of the room beside a table of warped walnut, he dragged it aside. Beneath, the wooden blocks of parquet flooring bulged ominously upward like a giant abscess. Something was trying to force its way up through the floor.
'good heavens! What is it?'
The Major knelt and removed three or four of the blocks to reveal a white, hairy wrist.
'It's a root. God only knows where it comes from: probably from the Palm Court -- one of those wretched tropical things. There's a 2-foot gap between this floor and the brick ceiling in the cellars, packed with Earth and gravel and wringing wet from some burst drain or waste pipe.' "

This was enjoyable for the amount of History that I read from it, more than I had known before. Especially as my ancestors are from ireland, I am interested in learning of this. Moreover, there is history notes of other places in the world, especially those that are involved in fighting for their independence from the British empire. ( )
1 vote burritapal | Oct 23, 2022 |
(63) This was mesmerizing. I loved Farrell's 'The Siege of Krishnapur,' one of my most favorite books that I have read in the last decade. And this was almost as good. WW1 has ended and 'the Major' has survived - he travels to Ireland to see a hastily acquired fiancee at her home in the hotel 'The Majestic' situated on the Irish coast. But The Majestic and pretty much everyone in it has seen better days. It is the dawn of Irish independence and the Catholic locals begin to rise up against the British landowners. The crumbling Majestic is symbolic of the British empire and yet the Major cannot tear himself away, even when his engagement proves an illusion.

The details, the artistry of the prose, the tone are the work of a virtuoso. The marmalade cat's bitter green eyes, the distraught peahen taking toast from the caterer come to serve breakfast to no-one after the ball, ancient Doctor Ryan and his 'people are insubstantial,' the grandmother that emerged from the closet after the dinner gong. I don't know what to say. The novel is so magical and crazy and melancholy and hilarious, yet somehow avoided being too precious. Although at times the plot went nowhere, (I mean really, what was the deal with Sarah Devlin?) I could have read this novel forever. The Major seemed a faintly ridiculous pompous character at the beginning, yet he slowly transformed into someone the reader loved. As the ending came close I was horrified.

This is a hard book to review - its rambly and nonsensical at times. The narrative is interrupted by faux newspaper clippings of other rebellions across the Empire to give one the political picture, but somehow it is not really about the specific history. It is about nostalgia, entropy, a vanished time, and the tangible echoes of the past that remain in a place. Absolutely haunting! I had no idea this was a loose trilogy and look forward to 'The Singapore Grip.' ( )
2 vote jhowell | Nov 25, 2021 |
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In those days the Majestic was still standing in Kilnalough at the very end of a slim peninsula covered with dead pines leaning here and there at odd angles.
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“People are insubstantial. They never last. All this fuss, it’s all fuss about nothing. We’re here for a while and then we’re gone. People are insubstantial. They never last at all.”
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"1919: After surviving the Great War, Major Brendan Archer makes his way to Ireland, hoping to discover whether he is indeed betrothed to Angela Spencer, whose Anglo-Irish family owns the once-aptly-named Majestic Hotel in Kilnalough. But his fiance;e is strangely altered and her family's fortunes have suffered a spectacular decline. The hotel's hundreds of rooms are disintegrating on a grand scale; its few remaining guests thrive on rumors and games of whist; herds of cats have taken over the Imperial Bar and the upper stories; bamboo shoots threaten the foundations; and piglets frolic in the squash court. Meanwhile, the Major is captivated by the beautiful and bitter Sarah Devlin. As housekeeping disasters force him from room to room, outside the order of the British Empire also totters: there is unrest in the East, and in Ireland itself the mounting violence of 'the troubles.' Troubles is a hilarious and heartbreaking work by a modern master of the historical novel"--Publisher description.

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