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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Silence

Jens Bjørneboe

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To purchase The Silence

Title: The Silence
Author: Jens Bjørneboe
Genre: Novel
Written: 1973 (Eng. 2000)
Length: 201 pages
Original in: Norwegian
Availability: The Silence - US
The Silence - UK
in The Moment of Freedom Trilogy - UK
The Silence - Canada
Stille - Deutschland
  • An Anti-novel and Absolutely the Very Last Protocol
  • Norwegian title: Stillheten
  • Translated by Esther Greenleaf Mürer
  • Awarded the Kritikkerprisen and the Swedish Academy's Dobloug Prize
  • Part of the History of Bestiality trilogy that consists of:
    1. Moment of Freedom
    2. Powderhouse
    3. The Silence

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Our Assessment:

B : another loose variation on the evil man has wrought

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Scandinavian Studies . Winter/2000 Jan Sjavik

  From the Reviews:
  • "The narrator of this volume is an even more thinly veiled authorial persona, and the book looks much like a series of essays and meditations. There is, however, a positive vision, as the author argues that the destruction of authority through a socialist revolution will make it possible to build a better world." - Jan Sjavik, Scandinavian Studies

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The Silence is the final part of the History of Bestiality-trilogy, the narrator now living in northern Africa, but still unable to escape the horrors that mankind is responsible for. His twenty-year project doesn't really come to an end here, as he recognises:

It will never be written, because it has no beginning and no end. How on earth can one imagine a continuation of world history without cruelty, how can one envision the rise of a society without cruelty as its innermost, sustaining principle -- as society's basic idea ?
     It's here that the sickness lies. We just can't imagine a world without bestiality as the rulers' final argument ! Wee can't imagine a society which doesn't build on brute force.
       The subtitle describes this book as: An Anti-novel and Absolutely the Very Last Protocol, but despite his wish for finality, this undertaking is not something he can easily let go. But the description of the book as an 'anti-novel' is more apt. Looser than the previous two volumes, The Silence offers only the slightest narrative framework to support the conversations and arguments that are the centre of the novel. Some African scenes at hand -- begging children, especially -- allow for real-life observation, but far more space is again devoted to historical lessons (if less formally than in the lectures of Powderhouse).
       The horrors of the conquest of the New World, in particular, are considered in some depth -- Cortez's exploits especially. These are, typically, summed up:
     Then he died a Christian syphilitic's death in God's name. His work was done: Paradise was a desert. in thirty years nineteen million had been slaughtered. it isn't given to everyone to destroy a culture.
       The Silence also takes a far more surreal turn, as the narrator converses with several historical figures including Columbus and Robespierre. For a while he also engages God himself in debate:
     I've talked quite a bit with God about this, and even if he's often evasive, it's still possible to get him into a corner if one is just ruthless enough.
       European to the core, the narrator is nevertheless deeply disturbed by how the European influence has spread and tainted practically all the rest of the world. He does see glimmers of hope, despite all the horror he has seen and is aware of. Remarkably, he is able to conclude on an almost optimistic note, refusing to condemn mankind completely, going so far as to admit:
     I don't believe that humanity is evil, nor that humanity is good -- I believe that a human being is partly evil and partly good.
       Even in horror he sees hope:
On a planet where people have freely chosen to let themselves be burned alive for the sake of truth, the good must have great possibilities.
       The Silence is too unfocussed of a ramble to be entirely successful, the essayistic aspect -- prominent in the previous volumes too -- here undermined by a wavering turn to the surreal. Bjørneboe middle-ground, between fantastical and real, is an uncomfortable perch, the book thus not entirely certain what it wants to be. More even than the previous volumes, The Silence is a book in which the pieces -- the episodes and history-lessons, and a few of the scenes -- are stronger than the whole. Worthwhile -- and certainly interesting -- , but not entirely satisfying.

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The Silence: Jens Bjorneboe: Other books by Jens Bjørneboe under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Jens Bjørneboe (1920-1976) was a leading Norwegian author.

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