The Opposing Shore by Julien Gracq

The Opposing Shore

The great maritime state of Orsenna has long been lulled by settled peace and prosperity. It is three hundred years since it was actively at war with its traditional enemy two days' sail across the water, the savage land of Farghestan - a slumbering but by no means extinct volcano. The narrator of this story, Aldo, a world-weary young aristocrat, is posted to the coast of Syrtes, where the Admiralty keeps the seas constantly patrolled to defend t...

Details The Opposing Shore

TitleThe Opposing Shore
Release DateMar 27th, 1998
PublisherHarvill Press
GenreFiction, Cultural, France, European Literature, French Literature

Reviews The Opposing Shore

  • Vit Babenco
    The Opposing Shore has a quite unique atmosphere – it is written in the baroque language of the nineteenth century classical novels and at the same time it is fraught with the Kafkian surreal suspense of the kind that permeates The Castle and it even boasts some whiffs of beautifully enigmatic Gormenghast.Yet even the melancholy of that flaming sun over a dead land failed to extinguish in me a throb of happiness; I felt in complicity with the t...
  • Jonathan
    I enjoyed this book. I did not enjoy it as much as some books I have read but I did enjoy it more than some other books I have read. The things that the words said happened were interesting to me. Some of the sentences were less interesting to me than some of the other sentences. Some of the sentences that were less interesting to me were less interesting to me because I had read similar things in different sentences in different books on previou...
  • Jeff Jackson
    I finished this over a month ago and have been figuring out how to review it. It's one of those rare BURIED novels that's so good I'm actually tempted to *not* to tell anyone else about it. To keep it to myself and try to figure out how to replicate some of its magick. So in that spirit, I'm not going to say too much. The Opposing Shore has been described as science fiction, but it takes place in an ancient kingdom that's closer to Calvino's Baro...
  • Lee
    Read this thanks to this bit in Enrique Vila-Matas's Dublinesque:"He'd published lots of important authors, but only in Julien Gracq's novel The Opposing Shore did he perceive any spirit for the future. In his room in Lyon, over the course of endless hours spent locked away, he devoted himself to a theory of the novel that, based on the lessons apparent to him the moment he opened The Opposing Shore, established five elements he considered essent...
  • Eric
    A capriccio on late Byzantine and Venetian themes. One of de Chirico’s piazzas. Surrealist-Normalien lucubration. A film noir ruefully – posthumously? – narrated by a police spy whose restless ennui and self-destructive bent make him the lover/accomplice/dupe of a femme fatale, and a tool in the hands of a mysterious boss, the secret power of the city. All of my favorite aphorisms on decadence and debacle, pressed into a short dream.
  • Nate D
    What seems at first to be little more than an exquisitely-described study of a state of suspended history, of the torpor and inertia attending a 300-year ceasefire and decadence of the national machinery, gradually shifts and darkens into something more unsettling. Julien Gracq's principle subject, in a career bisected by WWII and time in a POW camp, seems to be observing through subtle, isolated viewpoints, just where and how the 20th century fe...
  • Maru Kun
    This book could serve as a great case study for aspiring authors on how a potentially very good book can still be spoiled by poor execution.Unusually what spoils the book is not what you would normally expect - unexciting plot, uninteresting characters, unnatural dialogue - but, and almost uniquely in my experience, the problem is with the book’s written style alone, which is very overwrought and one that few readers could enjoy. Normally I am ...
  • Liviu
    INTRODUCTION: Several days ago, I discovered this novel utterly by chance. Published in France almost 60 years ago and an instant classic there honored with the Prix Goncourt - which the author refused after publicly railing against literary prizes - The Opposing Shore hooked me from the first page and I could not leave it before doing this review, though usually I leave some time between reading and reviewing for the book to "settle" in my mind....
  • S̶e̶a̶n̶
    Maybe there are moments when you rush into the future as into a fire—helter skelter. Moments when it intoxicates you like a drug, when a debilitated body no longer resists… Orsenna is an ancient country dominated by its capital city, ruled primarily by several aristocratic families, whose outer coastal province of Syrtes lies across the sea from the mysterious country of Farghestan (the ‘Opposing Shore’), with which Orsenna has been embr...
  • Mikee
    I originally gave this award-winning book three stars, but downgraded it because its dubious message seemed to be that jingoism is the best (only?) antidote to internal decay. How ridiculous. Maybe I missed something.
  • Ronald Morton
    The writing here is exceptional; both elegant and oppressive. It reminded me a bit of Kafka, and a bit of Micheal Cisco. There isn't much plot to speak of for the first ~80%, but the joy of reading Gracq's writing easily pulled me along.Probably more a 4.5 than a 4, but not quite forcefully enough for me to round up. If there was more actual "stuff" occurring in the novel to pair with writing it would be easier to push it over. That said, still v...
  • Luke Marsden
    A strangely atmospheric novel that blends the exotic and prosaic to create a mysterious time and landscape to be swallowed into. It is set between two locations: Orsenna, a fabulous city state of decaying grandeur, living on past glories; and Syrtes, a desert province on a distant and desolate coast to which the protagonist, Aldo, is assigned by the Orsenna Signory to observe naval operations. It is a post that requires almost no effort as the de...
  • Stephen Durrant
    “The Opposing Shore” (Le ravage des Syrtes, 1951) is a haunting and very difficult novel. I read it as a statement about the way torpor settles over a person or, in this case, a whole state, and the inevitable, growing urge to shake things up, move towards action, even though that action might bring destruction and death. Aldo, a member of a prestigious family in the imaginary city of Orsenna, is stationed at a fort on the coast. On the other...
  • Jim
    What Buddhist burst of contemplation led Julien Gracq to write this strangely atypical historical fantasy? The Opposing Shore is set in the Venice-like maritime state of Orsenna which faces, across a strait, the Muslim kingdom of Farghestan. We follow the young, ambitious Aldo, who signs up with the Signory to be sent to Syrtes, in the dour old Admiralty fortress which reminds Orsenna that, after three centuries, it is still technically at war wi...
  • Wreade1872
    Edit: Oh and that cover with the giant floating rock is a complete lie :# .So in premise this reminded me a lot of the excellent The Tartar Steppe. Both are about young men sent to remote outposts where the odds of anything exciting happening are quite remote but vigilance is nevertheless required.You could easily change the setting of these stories to say a nuclear missile silo in the usa and the stories would still work pretty well.However the ...
  • Robert
    It was an effort to finish this book. It's not very long, but it actually took me months to read it, because I hated it so much I could only handle it in small doses. Gracq has maybe the most pretentious prose style I've ever read. In fact, this book contains what just might be the worst sentence ever written (but don't ask me what it is, because I don't remember and can't seem to find it ... I just remember laughing when I read it). The book is ...
  • Sean
    The vacant, disquieting world herein exists on the same plane as Giorgio de Chirico's visual art—in a time outside of time, suspended in inertia, poised on the brink of turmoil.
  • Bbrown
    After learning the premise of The Opposing Shore I had to read it, but not because the premise is particularly noteworthy: The Opposing Shore is the story of a man who enrolls in the armed services and is sent to a remote base on the border of his country, a base on the outskirts that is notable because it faces a foreign nation that his country has long been at war with, but everything has been quiet on that front for many years. Not a bad premi...
  • Stephen
    I loved the first 1/3 of this book. Dense with rich language and vivid atmospherics. I wanted it to go on forever.... and then, unfortunately, it did. And while I understand that the exaggerated baroque style underscores the theme of cyclical ruin, ultimately I lost patience and felt buried beneath the purple prose. I lost count of the number of times "fever/feverish" was employed. Followed closely be "lugubrious" and even several repetitive vari...
  • Nicole
    I am finding the prose of this book very odd and difficult to sink into. I am torn between thinking that it is rich and strange like eating something thick and creamy, and thinking that it is rich and strange like trying to wade through something thick and creamy. The book also reminds me of the Tartar Steppe, which I found similarly dreamy and hard to get into. I am beginning to dread that DFW IRS boredom book, as I am worried that stories about...
  • David
    Call it 5 stars for mood and overwhelming atmosphere and richness of application of its ambiguities. Because of all those things, I found it an almost infuriatingly opaque and unwieldy work at times, especially for one that is fewer than 300 pages. But the prose (in translation, of course) is often quite wonderful.I'm looking forward to reading more works by Gracq, to understand his place in the scope of French fiction. (He seems likely, at least...
  • Johan
    This is definitely a masterpiece... after I read it I checked if it figures in the "1001 Books you should read" (the French version) book, and yes it is there, the only work of Gracq there mentioned. This seems anyhow the book of Julien Gracq that is most liked by his readers. Not an easy read; towards the end it becomes complicated to follow through. Not that I have understood the full or final meaning of the plot or of the total story; this is ...
  • Asa
    I vacillated on what grade to give this book, how much I really liked it, because while there were some things that I really liked there were also things that really annoyed me. I finally gave it four stars, mostly because I can see myself wanting to reread it some time.Opposing shore is set in a fictitious European-feeling country named Orsenna, in a time where there are cars and steamboats but no modern feeling to anything. The main character, ...
  • Denty One
    Gracq's prose can be exhausting at times, but it is so, so lovely. I read his work very slowly and deliberately, giving his atmospheres time to settle in. I try to place myself in his worlds, which always seem to lie at the edge of a dream. I believe this is what his work demands of the reader. The Opposing Shore is one of his more elusive works. Not only is the land of Orsenna and its Admiralty veiled in misty shadow, but even the motivations of...
  • Ben Hedley
    I couldn't really say what really happened in this book. Plot and action are pushed to the side in favour of atmosphere and character. All in all I found it very dull and wouldn't recommend it to anyone.
  • Leif Engdell
    The language was annoying. This is a book that you value when you finished it, but don't enjoy when reading.
  • El
    This is one of those books you should just read.