The Cannibal John Hawkes

The Cannibal John Hawkes Review

A single reading of this novel is not enough to parse it; 195 pages densely packed with more material than most novels three or four times its length. I don’t begin to think I comprehended much, yet I think John Hawkes’ designed this first read to wash over you and hit your subconscious to realize his purpose even if putting words or thoughts towards a review seems impossible and purposeless. Because of that, this review will be brief, and I hope to come back with a longer analysis of it after I read it and (with any luck) understand it better sometime in the future.

Most readers say the novel is plotless; some readers rag on these nay-sayers and say, of course there’s a plot, how can you not see it. In the end, both arguments serve no purpose – yes, there is a minor thread of plot that connects some events from the beginning to the end, but why does that matter? What Hawkes created is not a plot or character-based novel. It is observational, like a camera lens floating around freely in Germany, pre-WWI and post-WWII. It bounces between groups, individuals, events, and places. It observes these with a keen eye that extracts the human suffering and degradation that occurs in a land once plagued by fascism and now left to rot.

The purpose of Part 2 is to show the life of various Germans pre-WWI and the conditions which led them to believe that a fascist and nationalistic approach could provide something better. It does not blame them for falling into this mindset. What it does is show why and how we could be so easily persuaded in times of distress of our national superiority. Parts 1 and 3 show Germany after the war, now coming to terms with the failure and horrifying nature of their approach. Instead of being helped through these almost apocalyptic times, are now stabbed in the back again and again, and left to fend for themselves. It is not sympathetic to the fascists, it is sympathetic towards those who the nationalist leaders took advantage of. It shows how America’s intentions of freeing the German citizens and ending the war in Europe only went as far as attaining its own benefits. Now that those have been attained, well, what else is there to do but celebrate our own victory.

See my Goodreads review here: Goodreads

See other book reviews or what I plan to read next here: Book Reviews


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