There is a certain type of protagonist that always gets on my nerves, and that always gets written about. Let’s call him lonely, angry, angsty man, or LAAM (pronounced “lame”) for short. Why this is the case, I don’t know. Maybe the fact that I am not a lonely, angsty, angry man myself precludes me from understanding such serious works of literature. Maybe LAAM books are not actually meant to be enjoyed. Maybe they serve a sort of anthropological purpose instead. In any case, suffice to say, The Breaking of Eggs, is about a lonely, angry, angsty man, and I didn’t like it.
In The Breaking of Eggs the role of LAAM is played by Feliks Zhukovski, resident communist sympathizer and travel book owner. Feliks has lost his family in World War II and seems to have replaced all love and human interaction for politics and ideas, a theme that gets repeated multiple times per chapter. However, after the fall of the Berlin wall, Feliks decides to sell his travel book series to an American publisher and quest for his long lost family. After finding out they are either a) in America, b) dead or c) Neo-Nazis, he realizes that he is no longer a communist and that he loves people more than politics. For those of you who didn’t have time to read the whole above paragraph and are only skimming this article, here is an even more concise summary: Feliks thinks.
Now, gazing at my own navel is all well and good, but reading about other people’s navel-gazing is mind-blowingly tedious. Feliks spends about 3/4ths of this novel thinking about what he’s going to do, thinking about thinking about what he’s going to do, thinking about how it went down afterwards, and then thinking about thinking about how it went down afterwards. In fact, there is so much thinking going on that any actual action seems like an intrusion, out of place except as an excuse for more thinking. While this inner monologue may work in some stories (Old Man and the Sea, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, ect.), Feliks never goes anywhere with his thinking. It’s just the same stereotypical thoughts recycled over and over again for about 300 pages.
What makes this book doubly disappointing is the fact that it started out so well. The opening is tight, quirky, and interesting. Communism! How silly and unique! Unfortunately, this doesn’t last for very long. The book falls into a pattern of stereotype. Feliks takes a trip to America where everything is “striving for an illusory perfection that repelled [him].” They go to a Wild West theme park to see “the real America” and Feliks is thrown into predictable conflict. America and capitalism is tacky! But my long lost brother loves it! Woe is me. Even Feliks’s communism seems oddly stereotypical. The reasons behind Feliks’s communist principles are never believably fleshed out, and are either so frivolous or negative that its clear communism is supposed to be bad. Everything is predictable.
While The Breaking of Eggs ultimately tries to depict the struggle between ideals and actuality, the struggle rings false. There is never a question as to what will win out in the end, and because of this neither the characters nor the plot are very compelling.
Time taken: 9 hours
Worth it: No