Literature │ What’s in a name?

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

(published in “Avrupa” newspaper)

I don’t usually cave in to pressure when it comes to “must reads,” but it was impossible to turn anywhere without the title Freedom and Franzen being flashed. He was in every paper, every board and so forth, so I thought that I ought to find out what all the fuss was about, and I did. It’s not a small book, but I’ve read larger and greater ones.

Freedom is essentially a story focused on the marriage of Walter and Patty Berglund; their responsibilities to one another, to their family, and to themselves. It’s a book about dreams, ones trying to be achieved and ones that seem to be lost forever. The characters seem to be blind to everything until they decide to open their eyes, and that’s when the question arises, is it too late?

There is no doubt that Franzen is a good writer, he once said in an interview that he finds writing hard and that every time he sits down to write a book, it’s like writing for the first time and it can be a struggle and this can be seen from time to time. There are moments in the story which you imagine to be to a great extent, Franzen’s own thoughts rather than his characters, and you can almost sense his questioning of how far he should delve into a situation, a thought, an action, or whether he ought to brush over it swiftly.

As a reader, I enjoy to be transported far away, but that seems to be impossible with this novel, it is not one for those of you out there who are desperately seeking to leave behind reality. It is a brutally honest account of human nature; of jealousy, of desire and many of life’s let downs. Once you get past the realisation that you shan’t be transported to that other world, you become submerged and almost drown in the life of those on the page.

Franzen is exceptionally talented when it comes to capturing the human disposition although it can be ugly at times causing one to cringe and long to not continue along the track that he has devised for us to ride along, yet one does continue, all the way till the end. Some readers believe that the last one hundred pages could have been left out, at first I believed that the last two hundred pages could have been left out, along with a scenario where a character is digging through his own excrement in search of his wedding ring that he had accidently swallowed. We can forgive Franzen for such strange scenarios, maybe he knows of such events from real life, either way, he carried it all off very well. This book stirred an eerie sense of love and hate, but in the end, the book was worth picking up and reading till the end.

©Zehra Cranmer

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