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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Opportune Moment, 1855

Patrik Ouředník

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To purchase The Opportune Moment, 1855

Title: The Opportune Moment, 1855
Author: Patrik Ouředník
Genre: Novel
Written: 2006 (Eng. 2011)
Length: 126 pages
Original in: Czech
Availability: The Opportune Moment, 1855 - US
The Opportune Moment, 1855 - UK
The Opportune Moment, 1855 - Canada
The Opportune Moment, 1855 - India
Instant propice, 1855 - France
Die Gunst der Stunde, 1855 - Deutschland
Istante propizio, 1855 - Italia
  • Czech title: Příhodná chvíle, 1855
  • Translated byAlex Zucker

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Our Assessment:

B : decent little take on utopian ideals dashed by reality

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Falter . 21/3/2007 Edgar Schütz
FAZ . 9/11/2007 Anja Hirsch
Libération . 2/6/2006 Eric Loret

  From the Reviews:
  • "Auch wenn Ouředníks philosophische Exkurse mitunter am Rande der Banalität balancieren, ist es vor allem wegen der augenzwinkernd ironischen Aufbereitung höchst vergnüglich mitzuverfolgen, wie das ehrliche, doch etwas naive Experiment nach und nach den brasilianischen Bach hinuntergeht. Gleichzeitig kann es wohl als Warnung vor moderneren Götzen wie Esoterik, Extremismus oder Drogen gelesen werden." - Edgar Schütz, Falter

  • "Denn das Spannende an diesem Roman ist die Tatsache, dass Weltgeschichte höchstens als Kulisse tauglich ist für ein zeitloses Gruppendrama, das kleinbürgerlicher nicht sein kann, obwohl doch alle Gruppenmitglieder so unbedingt anders sein wollen. (...) Ouredníks Gespür für den richtigen Ton, für Komik durch zurückhaltendes Erzählen ist es zu verdanken, dass der Stoff durchaus als Modell gelesen werden darf." - Anja Hirsch, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

  • "C'est l'anarchie et ses soeurs utopiques qui sont au centre de ce récit épistolaire au style (français) délicieusement voltairien" - Eric Loret, Libération

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The Opportune Moment, 1855 begins with a still idealistic anarchist writing in 1902 to a long-lost love about his life, which culminated in his efforts to establish an experimental settlement in Brazil almost half a century earlier, where he had hoped to establish a truly free and egalitarian community. He admits that his grand project quickly collapsed, but still insists:

     However, the short-lasted duration of the settlement is not proof of the project's unattainability -- only people without imagination could think so. If the first experiment fails to produce the expected results, it must be repeated.
       He didn't quite give up, but found: "it quickly became clear that my reputation and name would henceforth be an obstacle to similar projects". As to everything he's done in the decades since, he thinks that is hardly even worth mentioning.
       He includes in his letter the journal of one of those who traveled from Europe to embark on this adventure in 1855, and this makes up the rest of the novel. He barely comments on it, describing the journal as "the memoirs of a stranger", because of course he does not find in it a record of the ideals he aspired to. Indeed, he goes so far as to admit:
Words, words, words ! In the depths of night sometimes I plunge into a mad dream: that one day people will do without words and speak with one another using nothing but the gaze of their eyes in infinite love and kindness, in the mutual understanding of free beings.
       Even he calls that a 'mad dream', but his anarchist vision is no less unrealistic -- as the journal amusing demonstrates.
       The journal covers the long voyage to Brazil, the diarist one of a larger group that had decided to leave Europe in search for a better life and were drawn to these egalitarian principles that the utopia of 'Fraternitas' seemed to promise. Things do not start particularly well -- "11 of us died in quarantine" from cholera on the way to Paris -- but at least they all are willing to buy into this utopian idea, and share and share alike. On board, of course, things soon start to go south. Money still matters, not everyone is willing to play by the same rules, taking more than their fair shares, and ideological differences surface. Concepts such as free love and allowing blacks to be part of the community prove to be divisive -- not fatally so, but the arguments on board certainly put more than a few cracks in the idealistic structure. Once they start putting everything to a vote, anarchy begins to look very, very structured and the freedom they imagined increasingly distant .....
       The first and longest part of the journal comes to an end on 1 April, once they've arrived in Brazil but before they've reached Fraternitas; the remainder consists of four journal entries from on or about 15 October, shorter and shorter variations describing the slow collapse of the community over the preceding six months, and then the final blows.
       Utopian ideals are amusingly deflated in The Opportune Moment, 1855, as Ouředník's satire is rather small and even gentle, but quite effective. It can feel a bit thin overall, as the journal entries tend towards the simple and straightforward and few of the more dramatic occurrences are fleshed-out, but it works quite well.

- M.A.Orthofer, 6 April 2011

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The Opportune Moment, 1855: Reviews: Other books by Patrik Ouředník under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Czech author Patrik Ouředník was born in 1957 and emigrated to France in 1984.

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© 2011-2021 the complete review

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