May 17, 2022


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Review: Hania Yanagihara: "To Heaven" - this is the book

Review: Hania Yanagihara: “To Heaven” – this is the book

A great project by a great writer. But does it work?

A 900-plus-page novel by a bestselling author that has been celebrated for its sentimental story, “Zum Paradies” — and that sounds promising! Now to write that when reading you have to go through the purgatory of long polite and emotional sentences and a number of repetitions, on the other hand, it is difficult. Actually it is not entirely true. In her new epic, American writer Hania Yanagihara, who has been a literary star since her novel A Small Life, does a lot more.

One plays with style, disguises part of the text as a work of classic American realism, succeeds in one poignant and sensitively written part about New York during the AIDS crisis, admirably describes the farewell dinner of a terminally ill man, then again changes the sound and time – in the dystopian third, An emotionless narrator from the year 2094 tells of a world in which there is a healthy dictatorship in the United States after the countless pandemic…wow. Her multifaceted American social novel spans over three centuries and always addresses a very contemporary topic: what do origin, skin color and gender mean for life, how do they define people, and how impossible is it to make their way to heaven?

Touching and sensitive: “To Heaven” by Hania Yanagihara

But Yanagihara ultimately failed in this monumental project – in many ways. One narrator doesn’t slow down, and probably likes to show a lot of her art: in the first part she tells the story, charting an alternate history in which homosexuality is normal in parts of the world. United States, as Henry James once did; In Part Two, a descendant of Hawaii’s royal family speaks on the pages, but no one can hear him; Then it changes to the letter shape in the third.

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But it has never succeeded in creating an urgent need for reading. why? Since Yanagihara can indeed achieve effects and evoke emotions, but even with the extravagance of her narrative, she is unable to fill the structure of her novel with credibility, especially in the long-winded third part. Even her novel A Small Life, about four young men and sexual assault, was a challenge. This time too, nice guys are the focus, it’s all about love, friendship, loneliness and shame. Heavy book, packed a lot.

the book: Hania Yanagihara: To Heaven. ad. English v. Stefan Kleiner, Klassen, 896 pages, €30

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