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Extended Audio Sample Europe Central, by William T. Vollmann Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (946 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: William T. Vollmann Narrator: Ralph Cosham Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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In this magnificent work of fiction, William T. Vollmann turns his trenchant eye to the authoritarian cultures of Germany and the USSR in the twentieth century. The result is a daring and mesmerizing perspective on human actions during wartime.

Assembling a composite portrait of these two warring leviathans and the terrible age they defined, the narrative intertwines experiences both real and fictional: a young German who joins the SS to reveal its secrets and stop its crimes, two generals who collaborate with the enemy for different reasons and with different results, the Soviet composer Dmitri Shostakovich laboring under Stalinist oppression. This last story is perhaps Vollmann’s signature accomplishment in this volume. Also explored are the fates of artists and poets ranging from Käthe Kollwitz and Anna Akhmatova to Marina Tsvetaeva and Van Cliburn.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Few American writers infuse their writing with similar urgency.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “[A] nuanced reading…[Cosham has] a voice that is both intimate and distant, which he uses to excellent effect…stunning and otherworldly…atmospheric.”


  • “Vollmann opens new portals onto a genocidal war never to be forgotten and illuminates both the misery and beauty human beings engender.”


  • Europe Central may be his best novel ever.”

    Washington Post

  • Winner of the 2005 National Book Award for Fiction
  • A 2005 National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist
  • A 2005 New York Times Book Review Notable Book

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Gary | 2/16/2014

    " Vollmann continues to write beautiful stories about horrible things. Parts of this book are outstanding, while others painfully slow. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 by Jenni | 2/13/2014

    " I don't give up on many books (maybe 2 others in my life). But this book was just brutal. I don't know if I wasn't in the mood, but I could not get into it... "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Kyra | 2/10/2014

    " This book is told in slow-paced vignettes, so give yourself some time to go through it and appreciate the language. It helps to have a working knowledge of the USSR, as the book fictionalizes the inner thoughts of the main players during the USSR's troubled history. The story that takes the spotlight is that of Shostakovitch the composer's love for an elusive Elena. Also moving is the story of a Russian general, hero until he is captured by the Germans and collaborates with them, realizing that war is a nightmare of deception and impotent communication no matter which side you're on. I also like the story of a young SS officer who works subtlety to hinder the "final solution." Read this book in pieces (there are few paragraph breaks and the inner-monologue style of the book is its strength and weakness) and only if you already have an interest in Russian history, appreciating Volmann's imaginative retelling of history, and you won't be disappointed. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Mr. Brammer | 2/9/2014

    " I thought the section about Gerstein, the conflicted supplier of gas to death camps was the best part. After were the tales of Paulus and Vlasov, the generals who were captured and switched allegiences. Unfortunately, Vollman spends more time on Shostakovich, the composer involved in a love triangle. "

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About the Author
Author William T. Vollmann

William T. Vollman is the author of eight novels, three collections of stories, a memoir, and Rising Up and Rising Down, which was a finalist for the 2003 National Book Critics Circle Award. His 1996 story collection, The Atlas, won the PEN Center USA/West Award and he was the recipient of a Whiting Writers Award in 1988. Vollmann’s journalism has been published in the New YorkerEsquireHarpersGrantaGrand Street, and Outside magazine.