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Study for Obedience: A novel af Sarah…
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Study for Obedience: A novel (original 2023; udgave 2023)

af Sarah Bernstein (Forfatter)

MedlemmerAnmeldelserPopularitetGennemsnitlig vurderingOmtaler
19719135,733 (3.07)64
"A young woman moves from the place of her birth to the remote northern country of her forebears to be housekeeper to her brother, whose wife has recently left him. Soon after her arrival, a series of inexplicable events occurs - collective bovine hysteria; the demise of a ewe and her nearly born lamb; a local dog's phantom pregnancy; a potato blight. She notices that the local suspicion about incomers in general seems to be directed with some intensity at her and she senses a mounting threat that lies 'just beyond the garden gate.' And as she feels the hostility growing, pressing at the edges of her brother's property, she fears that, should the rumblings in the town gather themselves into a more defined shape, who knows what might happen, what one mightbe capable of doing. With a sharp, lyrical voice, Sarah Bernstein powerfully explores questions of complicity and power, displacement and inheritance. Study for Obedience is a finely tuned, unsettling novel that confirms Bernstein as one of the most exciting voices of her generation"--… (mere)
Medlem:Joe.Olipo
Titel:Study for Obedience: A novel
Forfattere:Sarah Bernstein (Forfatter)
Info:Knopf Canada (2023), 208 pages
Samlinger:Dit bibliotek
Vurdering:*
Nøgleord:to-read, reviews

Work Information

Study for Obedience af Sarah Bernstein (Author) (2023)

  1. 00
    The Bell Jar af Sylvia Plath (kjuliff)
    kjuliff: Both internal dialogues of a sensitive woman.
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» Se også 64 omtaler

Viser 1-5 af 18 (næste | vis alle)
Shortlisted - Booker Prize 2023
  ProcterLibrary | Feb 10, 2024 |
“The prose refracts Javier Marías sometimes, at other times Samuel Beckett.” Her prose certainly does not “refract” as Marías and Beckett actually have talent. Pure MFA schlock. ( )
  OdysseusElytis | Jan 18, 2024 |
I don't really know what to write about this book. It won the Scotiabank Giller Prize for 2023 and was shortlisted for the 2023 Booker Prize. So obviously people have found it worthy of acclaim. But not me; I found it difficult to read mostly because the author uses run-on sentences that sometimes take up a whole page. Also, the narrator is either unreliable or one of the most naive persons ever imagined.

Here's what the Giller jury said about the book:
“The modernist experiment continues to burn incandescently in Sarah Bernstein’s slim novel, Study for Obedience. Bernstein asks the indelible question: what does a culture of subjugation, erasure, and dismissal of women produce? In this book, equal parts poisoned and sympathetic, Bernstein’s unnamed protagonist goes about exacting, in shockingly twisted ways, the price of all that the world has withheld from her. The prose refracts Javier Marias sometimes, at other times Samuel Beckett. It’s an unexpected and fanged book, and its own studied withholdings create a powerful mesmeric effect.”

The narrator is the youngest of a large family who was trained to meet the various needs of her older siblings. When her entrepreneurial oldest brother calls her to come look after him in his home in some unnamed northern country because his wife and children have left him, she drops everything. The area where the brother lives is a rural community with a few small shops and a communal farm. The family's ancestors lived here before they were driven away by the other inhabitants which was probably due to them being Jewish. The narrator's brother has learned the local language and seems to get along well with the neighbours but the narrator cannot speak the language despite taking lessons and, soon after her arrival, is made the scapegoat for various livestock deaths. This isn't helped by the brother's prolonged absence from home although he seems to be in touch with community members. He advises his sister to put her name down to help at the communal farm. She is put to mucking out the barn where the cows were kept before they all had to be killed due to some communicable disease. Despite her hard work on the farm she still isn't accepted by the locals. Even when her brother finally returns home, she is shunned by them. The brother shortly becomes ill (perhaps at the sister's hands) and there seems to be no medical help available and the locals won't approach the house. So the narrator is left in this huge house looking after her brother much like one would a pet while the outside world fades away. The book ends with this sentence: "Nevertheless, I say to myself, softly, I am living, I claim my right to live."

Is that really living? If so, it's a bleak prospect. ( )
  gypsysmom | Jan 9, 2024 |
A young woman moves to an unnamed northern country to take care of her brother, whose marriage has recently collapsed. She tells us this is “the country of her forebears.” But she is new to this land, a stranger and—though somewhat of a linguist who has learned Italian and German without difficulty—unable to speak or understand the local dialect. When, soon after her arrival, her brother decamps to see to his business dealings and visit clients, her isolation is complete, but for her brother’s dog, Bert, a “small and sickly animal.” Coinciding with her arrival are some distressing events: a case of collective hysteria among a herd of cows that results in the animals being destroyed, the death of a ewe while giving birth, the failure of a potato crop. When she is not occupied by household chores, the woman spends her time hiking the wilderness adjacent her brother’s property. But in her brother’s absence she is forced against her will to venture into the town to purchase supplies, and here she witnesses first-hand the confused distrust with which the villagers regard her. Still, she attempts to mix with the town’s inhabitants, eating at the diner, buying local produce. She even signs up for volunteer work at a farm. But their misgivings persist, and her interactions with her neighbours are without exception awkward, bristling with misunderstanding and suspicion. Study for Obedience tells a profoundly claustrophobic story. We spend the entire novel in the young woman’s head as she ruminates on her past and present lives. She is the youngest of many siblings—“more than I care to remember,” she admits—and at a very young age was charged with taking care of them, serving their needs, complying with their demands. It was a life spent learning obedience, training she carries with her to her brother’s house, where she quickly assumes a subservient role. Much of the narrative maintains an eerie and shadowy vagueness. At one point a woman with a dog inexplicably appears in the garden behind the house. No words are spoken, but the woman’s stance and expression are accusatory, and through a mysterious process of silent suggestion the narrator is made to understand that the dog is pregnant, that Bert is responsible, and that this is further cause for the general antagonism toward her. Oddly, instead of questioning or resisting the notion that she represents a threat to the residents of the town, the narrator internalizes it, admitting that she’s always been an outsider: “it was something in my blood”—as if to say, she understands why they are uncomfortable in her presence. Toward the end, the brother returns from his business trip but soon falls ill and becomes secretive and reclusive, and the narrator is left to await what comes next. Sarah Bernstein’s prose is fluid, if dense, and carries the reader along on its sinewy rhythms. In Study for Obedience Bernstein spins a weirdly compelling tale, heavy with foreboding, that describes one woman’s attempts to come to terms with being alive in a world that never lets her rest, that is always challenging her right to exist. It is a book with no resolution that raises many more questions than it answers, but is fascinating for precisely this reason. Winner of the 2022 Giller Prize. ( )
  icolford | Jan 5, 2024 |
It was the year the sow eradicated her piglets. It was a swift and menacing time.

From the very first lines, Sarah Bernstein creates an eerie atmosphere of foreboding. The entire book is a monologue spoken by a women we suspect of duplicity or madness from the earliest pages.

I was the youngest child, the youngest of many—more than I care to remember—whom I tended from my earliest infancy, before indeed I had the power of speech myself and although my motor skills were by then scarcely developed, these, my many siblings, were put in my charge. I attended to their every desire, smoothed away the slightest discomfort with perfect obedience, with the highest degree of devotion, so that over time their desires became mine, so that I came to anticipate wants not yet articulated, perhaps not even yet imagined, providing my siblings with the greatest possible succour, filling them up only so they could demand more, always more, demands to which I acceded with alacrity and discreet haste, ministering the complex curative draughts prescribed to them by various doctors, serving their meals and snacks, their cigarettes and aperitifs, their nightcaps and bedside glasses of milk... In this process, I would become reduced, diminished, ultimately I would become clarified, even cease to exist. I would be good. I would be all that had ever been asked of me.

The unnamed woman's eldest brother is recently divorced and asks her to come manage his house, as he travels often for work. Ever compliant, she settles her affairs in the city and moves to the countryside, to the land of their ancestors, and moves in with her brother. Not speaking the local language, despite being fluent in many, she is at once an outsider. When her brother leaves on a business trip, she is left to fend for herself. At first she tries to ingratiate herself to the townsfolk, but it becomes apparent that they blame her for a series of mysterious ill omens, mostly involving animals. Being an unreliable narrator, and the only voice we hear, it is unclear to what extent her increasing paranoia is justified.

Permeating the entire novel is the shadow of the Holocaust and the locals' continuing antisemitism. Like much in the novel, however, it is an undercurrent, never made overt, but is insidious. On the one hand, everyone is guilty of wanting to take the easy road, to go with the flow: "which while entirely and understandably human was at the same time the most barbaric, the most abominable course of action. So, listen. I am not blameless. I played my part." On the other hand, terrible crimes had been committed, and yet the local people continue with their lives as though nothing had happened at the "pit parties" on the other side of the woods. It is in part the woman's struggle to live with the townsfolk, knowing what she knows about them, that contributes to her breakdown.

So here it all was at last. I had come to this place, when my ancestors had fled, out of what I recognised at last as an unkillable longing for self-annihilation, no more than I felt I deserved and, moreover, what I felt had been meant for me, the wayward child of a people whose only native merit was that they had survived. They had kept on. For ages they had kept on. And here I was, meeting history at last, proof that my deference, anyone's deference, was the surest and swiftest route to one's own eradication. It would be total.

The claustrophobic merging of the public and the private in her self leads to tangled threads of guilty, complicity, the desire to belong, and the fear of the other. There is a tremendous amount packed into this slim novel and many themes to explore. It is both an eerie novel of an individual's madness, and an indictment of society's complacency toward acts of aggression against those who are different. An impressive work by a young novelist. ( )
1 stem labfs39 | Jan 3, 2024 |
Viser 1-5 af 18 (næste | vis alle)
“I knew they were right to hold me responsible,” professes Bernstein’s unnamed narrator at the outset. “They” are the native residents of an unspecified remote northern country where her entrepreneurial elder brother lives in a lavish, former gentry-owned manor house. After his marriage breaks down, she drops everything and travels to be at his beck and call. The crime of which she stands accused is begetting a series of local environmental catastrophes on her arrival: a dog’s “phantom pregnancy”; a depressive sow crushing her piglets; and a herd of crazed cattle.
tilføjet af bergs47 | RedigerThe Guardian, Miriam Balanescu (Jul 2, 2023)
 
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'I can turn the tables and do as I want. I can make women stronger. I can make them obedient and murderous at the same time.'

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It was the year the sow eradicated her piglets.
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"A young woman moves from the place of her birth to the remote northern country of her forebears to be housekeeper to her brother, whose wife has recently left him. Soon after her arrival, a series of inexplicable events occurs - collective bovine hysteria; the demise of a ewe and her nearly born lamb; a local dog's phantom pregnancy; a potato blight. She notices that the local suspicion about incomers in general seems to be directed with some intensity at her and she senses a mounting threat that lies 'just beyond the garden gate.' And as she feels the hostility growing, pressing at the edges of her brother's property, she fears that, should the rumblings in the town gather themselves into a more defined shape, who knows what might happen, what one mightbe capable of doing. With a sharp, lyrical voice, Sarah Bernstein powerfully explores questions of complicity and power, displacement and inheritance. Study for Obedience is a finely tuned, unsettling novel that confirms Bernstein as one of the most exciting voices of her generation"--

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