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The March

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In 1864, Union general William Tecumseh Sherman marched his sixty thousand troops through Georgia to the sea, and then up into the Carolinas. The army fought off Confederate forces, demolished cities, and accumulated a borne-along population of freed blacks and white refugees until all that remained was the dangerous transient life of the dispossessed and the triumphant. In E. L. Doctorow’s hands the great march becomes a floating world, a nomadic consciousness, and an unforgettable reading experience with awesome relevance to our own times.
--back cover

363 pages, Paperback

First published September 20, 2005

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About the author

E.L. Doctorow

91 books1,041 followers
History based known novels of American writer Edgar Laurence Doctorow. His works of fiction include Homer & Langley, The March, Billy Bathgate, Ragtime, The Book of Daniel, City of God, Welcome to Hard Times, Loon Lake, World’s Fair, The Waterworks, and All the Time in the World. Among his honors are the National Book Award, three National Book Critics Circle Awards, two PEN Faulkner Awards, The Edith Wharton Citation for Fiction, and the presidentially conferred National Humanities Medal. In 2009 he was short listed for the Man Booker International Prize honoring a writer’s lifetime achievement in fiction, and in 2012 he won the PEN Saul Bellow Award given to an author whose “scale of achievement over a sustained career places him in the highest rank of American Literature.” In 2013 the American Academy of Arts and Letters awarded him the Gold Medal for Fiction.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,173 reviews
Profile Image for Will Byrnes.
1,311 reviews120k followers
July 27, 2023
Although it is not an overly lengthy novel, Doctorow paints a very wide palette. It may be too wide. His cast of characters is broad, including the mandatory historical personalities. Most prominent among these is William Tecumsah Sherman (“Uncle Billy” to his troops), of the eponymous March. Pearl is a white skinned black, a slave fathered by her master. If there is a central character here, I suppose it is her, but not by a large measure. Arly is a petty criminal, who along with his partner, is released from prison by a Confederate general in return for his value as a soldier. He follows a twisted path to what becomes, for him, a glorious end. A photographer, or at least his assistant and his equipment, figure in this tale, as does a family. Two sisters in search of different things, one looking for her lost sons, another for a purpose in life.

E.L. Doctorow - from The New York Times

The March is an image of the road, a literary metaphor as well as a physical one. While all the characters walk the path blazed by Sherman to some degree it is the paths each blaze personally that resonate. Pearl is on her way not only to Washington Square to deliver a letter to a dead soldier’s family, but to make a new life for herself, journeying from slavery to freedom. A German doctor travels a path to give his life meaning, but is unable to engage in his experience in a meaningful way emotionally, and so, in a way, remains where he is. A roué of a colonel enjoys his life as a ladies man while proving his mettle in the field, until he is undone by his own desires.

When this is made into a film, and it most certainly will be, barring a significant rewrite it will be populated with an “ensemble cast.” No one character leads the way here. Sherman himself is not introduced until page 74. Whites of both the north and south share our attention with diverse black characters. Leaders occupy the same pages as the lowest on society’s ladder. A brief Lincoln appearance is mesmerizing. Doctorow offers a tableau of an America on the march from a slave to a modern society, with a peek at many of the issues entailed in that transition. I was reminded of Whitman while reading this. Doctorow seems in Whitman’s way drawn to the sinews of the real America. He paints a very real image of a major event in a significant time. And while one might feel a desire for a singular character to whom to relate, it makes more sense in this work to step back and take in Doctorow’s pointillist approach, as the many individual specks add up to a very compelling image.

Highly recommended

=============================EXTRA STUFF

My reviews of other books by Doctorow
-----World’s Fair
-----Homer & Langley
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,564 reviews48 followers
January 2, 2022
The March, E.L. Doctorow

The March is a 2005 historical fiction novel by E. L. Doctorow. It won the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction (2006) and the National Book Critics Circle Award/Fiction (2005).

In 1864, Union general William Tecumseh Sherman marched his sixty thousand troops through Georgia to the sea, and then up into the Carolinas.

The army fought off Confederate forces, demolished cities, and accumulated a borne-along population of freed blacks and white refugees until all that remained was the dangerous transient life of the dispossessed and the triumphant.

In E. L. Doctorow’s hands the great march becomes a floating world, a nomadic consciousness, and an unforgettable reading experience with awesome relevance to our own times.

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز هفتم ماه ژوئن سال2015میلادی

عنوان: پیش روی؛ نویسنده: ادگار لارنس (ای.ال) دکتروف؛ مترجم امیر احمدی آریان؛ نشر چشمه، سال2013، در413ص؛ شابک9786006846170؛ موضوع جنگ داخلی امریکا از نویسندگان ایالات متحده آمریکا؛ سده21م

رویدادهای داستان «پیش روی» در پایان سال1864میلادی و آغاز سال1865میلادی روی می‌دهند؛ شخصیت اصلی داستان، ژنرالی به نام «ویلیام شرمن» است، که سپاه شصت هزار نفری خود را، از جنوب «آمریکا»، در مسیری به حرکت درمی‌آورد، که در نهایت آنچه باقی می‌ماند، مسیری به مسافت شصت مایل است؛ رمان با پایان یافتن جنگ، به انتها می‌رسد، و آنچه برجای مانده، جز بوی باروت و خون، نیست؛ سربازانی که خیال می‌کردند با پایان یافتن روزهای دشوار، آرامش را تجربه خواهند کرد، از آینده خبر ندارند؛ روزهایی که زخم‌های روحی و جسمی، سر باز خواهند کرد؛ داستان با گام‌های سربازان، و پیشروی ارتش، به پیش می‌رود، و یکی از نکات قابل توجه در سراسر داستان، دگرگونیهای ناگهانی است، که در شخصیت‌ها به روشنی میتوان دید؛ رمان «پیش روی» با سبک روایی مسحور کننده ی خود، به سرگذشت زندگیهای بی شماری میپردازد که در خلال خشونتهای کشوری درگیر در جنگی داخلی، به کام مرگ کشیده شدند؛ «دکتروف» با نوشتن این اثر، دنیایی معلق و داستانی به یادماندنی آفریده که به شکل حیرت انگیزی یادآور مشکلات و مسائل رویدادهای حال حاضر است

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 13/10/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 11/10/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Guille.
786 reviews1,754 followers
June 2, 2022

La gran marcha es una novela coral enmarcada en la fase final de la guerra de secesión norteamericana. Sin embargo, aun siendo importante, no es esta guerra la protagonista. La novela se centra en la cotidianidad de diversos personajes en una situación tan fuera de lo cotidiano como es un conflicto bélico y, para más inri, de guerra civil, sus reflexiones, sus reacciones en esa gran marcha hacia la gloria de unos, la muerte de otros, y el anonimato de casi todos. Están presentes el amor y el odio, la responsabilidad y la ambición, la fortuna y la desventura, la crueldad y la piedad, y todo contado con una sobriedad exquisita donde no falta el humor. Una gran novela.
Profile Image for William2.
758 reviews3,079 followers
September 15, 2017
Many shifting points of view tell this big story of General William Tecumseh Sherman's famous March to the Sea (1865) which ended the American Civil War in the south. Literary compression is the wonder here. Full characters are brought forth in half a page. It is for the most part a lean and uncluttered style, though with a propensity to swell briefly at times into overwriting. Fortunately, these interludes are few, but they lowered the achievement in my estimation to a mere three stars. The tragedy to both sides, especially the South, which provides the novel's setting, is most affectingly told. There is Pearl, daughter of a white master and slave mother who—like Joe Christmas in Faulkner's Light In August—has trouble knowing exactly who she is. She is drawn to white people because she is white, but feels she is black since she was raised in the plantation slave quarters. Will and Arly are young Confederate soldiers who, in the mayhem of the March, put on the uniforms of the Union dead to save themselves. Then there is Sherman himself, a brilliant, brooding loner respected by his officers but resented for his bond with the rank and file. There is the surgeon Wrede Sartorius—the name is almost certainly an homage to William Faulkner whose Colonel Sartorus appears in The Unvanquished and other novels—who works with an almost inhuman intensity to save the dying and thereby drives a woman he deeply cares for from his arms. The doctor is dehumanized by the war, not to the point of madness. Instead, he retreats into cold intellectuality where it is less possible to feel. He is numb. The dispensary scenes—where the casualties await Sartorius's saw—remind me very much of similar scenes in Émile Zola's La Débâcle, about the Franco-Prussian War (1870). A Pyrrhic victory for the Union. A terrible, interminable war of brothers killing brothers. The U.S. Civil War continues to shape the identity of America to this day.
Profile Image for Sara.
Author 1 book565 followers
April 4, 2022
This was not war as adventure, nor war for a solemn cause, it was war at its purest, a mindless mass rage severed from any cause, ideal, or moral principle. It was as if God had decreed this characterless entanglement of brainless forces as his answer to the human presumption.

William Tecumseh Sherman’s march to the sea is, without doubt, one of the defining moments in Southern history. Doctorow picks the march up as it leaves Atlanta and cuts through Middle Georgia to Savannah, the sea, and then the Carolinas. The battles and the ravages of war are chronicled very realistically, and the novel has a cast of characters, both real and fictional, who cover the gamut of those affected by this bit of Civil War hell fire.

Among the most interesting are a field surgeon, a Confederate soldier masquerading as a Yankee, a freed slave girl who passes for white, a black photographer and, of course, Sherman himself. Wrede Sartorius is the field surgeon whose ice-water reactions to the war were a bit unsettling, as if he did not feel anything. His clinical interest in his patients appears to be the only interest he has, remaining as apathetic to them as individuals, as he is to others who come into his sphere. In contrast to Wrede, we have Pearl, a freed slave girl who passes for white, and shows an uncommon degree of sympathy for the distraught widow of the man who fathered her. Arly is a Confederate soldier who is awaiting execution for sleeping at his post when the Yankees come into town and cause him to be freed to fight again. His method of survival is to change uniforms and pose as a Yankee soldier, and he follows the marching troops until he meets with Calvin Harper, a free black man from Baltimore who is traveling as a photographer's assistant.

Each of these characters has a fully developed story within the story, with myriad smaller characters coming and going as the march proceeds. It was Pearl’s journey that pulled this story into a solid tale for me, as so many of the other characters came and went, serving almost as vignettes of what the war was doing to so many lives, but she remained central from the beginning to the end.

It is hard to imagine how these people survived the destruction and death around them and then managed to pick up any of the pieces and carry on with meaningful lives. Sherman was undoubtedly a brilliant general, pursuing a strategy that was designed to put an end to the war and cripple the society beyond any recovery. He did what he intended, but this novel is as much the story of the lives he touched as of his own. Interestingly, Doctorow does not paint him as hero or villain, but as a bit of both, which I suspect falls somewhere near the truth.

Profile Image for Lyn.
1,883 reviews16.6k followers
August 26, 2017
The march.

In E.L. Doctorow’s capable hands it becomes more than a collective activity, more than a military composite. The march becomes a thing, a great living mass, whose arms and tentacles extend out for miles, though forests and across streams and down city streets. Each soldier in the march is a cell in a living organism of seek and destroy, a great sprawling entity of military might and objective, but diverse and chaotic enough to encompass stragglers, hangers on, passengers and parasites.

Describing General William Tecumseh Sherman’s 1864 march to the sea from burning Atlanta, novelist E. L. Doctorow illustrates a vision of history that comes alive for the reader. Following several characters on the march, including the General himself, the reader is carried along this flowing river of humanity bent on conquest and destruction, but also alive with individual purpose and reason. The march as a collective is a heterogeneous amalgam of moving and sometimes contradictory parts, but each distinctive person as a part of the whole has a clear and separate story of its own and Doctorow masterfully brings the mass to vivid life.

Sherman was shown to be a destroyer and also a threat of more destruction. His burning of Atlanta, Savanah, Columbia and much of Georgia and the Carolinas was meant to be a fatal coup de grace to the South, but worse, a promise of penultimate blows if ever his latest act of total war was not sufficient. The author shows the devastating result of the whole but also intrinsic and divergent cause and effect of the single players in the tide that is the Union army thrusting a killing blow into the heart of the Confederacy.

Doctorow has long been on my radar to read and this first read will only be the first. The March does much to define the American Civil War but transcends this war as a piece of American history and goes on to thoroughly and minutely provide for the reader a great history. I think only Tolstoy’s War and Peace matches Doctorow’s ability to, in a single literary work, describe both a great event and also the microscopic human details of that experience. I will read much more from this virtuoso craftsman.

Profile Image for Maziyar Yf.
533 reviews280 followers
July 20, 2022
لورنس دکتروف ، نویسنده معروف آمریکایی در کتاب پیش روی به دو سال آخر جنگ داخلی آمریکا پرداخته ، داستان او پیشروی ارتش اتحادیه ، یا شمالی ها ، یا طرفداران لغو برده داری به سمت پایتخت کنفدراسیون یا ارتش جنوب را به تصویر کشانده . در کتاب پبش روی هم همانند رگتایم نویسنده داستان و تاریخ را با هم آمیخته ، در کتاب او اگرچه آبراهام لینکلن ، ژنرال گرانت و ژنرال شرمن حضور دارند اما نقش محوری داستان با ژنرال شرمن و پیش روی اوست .
از جنگ داخلی آمریکا چه می دانیم ؟
با انتخاب آبراهام لینکلن به ریاست جمهوری آمریکا و عزم راسخ او برای لغو برده داری ، ایالات متحده به دو قسمت موافق و مخالف شامل شمال صنعتی و جنوب کشاورزی تقسیم شد . ایالات های جنوبی از آمریکا جدا شده و کشوری به نام کنفدراسیون یا ایالات موتلفه آمریکا به ریاست جمهوری جفرسون دیویس تشکیل شد . این کشور نژاد پرست تنها چهار سال عمر کرد، اگرچه که با مرگ این کشور نژاد پرستی از بین نرفت .
جنوبی ها اگرچه در ابتدای جنگ پیروزی هایی به دست آوردند اما با محاصره دریایی و اعزام نیروهای تازه نفس به فرماندهی ژنرال گرانت ( بعدها رییس جمهور هم شد ) و ژنرال شرمن ، ورق به نفع شمالی ها برگشت و سرانجام با سقوط شهر ریچموند ، جنگ داخلی آمریکا هم با تلفاتی بسیار زیاد به پایان رسید .
پیش روی ژنرال شرمن و حرکت ارتش او با همراهی سیاهان و زنان و کودکان ایالات جنوبی که با نابود شدن شهرها ، روستاها ، زمین و حیوانات جایی برای ماندن نداشته وحالا از روی اجبار به کاروان شرمن پیوسته و چاره ای جز پذیرش و همراهی با سیاهان که پیشتر برده آنان بوده اند ندارند همراه شده است . نویسنده با شرح حال زندگی دو نفر از این زنان ، روحیه آنان را شرح داده ، یکی از آنان دنبال پسران برده دار خود می گردد ، در میان اجساد به جا مانده از جنگها .
جنگ از نگاه افراد مختلف ،چه جنوبی و چه شمالی ، زنان ، سیاهان آزاد شده ، پزشک ارتش که صحنه ترور لینکلن از نگاه او روایت شده ، بیان شده است . نبوغ خارق العاده دکتروف داستانی از سربازی جنوبی ساخته که به قصد کشتن شرمن خود را به عنوان یک عکاس جا زده است ، اگرچه او موفق به کشتن ژنرال نمی شود اما عکس تاریخی جلد کتاب سرانجام توسط عکاسی دیگر گرفته می شود ، داستانی خیالی از عکسی تاریخی
کتاب روحیه مردمان آمریکا در اواسط قرن نوزدهم و احساسات متفاوت آنها را نسبت به آنچه برایشان می جنگند یعنی لغو برده داری به خوبی نشان داده ، بیشتر افراد از اهمیت آنچه لینکلن بر دوش آنان گذاشته بی خبر هستند یا اصولا اعتقادی به برابری سیاه و سفید پوستان ندارند . ژنرال شرمن یکی از همین افراد است ، سیاه پوستان در ارتش او هیچ جایی ندارند . او فقط سربازی حرفه ای ایست که به دستوری که به او داده شده عمل می کند ، گرچه خود به آن اعتقادی ندارد . نویسنده در اواخر کتاب صحنه دیدار شرمن و گرانت با آبراهام لینکلن را هم به تصویر کشیده .او از سیمای درشت ، ناراحت و اندوهگین رییس جمهور گفته ، او درد در چهره لینکلن را به گونه ای دانسته که گویا او عزادار فقدان تک تک تلفات این جنگ خونین بوده .
از برده داری پس از جنگ داخلی آمریکا چه می دانیم ؟
تنها چند روز پس از پایان جنگ داخلی ، لینکلن ترور شد و معاون او اندرو جانسون از حزب دموکرات رییس جمهور شد . او در مقام ریاست جمهوری عملا مانند یک مانع و مخالفی جدی در راه احقاق حقوق سیاهان عمل می کرد تا جایی که مجددا در جنوب خرید و فروش زمین به سیاهان ممنوع شده و از آنان دوباره به عنوان نیروی کار با حق و حقوقی بسیار محدودی استفاده شد . در هجده همین انتخابات ریاست جمهوری ، ژنرال گرانت ، جکسون را شکست داد و قوانینی برای برابری نژادی تصویب کرد اما در جنوب اجرای قوانین دولت فدرال با مقاومت سازماندهی شده و گروه مسلح کوکلس کلان روبرو شد. تبعیض سیستماتیک نژادی تا یکصد سال بعد به درازا کشید تا کندی در دوره ریاست جمهوری خود آنرا پایان داد . امروزه می دانیم که سیاه پوستان دست کم بر روی کاغذ حقوقی برابر با سفید پوستان دارند .

کتاب دوکتروف در حالی به پایان می رسد که حامی سیاه پوستان لینکلن ، ترور شده و حتی در میان شمالیان هم اعتقاد چندانی به برابری حقوق و رفع تبعیض نژادی دیده نمی شود . با پایان یافتن جنگ و تسلیم شدن جنوبی ها ، پیش روی ژنرال شرمن تمام شده وافرادی که به ارتش او بیشتر پیوسته بودند پی کار و زندگی خود می روند ، سیاه پوستان هم آگاهی از این امر که جنگ داخلی تنها نقطه شروع جنبش رفع تبعیض نژادی بوده و تا پایان کار راه درازی مانده ندارند . آنها با امید به آینده نامعلوم خود می نگرند .
Profile Image for Joy D.
2,073 reviews240 followers
August 19, 2020
Historical fiction set near the end of the American Civil War (late 1864- early 1865) that follows General William T. Sherman’s March through Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina, and ends at the surrender of the Confederacy. It follows a large cast of characters representing the many diverse participants, including military leaders, landowners, emancipated slaves, refugees, soldiers on both sides, doctors, nurses, journalists, and volunteers that perform services as needed. Sherman’s troops burned cities, pillaged plantations, and commandeered livestock as they pursued Confederate General Joseph Johnston.

The storyline shifts among different characters, giving the reader a chance to view events from a broad perspective. The closest we come to a protagonist is Pearl, the daughter of a (deceased) slave mother and a landowning father. As the novel opens, Pearl and other slaves are freed by the arrival of the Union army. They follow the troops, and we follow Pearl through a wide variety of experiences, such as posing as a drummer boy and helping out in the medical station. The comic relief is provided by a pair of Confederate soldiers. They get into one scrape after another, posing as Union troops and eventually encountering a photographer recording images of the war.

A couple years ago I read Sherman’s March by Burke Davis, and if I had thought about it, I would have read these two books back-to-back. Doctorow’s fiction takes historic events to a personal level, allowing several characters to interact with key players such as Lincoln and Sherman. This book portrays this chaotic time and its impact on individuals, vividly describing the physical, psychological, and emotional trauma of war, as well as the jubilation of freedom and the uncertainty of what comes next.
Profile Image for Lorna.
721 reviews421 followers
August 1, 2022
The Pulitzer Prize winning book The March by E.L. Doctorow is not to be missed. This very non-linear narrative describes the long march in 1864 of General William Tecumseh Sherman's Union Army as they swept through Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina, essentially ending the Civil War in the United States. Throughout this fictional account of the army's progress razing cities and plantations and sweeping up in its wake, the march of freed slaves. Some of the memorable quotes:

"And, as they watched, the brown cloud took on a reddish cast. It moved forward, thin as a hatchet blade in front and then widening like the furrow from the plow. It was moving across the sky to the south of them. When the sound of this cloud reached them, it was like nothing they ever heard in their lives. It was not fearsomely heaven-made like thunder or lightning or howling wind, but something felt through their feet, a resonance, as if the earth was humming. Then, carried on a gust of wind, the sound became for moments a rhythmic tromp that relieved them as the human reason for the great cloud of dust."

"The symphonious clamor was everywhere, filling the sky like the cloud of red dust that arrowed past them to the south and left the sky dim, it was the great processional of the Union armies, but of no more substance than an army of ghosts."

"By now the last of the troops were straggling by, and behind them the parade of black folks who had chosen to follow the army. There were hundreds--men, women, and children--walking, riding in wagons, some limping along, and the sound of them was different from the sound of army men. No drumbeats here, no rumble of caissons, no military blare. It was a rhythmless festive sound that came up from them, a celebratory chatter almost like birds in a tree, from which laughter emerged or bits of song. It was the sound of collective excitement, as if these people were on some sort of holiday and on their way to a church meeting or a picnic. Children, with their high, piping voices, were skipping along or pretending to be soldiers, or running ahead and then running back."

In an interview with E.L. Doctorow, he said that this was his Russian novel, and certainly not comparing his writing to that of Tolstoy, but describing the montage of characters that he has exploding across the pages in a brilliant tapestry of the overarching effects of this civil war highlighting the random cruelty and chaos of war. I found this novel both inspirational and heartbreaking on so many levels. The more I read about the America's Civil War, I am struck by how divided this country was as the issue of slavery ripped this country apart, and alas, we are still fighting. We all need to pay more attention to our past history as there are very important lessons there. And to Generals Grant and Sherman, thank you.
Profile Image for sAmAnE.
590 reviews89 followers
September 26, 2023
پیش‌روی داستان یک جنگ تلخ از توده‌ایست چندهزار نفری از بردگان آزاد شده. ژنرال شرمن برای تصرف ساوانا، از جورجیا به سمت کارولینای شمالی و جنوبی می‌رود. ویل و آرلی دو شخصیت جالب در کتاب برای من بودند، دو سرباز شورشی. آن‌ها در زندان منتظر اعدام بودند، یکی بخاطر فرار از خدمت و دیگری بخاطر خوابیدن حین نگهبانی.

کتاب تصویر خوبی از انگیزه برای زنده بودن، نقش زنان در جنگ و پزشکان حین جنگ را نشان می‌دهد.
Profile Image for robin friedman.
1,815 reviews242 followers
March 14, 2023
Doctorow's March

In his latest novel, E.L. Doctorow explores the American Civil War, specifically the march of General W.T. Sherman and his army through Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina in 1864 --1865. Sherman's march is generally regarded by historians as the predecessor of modern total war. The march was directed not only against the Confederate army, but against an entire people, as Sherman's soldiers cut a broad swatch through the States and through cities, destroying resources, homes and food everything in their path. The war was of such a magnitude and the passions among the combatants and the citizens so strong that the will of the South to fight, not only the force of arms, needed to be subdued. This was a cruel, difficult, and still controversial march as Sherman cut his Army of from its own communications and supplies further North, marauded, and pillaged and lived off the land bringing destruction to everything in its wake and spawning a long legacy of bitterness in the South.

Doctorow begins his story of Sherman's campaign in the midst of it -- after the Union Army had captured Atlanta and begun the first leg of its march to Savannah, Georgia. Doctorow gives a vivid picture of an Army on the march, for the most part unopposed, destroying everything in its path. The march through Georgia is the subject of the first section of the book.

The second part of the book describes the campaign into South Carolina. Destruction in this portion of the campaign reached astounding levels because Sherman, together with most of the Union leaders, held South Carolina responsible for initiating the war. This section of the book includes graphic pictures of the Union Army's difficult march through the swamps of lower South Carolina and of the burning of Columbia. (There is still disagreement about whether the North or the South was primarily responsible for the burning. Doctorow shows that it was some of both.)

The third section of the book, set in North Carolina, deals with the waning days of the War, with the final battle of Bentonville, with Sherman's meeting with Grant and Lincoln, and with the end of the War and Lincoln's assassination. The Nation clearly and a great deal of healing and soul-searching to do.

Doctorow gives the reader an excellent sense of the movement of the armies, the horrors of war, death, injury, and barbarity, and, in particular, of the state of medical practice during the conflict. We are given a good portrait of General Sherman, but of the other leaders of the Army only the cavalry leader Kilpatrick, known as "Kil -Kilpatrick" for his reckless behavior gets a great deal of attention.

The book takes a broad sweep, but there is no single main character that stands out. The story is mostly presented through vignettes and miniatures involving a wide cast of individuals. These include a brilliant but emotionally cold Union doctor, Wrede Sartorius, a beautiful young former slave, Pearl, who can pass for white, former Southern slaveholders whose plantations are destroyed and lives uprooted, and Arly and Will, two poor rural Southern soldiers who endure a variety of adventures behind Union lines and provide comic, if sardonic, relief. These individual stories are told from a variety of perspectives and are interlaced with each other. Thus, it takes attention on the reader's part to follow the narrative.

The stories show a great deal about the effects of the march on specific people and groups of people -- we see the war through the eyes of the newly freed slaves, of the dispossessed plantation owners, and of the troops on the ground, among other people and are encouraged to think about its scope and significance. Doctorow puts meditations and soliloquy passages into the parts of some of his protagonists about death, freedom, destruction, and sexuality. These are among the best parts of the book. Doctorow's characters are well-developed and their stories help us to understand varying perspectives on the conflict. But at times, I found them somewhat mannered and a distraction from the focus of the book on Sherman's march.

There are several highly graphic depictions of death, injury, suffering, and surgical operations in this book which capture unforgettably the brutality of warfare.

Doctorow has written an excellent novel about Sherman's march which will encourage the reader to reflect upon its meaning for and continued influence upon our Nation's history.

Robin Friedman
Profile Image for Lori  Keeton.
487 reviews122 followers
April 15, 2022
This was not a war as adventure, nor war for a solemn cause, it was war at its purest, a mindless mass rage severed from any cause, ideal, or moral principle. It was as if God had decreed this characterless engagement of brainless forces as his answer to the human presumption.

With a cast of characters diverse and plentiful, Doctorow crafts an unwavering account of General William Tecumseh Sherman’s famous march to the sea through Georgia and then the Carolinas in the waning months of the Civil War. His “total war” strategy, which helped the Union win the war, encompassed more than military combat. It sought to scare Georgia’s civilians into abandoning the South’s cause by destroying or stealing their property, farms, crops, livestock and also by destroying valuable resources such as industry, railroads, telegraph lines and warehouses of the Confederacy along the way.

From the opening scene, the panic and anxiety at a plantation in Georgia forms the atmosphere as the people prepare to leave in haste before Sherman’s troops arrive. The harried dispersal of southern aristocrats and freed slaves amidst the fear of approaching Union troops leaves the reader amidst the chaos that is a civil war. Each turn of the page and start of a chapter introduces another character to the mix that I wondered if I’d be able to keep up with them all. But the way that Doctorow inserts fictional but realistic people into one of the most divisive wars in history along with some of the actual military men worked very well to humanize the event. It was interesting how the characters drifted in and out of the story mimicking the march. As Sherman’s troops marched and destroyed, hundreds and thousands of stragglers began to glom on and follow. As the ragged armies move along the southern landscape, the mass of humanity continued to weave in and out of Doctorow’s narrative landscape.

This novel really doesn’t have a protagonist to follow because the march is the central focus. We see the experiences of each character sort of like different scenes that make up the whole event. Some characters are connected to each other and we are able to easily witness how these connections are made as the march continues. At each turn, I began to expect a new scene, character and experience. Among the many characters that stand out are a couple of misfit Confederate soldiers, Will and Arly, unlucky deserters who keep changing uniforms to save themselves. Often they provide comic relief with a sardonic flair. Dr. Wrede Sartorius is a German surgeon whose demeanor is always unemotional and icy. He is brilliant at his work and perfects his skills on the battlefield. And, Pearl, the 14 year old freed slave girl with pale skin and able to pass as white struggles to figure out her identity.

There are pauses along the march in which the displaced people are discussed and wondered about. Sherman himself doesn’t want them there. He doesn’t see their presence as advantageous to him and his mission. We see his neurotic personality displayed throughout and witness his interactions with his Generals and aides.

So many lives were affected by this war and this march. The impact felt by the citizens of the South and of the lives of the newly freed slaves as well as the soldiers on both sides are wide and various. The ending of the Civil War brought the greatest effects for those like Pearl who were now free but with no real sense of what that meant for their future. The march gave them a short-term purpose while trying to figure out how to move forward.

This book was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2006 while another Civil War novel by Geraldine Brooks called March won the prize.

The streets were aswarm. Yet to someone watching the processions of men and wagons and gun carriages, broughams, buggies, and two-horse shays, it became apparent that not merely an army was on the move but an uprooted civilization, as if all humanity had taken to the road, black women and children trudging along beside their go-carts, or pulling, oxenlike, their two-wheeled tumbrels, and white citizens of the South in their fine carriages overloaded and creaking with bundles and odd pieces of furniture. The Southern population behind Sherman was refugee, having joined his march because it was the only thing left.
Profile Image for Bill.
219 reviews48 followers
July 29, 2022
...to someone watching the processions of men and wagons and gun carriages, broughams, buggies, and two-horse shays, it became apparent that not merely an army was on the move but an uprooted civilization, as if all humanity had taken to the road, black women and children trudging along beside their go-carts, or pulling, oxenlike, their two-wheeled tumbrels, and white citizens of the South in their fine carriages overloaded and creaking with bundles and odd pieces of furniture. The Southern population behind Sherman was refugee, having joined his march because it was the only thing left.

Doctorow just manages to keep the fascinating stories of his fictional characters enough in check to serve his broader narrative of General William Tecumseh Sherman's morale-breaking March to the Sea from a burning Atlanta to Savannah and through the Carolinas in the waning months of the Civil War. Sherman himself is the main historical character, but he shares top billing with Doctorow's creation Pearl, light-skinned daughter of a plantation owner and the slave he raped. Other major characters include Col. Wrede Sartorius, a highly skilled but emotionally numb surgeon in the Union army, and Confederate misfits Arly Wilcox and his sidekick Will Kirkland, who provide occasional comic relief.

This National Book Critics Circle Award winner is a worthy shelf mate to such other excellent Civil War novels as Michael Shaara's The Killer Angels, Shelby Foote's Shiloh, and the much-less known Fredericksburg, by Kirk Mitchell.
Profile Image for  amapola.
282 reviews32 followers
July 28, 2018
“Questo inferno, il mio inferno, è senza attribuzione. E' la vita quando non è più capace di tollerarsi”.

La marcia è quella che sul finire della guerra di secessione americana, nel novembre 1864, compie il Generale William Tecumseh Sherman alla testa di un esercito di 62.000 giacche blu da Atlanta a Savannah (Georgia), per poi proseguire attraverso il Sud e il Nord Carolina, fino alla resa dell’esercito sudista.
Durante l’avanzata nordista – tra saccheggi, scontri a fuoco, incendi, distruzioni – molti civili che hanno perso tutto, completamente allo sbando, si aggregano in coda alla carovana dell’esercito, nel tentativo di sopravvivere in qualche modo alla tragedia che li ha colpiti. In questo romanzo la guerra è vista soprattutto attraverso i loro occhi, gli occhi di chi la subisce e cerca disperatamente di restare vivo, di non perdere la propria umanità in quell’inferno.
Tantissimi i personaggi illuminati dall’autore e, di volta in volta, portati in primo piano nella narrazione: Pearl, negra dalla pelle bianca; Arly e Will, disertori e spie, uniti dalla sorte in una fuga perenne e trascinati in situazioni sempre più paradossali; Emily, travolta da eventi che cancellano in un attimo ogni certezza, in cerca di un nuovo punto d'appoggio; Wrede Sartorius, chirurgo tedesco, dotato di conoscenze e capacità molto superiori per quel tempo, ma freddo, un uomo tremendamente solo nella sua spietata lucidità; il Generale Sherman, dotato di un istinto quasi infallibile per tutto ciò che riguarda tattica e strategia militare, ma perseguitato da un senso di insicurezza che affiora nei momenti di calma, e per questo temuta più di qualsiasi battaglia… Una miriade di personaggi (storici e di finzione) che ci accompagnano per tutto il romanzo e altri che vivono e muoiono nello spazio di alcune pagine, se non addirittura di pochi paragrafi. Nessuno di loro, alla fine, uscirà intatto da questa esperienza, da questa marcia, dalla guerra.
Un romanzo corale, drammatico, in cui Doctorow ci fa passare attraverso atroci sofferenze con una prosa raffinata, mano ferma e sguardo pietoso.

Profile Image for Bart.
Author 1 book108 followers
August 29, 2007
This was good, not great.

Such has been my feeling about all three of the Doctorow novels I've read, Billy Bathgate, City of God and The March. All of these novels are well-structured, technically proficient works, and all contain something that makes them above average.

But nothing quite makes them extraordinary.

Some credit has to go to Doctorow, however, just for picking Tecumseh Sherman's march as his topic. This is a controversial subject, even 140 years later. Truthfully, I most enjoyed the parts where Doctorow - a writer who proved in City of God that he has a top notch brain - tried to lead us inside Sherman's mind.

The novel may have been better for me if it had been more about marching and obligation and mania than bit players. The Pearl character, specifically, just felt like Doctorow was trying too hard to make a somewhat tired social commentary; the ending of the book - with Pearl being "ahead of her time" - was uncharacteristically trite.

Going into this novel, and knowing the abandon with which Doctorow tackled the existence of God in a previous novel, I expected more marching and more Sherman - and all the horrific choices an otherwise decent, but empirical-thinking, man had to make.

Finally, the supporting cast of The March is what makes me hesitate to recommend this novel to historical fiction fans. For now, let's just let contemporary fiction fans enjoy it as an entertaining read that uses very interesting scenery in a pretty good way.
Profile Image for Brian.
709 reviews352 followers
January 18, 2016
"The March" is a cinematic novel with an ensemble cast that is touchingly drawn and achingly familiar to the human condition. Doctorow spins a tale that focuses on the last year of the Civil War through the eyes of a multitude of characters. To see the effect of war through the eyes of such a varied cast, and to still be emotionally involved despite the brief appearances some of them make, is a testament to Doctorow's style and command of language.
The novel has an almost Dickenson cast of characters and some of the characters advance the general plot of the novel, while others simply serve as mirrors of the human condition and conduits for philosophical thoughts. Regardless, Doctorow blends them together seamlessly into a coherent and fast paced narrative that leaves the reader fulfilled.
The character of Arly served as a personal favorite, simply because he does seem to have a values system, though on the surface Doctorow paints him as selfish and opportunistic. The fates of several of the characters are brutal, shocking, or unresolved. This reader appreciated that fact, as war is never neatly wrapped in a bow.
Don't read this novel for a history lesson. It is not designed for that. There are other texts to meet that purpose.
Read it for its remarkable use of the English language, and some of the crispest characterizations to come out of an American novel in recent years.
Profile Image for Jean.
1,730 reviews753 followers
September 12, 2015
Doctorow turns his masterful writing ability to the 1864 March of Union General William Tecumseh Sherman. Sherman burned Atlanta and then marched his Union Army of sixty thousand through Georgia and up the Carolinas. The troops lived off the land, pillaging and demolishing cities along the way.

Doctorow has provided the reader with an enormous caste of unforgettable characters, white, black, men, women and children. The key cast is Sherman, Colonel Sartorius a Union regimental surgeon, Emily Thompson, the dispossessed daughter of a George Supreme Court Judge, the two misfit soldiers Arty and Will, and last but not least, Pearl the beautiful freed slave girl. The author provides a stunning description of the countless victims swept up in the violence of a country at war with itself.

My mind wanders from Doctorow’s descriptions of the families displaced by civil war to what I was watching daily on T.V. of the civil war refugees fleeing Syria to Europe. The book won the National Book Critics Award and the 2005 PEN/Faulkner award and was a finalist for the 2006 Pulitzer Prize. I read this as an audiobook downloaded from Audible. Joe Morton did a good job narrating the book.
Profile Image for Maryam.
180 reviews39 followers
June 7, 2016
این رمان در مورد جنگ داخلی آمریکا است. در آخر کتاب مصاحبه ی کوتاهی با نویسنده انجام شده است که مپرسد چه فرقی بین مورخی که تاریخ می نویسد با یک رمان نویس است که جواب می دهد :مورخ به شما می گوید چه اتفاقی افتاد. رماان نویس می گوید آن اتفاق چه طور افتاد
Profile Image for allison.
41 reviews13 followers
June 16, 2007
Totally mesmerizing, hallucinagenic almost. Creates that feeling of being unmoored from the shore and swept along a in a current. At any moment, someone or something else can float by you as you're carried along by the water against your will, just hoping to keep your feet up so as not to get pulled under by a hidden rock or branch and drown. He's a really good writer.
Profile Image for Jan-Maat.
1,566 reviews1,894 followers
July 11, 2018
Coming to this novel after Ragtime I was disappointed. It is a far more conventional story that tracks along Sherman's march through Georgia and then up through South Carolina during the American Civil War. Hanging about the story are two dastardly brothers, sinister but also comical who desire to have sex with their half sister, this would be socially acceptable since she, Pearl, is a slave. She however manages to evade them in favour of Stephen a Union soldier of Irish background. Since Pearl is passably white we are I suppose to assume that their ending will be happy ever after. And one can look at this as an optimistic ending - eventually the USA will come to a more perfect union, or a pessimistic ending - marital relations are possible only because the black woman passes for white, or one can feel that the XIXth century was the XIXth century and the XXth century looked back on that with its own eyes while the XXIst century will find its own way to somewhere . The novel has a fairly brisk pace and shows the age of total war coinciding with the cusp of a modern era more generally, the ending of slavery, the development of surgery, the appearance of photography. There is I understand an overlap of characters with some of Doctorow's other novels, but it is essentially free standing, but unfortunately far less striking than Ragtime where the guys who crowd a tree like crows to catch a glimpse of a ball game crow about in my imagination still, and Ragtime's characters, possibly due to the fin de siecle heavy eating they engaged in, still have a tangibility to them, while the people of the March are more like figures in the fog to me. One for the completists I suppose.
Profile Image for Terry.
317 reviews70 followers
April 16, 2022
The March is a novel about Sherman’s march through the south in the American civil war. In it, the stories of multiple people are told, numbers of people, almost but not quite too many to keep track of — much like the numbers of soldiers under Sherman’s command. Sherman thinks of all these people as weapons.

“The only reason to fear death is that it is not a true, insensible end of consciousness. That is the only reason I fear death. In fact, we don’t know what it is other than a profound humiliation. We are not made to appreciate it. As a general officer I consider the death of one of my soldiers, first and foremost, a numerical disadvantage, an entry in the liability column. That is all my description of it. It is a utilitarian idea of death — I am reduced by one in my ability to fight a war.”

It is hard to reduce numbers of people with real lives and emotions to just numbers. It is hard to imagine war as something beautiful. The descriptive prose of the author draws us into the individual stories and at the same time into the psyche of a general, Sherman’s psyche.

“The lines, he saw now were converging from three directions —north, south and along the capital — colors flying. My God, they are magnificent! Sherman cried. Within moments the smoke of the big guns enveloped the scene like fog drift, and the wind brought to Sherman the pungency of blown powder. And now only the caprices of the wind would let him see discreet moments of the action, tantalizing glimpses as if, he thought, the smoke were the diaphanous dance veil of the war goddess. And I’m seduced, Sherman said, aloud, to a startled Morrison.”

It is Sherman’s will which impels the Union army. The massive numbers of men in movement is described by the army surgeon.

“But supposing we are more a nonhuman form of life. Imagine a great segmented body moving in contractions and dilations at a rate of twelve or fifteen miles a day, a creature of a hundred thousand feet. It is tubular in its being and tentacled to the roads and bridges over which it travels. It sends out as antennae its men and horses. It consumes everything in its path. It is an immense organism, this army, with a small brain. That would be General Sherman, whom I have never seen.”

You would think, after reading these quotes, that this might be a mechanical reading of the march history, but there are also the stories of the characters throughout — plantation owners, slaves, photographers, captives, doctors, nurses, and the various ranks of leadership, from lowly to supreme. And there is even some suspense near the end of the book.

I was going to give the book 4 stars, but I am upping that to 5 as I think it over.

One last comment: I read the Random House LARGE PRINT edition. Very easy on the eyes!

Profile Image for Ayla.
1,012 reviews29 followers
August 16, 2020
History sometimes can be boring, but this book wasn’t. The characters in this story of a part of the civil war , were fleshed out and invoking interest. General Kilpatrick, General Sherman, Wrede Sartorius (that was a doctor before his time) Pearl and Emily to name some. This is the first book I’ve read by this author and I look forward to reading others.
Profile Image for Christopher Saunders.
931 reviews862 followers
September 2, 2023
The March is a typically expansive novel by E.L. Doctorow, focusing on General Sherman's final Civil War campaigns - not only the March to the Sea but his invasion of the Carolinas, fighting a war increasingly ruthless, muddled and one-sided. Doctorow employs his usual kaleidoscopic approach, threading a large ensemble of characters, fictional and historic, through his narrative: Arly, a Confederate deserter who becomes obsessed with killing General Sherman, posing as a photographer with black assistant Calvin in tow; Pearl, a young runaway slave caught who tags along with Sherman, uncertain how to handle her freedom; Colonel Sartorius, a German-born surgeon indifferent to suffering, obsessed with a soldier whose brain is obliterated in a Phineas Gage-style accident; and Sherman himself, a grim, mirthless executioner focused on winning the war to the exclusion of politics, Negroes and human niceties. In many ways the book's the anti-Ragtime (to the point Doctorow features Coalhouse Walker's father as a minor character), dour and melancholic rather than bawdy and picaresque, showing a swath of devastated humanity cast up by war and struggling to survive. There's no glory or excitement, and only the faintest stirring of romance to be had; the primary sensation Doctorow conjures is a man-made hell, be-knighting an entire country.
Profile Image for John.
285 reviews24 followers
June 22, 2008
I'm a big fan of Doctorow, and we go way back; he's probably the first serious contemporary novelist I read, thanks to a copy of Ragtime acquired when I attended Ragtime Night at Comiskey Park sometime in the late 1970s (I find the notion that copies of a Doctorow novel were given away by the thousands at a White Sox game only slightly more mystifying than the fact that I was attending a White Sox game to begin with). This, however, is not his strongest work. Doctorow used Sherman's March to the Sea as a backdrop for a big, sprawling, multi-focused narrative in the Ragtime vein; he even nods to that earlier work at one point through a minor character, Coalhouse Walker, Sr. -- presumably the father of Ragtime's protagonist. But it doesn't work as well as Ragtime, I think because there's no central conflict tying all the narrative threads together. I suppose you could argue that the Civil War itself is that conflict, but Doctorow seems to have little new to say about that, and placing the emphasis on such a familiar historical narrative detracts from fully developing his characters. I think Doctorw's at his best when he manages to balance imagined social/popular histories with rich, fully-developed characters; Ragtime may be his masterpiece, but I'm even fonder of World's Fair and Billy Bathgate because they do that so well. Here, the history is too canonical, and the characters seem to disappear into it. Still well-written and diverting, but ultimately a bit disappointing for this fan.
Profile Image for Miss Ravi.
Author 1 book1,007 followers
January 7, 2016
باید این را همین اول بنویسم که پیش‌روی یک رُمان تاریخی است و بالاخره ممکن است محدودیت‌هایی برای نویسنده‌اش به وجود بیاورد اما گویا دکتروف/داکترو علاقه دارد پای شخصیت‌های واقعی را به رمان‌هایش باز کند.

بله! جوابم به همه‌ی آنانی که رگتایم را خوانده‌اند همین است. بله، پیش‌روی به پای نثر دلنشین و پُرکشش رگتایم نمی‌رسد. اصلاً آن طنزی که در رگتایم وجود دارد، این‌جا به چشم نمی‌خورد. و آخرهای کتاب، جایی که دیگر می‌دانید اتفاق تازه‌ای نمی‌افتد و پیش‌روی حالاهاست که به پایان برسد، فکر می‌کنید چرا باید تاریخ جنگ داخلی امریکا را با این جزئیات بدانید؟ اما گاهی، صفحاتی هستند که به شدت و تا سر حد مرگ ذوق‌زده‌ی‌تان کنند. باید بگویم که نویسنده‌ی این کتاب تبحر و مهارت فوق‌العاده‌ای در فضاسازی و توصیف مکان همراه با جزئیات دقیق دارد. آ‌ن‌چنان فضا را می‌سازد که صفحات کتاب صحنه‌ی زنده‌ی این حرکت تاریخی می‌شوند.
قبول دارم که شخصیت‌ها هیچ‌کدام شخصیت اصلی نیستند، همه جزئی از توده‌ی آدم‌هایی هستند که در گوشه و کنار این پیش‌روی حضور دارند اما دست کم یکی، دوتای‌شان را دوست خواهید داشت و خودتان را به آن‌ها نزدیک حس می‌کنید.
Profile Image for Hosius Mr.
127 reviews24 followers
April 13, 2022
داستان بر اساس شخصیت ها و اتفاقات واقعی نوشته شده و وقایع جنگ داخلی آمری��ا رو روایت میکنه. در اواخر سال 1864 و اوایل 1865 ژنرال شرمن با 60 هزار نیرو از ایالت جورجیا شروع به حرکت میکنه. این ارتش به هر جا که میرسه چیزی جر ویرانی بجا نمیذاره و مثل یک ماشین به پیش روی خودش ادامه میده، . .
داستان توسط چند راوی رواست میشه که هر کدام نماینده یک گروه از افراد درگیر در جنگ هستن. این شیوه روایت عمق بیشتری به داستان داده و باعث میشه که ما با شخصیت ها همراه بشیم و تغییرات رفتاری اون ها رو بیشتر درک کنیم. نویسنده با هنرمندی تمام صحنه ها رو به تصویر کشیده و به داستان رنگ و بوی خاصی داده.
در پیایان کتاب مصاحبه ای کوتاه از نویسنده به همراه نقد کوتاهی در مورد کتاب چاپ شده.
متاسفانه ترجمه کتاب در بعضی جاها دچار اشکال بود و باعث نامفهوم شدن عبارات میشد
Profile Image for Adam.
558 reviews361 followers
May 24, 2011
Confidence Man era Melville, Whitman, Joseph Heller. McCarthy, Kurosawa (Hidden Fortress), Chaucer, Dos Passos, all come along on the march. Primal, poetic, American this book of the total war we unleashed punctuates the mayhem with moments of absurd comedy and character warmth. A collage of characters some of which appear for a few pages others are wound throughout the entire book create an effect between a tapestry and documentary with the feel of epic poetry and the drive and grit of a novel.
Profile Image for Leonidas Moumouris.
230 reviews30 followers
December 26, 2020
Το Χόμερ & Λάνγκλεϋ ήταν μια από τις αποκαλύψεις της φετινής αναγνωστικής μου χρονιάς. Αυτό με οδήγησε στην αγορά άλλων τριών βιβλίων του Doctorow. Το δεύτερο βιβλίο του λοιπόν που διαβάζω δεν μπορώ να πω ότι το χάρηκα το ίδιο. Ένα βιβλίο που ασχολείται με τον αμερικανικό εμφύλιο ίσως να μην εχει και το πιο ενδιαφέρον θέμα για Έλληνα αναγνώστη, ίσως αυτός να είναι και ο λόγος που είναι σχεδόν ανύπαρκτο στην κοινότητα μας εδώ.
Πολλοί χαρακτήρες, παράλληλες ιστορίες, ένα γουέστερν με ιστορική σημασία, με πραγματικές ιστορικές αναφορές τόσο σε πρόσωπα όσο και σε γεγονότα που δυστυχώς δεν με κράτησε σε κανένα του σημείο.
Profile Image for Michael Finocchiaro.
Author 3 books5,635 followers
March 7, 2022
This was a fascinating narrative describing Sherman's scorched earth campaign during the end of the Civil War starting following the Fall of Atlanta and moving to the surrenders of Lee and Johnston and the assassination of Lincoln. Similar to how Michael Shaara in The Killer Angels (Pulitzer 1975) described the Battle of Gettysburg in the eyes of the participants, we get into the mind of a few Union generals including Sherman himself, as well as a diverse group of individuals impacted by the war: several families and slaves from plantations around Atlanta, a pair of imprisoned Rebel defectors, an immigrant German surgeon, a British journalist, and many more. With all these voices, the reader does feel drawn into events. It feels quite realistic with the one exception of an anachronism when Sherman hums the Ride of the Valkyries to himself in 1864 despite Wagner not having finally penned it until 1870 or performed it before 1876.
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