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An extraordinary, harrowing, endlessly surprising novel from a literary master.
In 1946, two brothers and a Jewish girl fall into alignment in pogrom-poised Moscow. The fraternal conflict then marinates in Norlag, a slave-labor camp above the Arctic Circle, where a tryst in the coveted House of Meetings will haunt all three lovers long after the brothers are released. And for the narrator, the sole survivor, the reverberations continue into the new century.
"In fewer than 250 taut, wonderfully allusive, powerful pages Amis has painted an impressively broad canvas, and achieved a telling depth of perspective . . . In his depiction of a nation stumbling, terrified and terrifying, through rivers of its own, self-spilt blood, he delivers a judgment upon a time--our time--the spectacle of which, if it had been but glimpsed by the great figures of the Enlightenment on whose reasonings and hopes the modern world is founded, would have struck them silent with horror . . . It is a bleak vision, assuredly, yet as always in the case of a true work of art, our encounter with Amis's dystopia is ultimately invigorating."
—John Banville, New York Review of Books
"House of Meetings is a singular, unimpeachable triumph, as powerful as J. M. Coetzee's Disgrace . . . [It is] a novel that not so much makes the spine tingle as the heart race at its passion and richness."
“Unmistakably Amis’s best novel since London Fields . . . A grimly mesmerised retrospect on what the Sovietologist and poet Robert Conquest called the last ‘ravaged century.’ But there is also, it emerges, an individual atrocity buried in the book, [and] the question implicitly asked throughout is : who is to blame for the crime at the book’s dark heart? Who or what—‘history,’ perhaps, or the state—can usefully be said to have brought it about? . . . A slender, moving novel, streaked with dark comedy, which investigates how Stalinism exacted a price from its subjects, a price which was ‘to be paid, not by the spoonful or the shovelful, but by the dayful, the yearful, the lifefull.’”
—Robert MacFarlane, Sunday Times
“[A] compact tour de force . . . House of Meetings is more than a love story; it is about envy, ethics, chaos, resistance, violence, solipsism and confession . . . Amis has produced a memorable novel and a memorable protagonist.”
—Toby Lichtig, The Observer
“In its material—the camps, the misery, the engulfing sense of sin, the positing of Russia not as a country but as an emblem of human fate—House of Meetings reminds us of Dostoyevsky. . . . A whole dome of meanings, a specific emotional world—hunger, desire, disgust, rottenness—rises around us.”
—Joan Acocella, The New Yorker
“Arguably his most powerful book yet. . . . House of Meetings is a powerful, unrelenting and deeply affecting performance: a bullet train of a novel that barrels deep into the heart of darkness that was the Soviet gulag and takes the reader along on an unnerving journey into one of history’s most harrowing chapters. . . . It is a story about fraternal love and resentment, but more important, it is a story about the consequences of survival, and about the connection between public and private betrayals and the human costs of a totalitarian state’s policies of internment.”
—Michiko Kakutani, New York Times
“[House of Meetings] has a cumulative power and resonates with many reflections about the course of individual destiny in a profoundly cruel universe . . . about the nature of memory and personal responsibility, and the way we are all enslaved by life’s infinite moral complexities.”
—Douglas Kennedy, The Times
“A slight novel in size only, House of Meetings provides an impressively full and frightening look into Stalin’s labour camps . . . Painful, trenchant, and elegantly written . . . serious in the best sense, its subject matter pleasingly unpredictable . . . I read it as slowly as I could [and] savoured every page.”
—Lionel Shriver, The Daily Telegraph
"Very fine, very moving and easily Amis' most accessible fiction since The Information."
—Adam Woog, Seattle Times
"Masterfully conceived . . . Its narrator is one of those vibrant monsters of nihilism, a Stalin in miniature, like Philip Roth's Mickey Sabbath or John Lanchester's Tarquin Winot. Here is evil, as creepy as it is unforgettable."
—Dan Cryer, Newsday
"A consistently gripping, concise epic of human atrocity [from] a fearless comic novelist whose career has mined the unholy symbiosis of humor and horror . . . Amis is nothing if not precise in hammering home his universal themes of filial love, jealousy and sacrifice; the physical and mental burden of survival, and the juxtaposition of Eastern resignation to suffering vs. the pampered Westerner's tendency to invent pain . . . [He] has made it his business to shock that monster of history into life."
—Connie Ogle, The Miami Herald
"Vivid and scarifying . . . [House of Meetings] gnaws at one's memory."
—Thomas Mallon, The Washington Post Book World
"One of the most chilling, exacting novels in recent memory . . . Amis might be the most skilled wordsmith working in fiction today."
—Regis Behe, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review