A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is sure to be one of those books that make my ‘Best of 2013’ list, I was very impressed with everything about it. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is the 2013 debut novel by American author Anthony Marra.The story, told from an omniscient point of view, begins one morning in 2004 in the small Chechen village of Eldár.The night before, a villager named Dokka was captured and taken by Federalist soldiers, and his house was burned to the ground. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is ambitious and intellectually restless. Once caught up in it, this novel will breathlessly spin you around and around. It’s humane and absurd, and rarely out of touch with the Joseph-Heller-like notion that, as Mr. Marra puts it, ‘stupidity was the single abiding law of the universe.’” —Dwight Garner, The New York Times Book Review “A … . For an American writer, his grasp on Chechnya seems authentic. update Article was updated Aug. 11, … Once caught up in it, this novel will breathlessly spin you around and around. Marra isn’t above offering snatches of comic banter among this ragtag staff too foolish or compassionate to flee. Ron Charles writes about books for The Washington Post. Review A Constellation of Vital Phenomena . —Madison Smartt Bell, New York Times Book Review “A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is ambitious and intellectually restless....[Marra is] a lover not a fighter, a prose writer who resembles the Joseph Heller of Catch-22 and the Jonathan Safran Foer of Everything … 208 quotes from A Constellation of Vital Phenomena: ‘We wear clothes, and speak, and create civilizations, and believe we are more than wolves. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra 50,421 ratings, 4.09 average rating, 6,735 reviews Open Preview A Constellation of Vital ... ― Anthony Marra, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena. In fact, Marra appears to have so internalised the idea of art’s redemptive purpose that he pours out its balm with each sentence – something we might also identify as a signature style of the Iowa Writers Workshop, which Marra credits in his acknowledgments. May 6, 2013 • Anthony Marra's debut novel, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, takes place in war-torn Chechnya — a world of perpetual violence, fear and exploding land mines. Dementia is not, admittedly, a happy outcome, but in a world whose most awful fact is its uncertainty such glimpses work against the agony of not-knowing that is central to the Chechnyan experience. “I recognize you,” his father thinks. When Sonja scoffs that he can’t be serious, he replies, ‘English names all sound the same’. —Madison Smartt Bell, New York Times Book Review “A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is ambitious and intellectually restless…. To view a constellation is to see each star’s past during the present. Before moving to Washington, he edited the books section of the Christian Science Monitor in Boston. . Subscribe to our free newsletter for weekly updates from the SRB: Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to the SRB to help us maintain a vigorous program with no paywall. Check out Anthony Marra’s website. Marra was guided by, among other books, the work of assassinated Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena Anthony Marra, 2013 Crown Publishing 400 pp. Anthony Marra’s fascinating debut, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, was set in a ravaged Chechen hospital, and he expands both his scope and ambition for this intriguing collection of … This flickering between the real and its representation, between subject and object, is central to the effect of Léger’s triptych. It also creates a distance from its already not-very-believable characters, especially Havaa, who never feels like a flesh-and-blood child of war. He does this partly out of a sense of loyalty to his father, who needs diabetes medicine, but Khassan, who hasn’t spoken to him for almost two years, feeds the food he brings home to a pack of stray dogs. Go ahead and sneer at the thin atmosphere of America’s MFA programs, but this Washington-born graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop is a testament to the vibrancy of contemporary fiction. The almost-empty hospital where Akhmed hides Havaa provides a weird alternative world to the grim village. We see unexploded bombs lying in the street covered with toilet bowls,a clown crying in a basement during an aerial assault,a soldier insisting his prisoners wear seat belts on their way to a death camp. I rarely put down books. Read honest and unbiased product reviews from our users. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena Anthony Marra, 2013 Crown Publishing 400 pp. This strategy of superaddition is partly a reaction to Chechnya’s complex history of suffering, a way of registering its weight and layers. I feel that to hold this novel steady, I would need to read it twice, a statement which for me… Certainly, the novel has been attracting strong reviews. In the vanguard were David Eggers’ A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and Zadie Smith’s White Teeth, both published in 2000. Lim paints a hard-nosed portrait of middle-aged, single and queer womanhood encircled by the long tail of patriarchy, bolstered by the senseless weaponisation of cultural traditions and the burden of expectation. Marra’s ability to concentrate and humanise Chechnya’s plight is particularly impressive; the fact that he focuses his attention on women’s role in war (and chooses a little girl as the symbol of Chechnya’s future) is particularly welcome. He has been to the Landfill before, when he was twenty-three, during the First Chechen War: for refusing to inform on his village, he was castrated. Delia Falconer is the author of two novels, The Service of Clouds and The Lost Thoughts of Soldiers.... for Léger the archive and literature are mutually informing. Be warned: There’s a section of “A Constellation” splattered with viscera that will scar your conscience and remind you what the United States risks by blurring the hard-won moral and legal prohibitions against torture. The sisters’ relationship is prickly: as Sonja puts it to herself, she would cross the country for her sister, but not a room. The book begins with a sentence that forecasts both the horror and the whimsy ahead: “On the morning after the Feds burned down her house and took her father, Havaa woke from dreams of sea anemones.” Havaa, we learn, is 8 and now almost certainly orphaned. The story, which happens in Chechnya, moving to and fro in time over ongoing history, incorporates some extreme scenes, for example, portrayals of torment and removal. More comfortable drawing portraits than blood, he is determined to save his old friend’s daughter, though “she seemed an immense and overwhelming creature whom he was destined to fail.” His only choice is to spirit Havaa out of the village, where the sole remaining career choices are running guns for the rebels or informing for the Russians. And more importantly, how did you even get through the book? I haven’t been so overwhelmed by a novel in years. I haven’t been so overwhelmed by a novel in years. ‘I love the idea of books being more than books,’ he said, ‘or being, rather, something other than books.’. Knowing that the men from the Interior Ministry will come back for her, Akhmed walks her to the hospital in nearby Volchansk. Delia Falconer is the author of two novels, The Service of Clouds and The Lost … Praise for A Constellation of Vital Phenomena “Here, in fresh, graceful prose, is a profound story that dares to be as tender as it is ghastly, a story about desperate lives in a remote land that will quickly seem impossibly close and important. The traffic outside filtered through the windows takes on the rhythmic sound of waves; the railing, encircling the library’s upstairs gallery, becomes a ship’s deck, listing in the breeze; the ladders are knotted ropes over the sides of a sinking ship. Around a third would die en route. * My receiving a copy of A Constellation of Vital Phenomena free for review purposes did not impact my ability to express my honest opinions on this title. But it is art that shines brightest in the novel’s cosmology. This stunning, exquisitely written collection introduces a cast of remarkable characters whose lives intersect in ways both life-affirming and heartbreaking. Review: A Constellation of Vital Phenomena A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra My rating: 4 of 5 stars I really enjoyed this book, recommended to me by Deena. Some are linked in other ways: Natasha, for example, has met Dokka not once but twice – and has read Khassan’s book. REVIEW: A Constellation of Vital Phenomena February 17, 2016 December 20, 2016 ~ 55booksin52weeks Let me start by saying that I very much appreciate the overall story related in Anthony Marra’s A Constellation of Vital Phenomena . 6,725 reviews. Overview. ED. Write your own review of A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra, read other people's reviews and browse a book excerpt from A Constellation of Vital Phenomena. The narrator’s watery fancies of libraries turning into vessels become hard to distinguish from the hallucinations of the shipwreck survivors she’s researching . Prev If this is the case, it seems unfair to single out A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, a novel so remarkably assured in its grasp of its subject and ability to physicalise history that it rivals Peter Carey – a history it makes urgent and intensely readable. Here, in fresh, graceful prose, is a profound story that dares to be as tender as it is ghastly, a story about desperate lives in a remote land that will quickly seem impossibly close and important. Garnering rave reviews coast-to-coast, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is an unforgettable debut novel that deftly explores the human cost of war—and the healing power of hope. A brilliant debut novel that brings to life an abandoned hospital where a tough-minded doctor decides to harbor a hunted young girl, with powerful consequences. There's nothing easy about torture. He is also able to draw the disappeared from their families’ descriptions. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is the 2013 debut novel by American author Anthony Marra.The story, told from an omniscient point of view, begins one morning in 2004 in the small Chechen village of Eldár.The night before, a villager named Dokka was captured and taken by Federalist soldiers, and his house was burned to the ground. The surgeon, who assumes she has cauterized her affections, spars with Akhmed in a way that tempts us to anticipate some romantic engagement, maybe even a little happiness. There’s an alarming, Wild West wilderness at work. The neutral intellectualism of the former and the subjective affectivity of the latter exist in a dyadic relationship. Their experiences come to us in pungent flashbacks of trauma and joy — meals and games, marriages and affairs, offenses small and shocking that knit their lives together. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra Review: 5 out of 5 stars This was a whirlwind of a book. “She had the pale, waxen skin of an unripe pear,” Marra writes. But “A Constellation of Vital Phenomena” is ambitious and intellectually restless. And her desk is now a lifeboat as she ‘magicks’ herself onto a bench seat, a sole survivor adrift in open sea. The complicated moral hero of this tale is an incompetent peasant doctor named Akhmed, who lives across the street. With this fearlessness comes a fierce awareness of the book as a volatile technology, part of a tradition of accumulated stories that are historical and powerful but also, somehow, not enough. A story of the transcendent power of love in wartime, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is a work of sweeping breadth, profound compassion, and lasting significance. Read honest and unbiased product reviews from our users. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is simply spectacular. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is sure to be one of those books that make my ‘Best of 2013’ list, I was very impressed with everything about it. Having recently read two excellent novels by Aminatta Forna (The Memory of Love and The Hired Man) and also Richard Flanagan's truly outstanding and exquisitely written The Narrow Road to the Deep North, I wondered if I could face being immersed in the horrors of … Instead of postmodern scepticism, we find a soothing and repeated endorsement of the imagination’s powers, in which the novel exceeds its limits by incorporating so many instances of imaginative labour. To be able to even identify or bury a relative in Chechnya is a sick kind of luxury, as the box of tags in Sonja’s hospital attests; these scraps of paper sewn into the dead’s clothing, but found too late, list their home towns and any family who might come to collect them. Individual points of light converge to create a story—to convey connected lives. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra, review. Hogarth, $26 (400p) ISBN 978-0-7704-3640-7. It was only during this second visit with Dokka that he gave in and became an informer. Not only that genre, one might add; it is as much a problem for contemporary literary fiction, as some critics noted of The Tiger’s Wife and Foer’s second novel, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2005). About A Constellation of Vital Phenomena. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena Anthony Marra ... A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is a worthy next pick. While she was working at the hospital, Natasha drew the view of lost Volchansk onto the cardboard covering its windows; in a proleptic flash we learn that these drawings will be kept by Sonja and appear eventually in an exhibition. Her father, who nurtured her curiosity with extravagant affection, was an arborist who had lost his fingers in a previous encounter with the Feds and a pair of bolt cutters. In fact, the novel’s soft magic realism brings it as close to the reassuring closure of free-to-air television or the American self-help canon as the fabulist tradition from which it borrows. The quartet was conceived as an exercise in writing to the moment: a sequence of novels written and published at the rate of one a year, set in part at the time of their composition, responding to events as they unfolded in the wake of the bitterly fought Brexit referendum of 2016. Khassan himself is a fit 79-year-old veteran of the Red Army, having frozen his balls, as he tells Akhmed, through nine different time zones over sixteen years of service . It is Khassan’s huge, unfinished history of Chechnya – reminiscent of unlicensed Doctor Iannis’s history of Cephallonia in Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernières (1994) – that lets Marra cleverly cover the finer complexities of the republic’s relationship with Russia. From the infinite black space of despair emerges “a constellation of vital phenomena,” an arresting definition of “life” found in an old medical textbook. Léger understands the literary power of the image and of narrative; the thing and its multiple renderings through mediation. In “A Constellation,” the surreal has been stamped into flesh and bone. Ron Charles, ‘Anthony Marra’s ‘A Constellation of Vital Phenomena,’ reviewed by Ron Charles’, The Washington Post, (May 2013). Marra manages to translate much of this knottiness into human terms without entangling the reader. Other references draw us outside that 10-year range. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is set primarily during the Second Chechen War, which started August 1999. Their life-long friend and neighbour, Akhmed, has also been watching, and when he finds Havaa he knows of only As the novel opens in the village of Eldár, Akhmed, an incompetent doctor, has watched a group of ‘Feds’ (Russian soldiers) arrive in the night, abduct his friend Dokka, and burn down his house. This last line is also the epigraph of Marra’s novel. ARTICLES. Or purchase a subscription for unlimited access to real news you can count on. ISBN-13: 9780770436421 Summary A resilient doctor risks everything to save the life of a hunted child, in this majestic debut about love, loss, and the unexpected ties that bind us together. Yet in spite of this he was exiled with his parents to Kazakhstan, returning with nothing but their disinterred remains in his suitcase. I feel that to hold this novel steady, I would need to read it twice, a statement which for me… Mark Weiss/Getty Images May 3, 2013 4:28 pm ET In the twentieth century, this history would only become more complex. Boyle, New York Times bestselling author of When the Killing’s Done and The Women Sonja’s family was part of the influx of Russian immigrants after the Stalinist deportation. Let me know what book you'll like me to review next. Its back story takes place during and just after the First War of 1994-1996. Not since Everything is Illuminated have I read a first novel so ambitious and fully realized. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is a sweeping novel that uncovers the characters' pasts and propels them into the future. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena came to me highly recommended. In A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, the local ‘filtration point’ is the Landfill, where prisoners are thrown into deep snow-filled pits. I am not the only reader to see a strong family resemblance between A Constellation of Vital Phenomena and Everything is Illuminated (2002), Jonathan Safran Foer’s surprisingly comic fictional account of a post-Holocaust pilgrimage back to the family shtetl in Ukraine. In all these ways, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena throws light onto a dark corner of the world that is often only in the news during terrible events like the 2004 Beslan school massacre or the recent Boston Marathon bombings. As this tense – though often absurd – story continues, the novel flashes back into the past. A CONSTELLATION OF VITAL PHENOMENA is a spectacular debut novel about endurance and resilience amidst the insanity of war. Oliver Bullough is disturbed by the use of Chechnya’s suffering as colour for a novel. I haven’t been so overwhelmed by a novel in years. 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