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From the author of White Noise (winner of the National Book Award) and Zero K

In this powerful, eerily convincing fictional speculation on the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Don DeLillo chronicles Lee Harvey Oswald's odyssey from troubled teenager to a man of precarious stability who imagines himself an agent of history. When "history" presents itself in the form of two disgruntled CIA operatives who decide that an unsuccessful attempt on the life of the president will galvanize the nation against communism, the scales are irrevocably tipped.A gripping, masterful blend of fact and fiction, alive with meticulously portrayed characters both real and created, Libra is a grave, haunting, and brilliant examination of an event that has become an indelible part of the American psyche.

480 pages, Paperback

First published August 15, 1988

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About the author

Don DeLillo

112 books5,546 followers
Don DeLillo is an American author best known for his novels, which paint detailed portraits of American life in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. He currently lives outside of New York City.

Among the most influential American writers of the past decades, DeLillo has received, among author awards, a National Book Award (White Noise, 1985), a PEN/Faulkner Award (Mao II, 1991), and an American Book Award (Underworld, 1998).

DeLillo's sixteenth novel, Point Omega, was published in February, 2010.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,074 reviews
Profile Image for Vit Babenco.
1,400 reviews3,280 followers
September 14, 2020
Dead president’s corpse in the driver’s car. The engine runs on glue and tar…
Let’s devote our lives to understanding this moment, separating the elements of each crowded second. We will build theories that gleam like jade idols, intriguing systems of assumption, four-faced, graceful. We will follow the bullet trajectories backwards to the lives that occupy the shadows, actual men who moan in their dreams.

There is the system and there are those who serve the system. There are tomcats and there are cat’s paws.
Secret services saw in John Kennedy a real threat to their holding sway over the entire state:
“It’s not just Kennedy himself. He thinks he can make us a different kind of society. He’s trying to engineer a shift. We’re not smart enough for him… Do you know what charisma means to me? It means he holds the secrets. The dangerous secrets used to be held outside the government. Plots, conspiracies, secrets of revolution, secrets of the end of the social order. Now it’s the government that has a lock on the secrets that matter. All the danger is in the White House, from nuclear weapons on down.”

There is a secret world within the world… Clandestine movers and shakers live among us but they abide in the invisible world of their own.
Profile Image for Paul Bryant.
2,179 reviews9,241 followers
March 25, 2011
I'm told that the Don DeLillo who wrote this masterpiece is the same guy who wrote Underworld and White Noise, but as far as I'm concerned that's a plainly ridiculous theory and I'm not buying it at all and I've hired a private investigator to get to the bottom of why there are two Don DeLillos and why this one hasn't sued the other idiot for giving him a bad name. It's a mystery.

Libra is entirely great. Its vocals, its backing, the bass, the drums, man alive the drums, the harmonies - celestial, Wilsonian is the only word. And - of course - the lyrics.

As we know it's about that JFK thing. The whole thing, all of it. So yes, this is the ur-conspiracy we are dealing with, which all the other conspiracies use as the template. Given my well-advertised detestation of all things conspiracytheoretical, you might think I would want to give Libra the widest of berths. Being a contrarian means I couldn't. I take contrary opinions to myself too. I had to pay my dues. I had to stare the god damned conspiracy in its jowles, I had to rummage in its belly and pick over what it ate last night, ugh, all its grimy details, its filthy postulates and its mind-damaging Agatha-Christie's-Murder-on-the-Orient-Express conclusion that - gasp, look away now - they ALL did it!

So I looked and stared and rummaged and poked and turned affadavits over in my hand and ran the tape found in the camera up Marilyn Monroe's backside, all of that. Ech. It's so displeasing. It does not make you a better person.

This book is like dancing with Don DeLillo, and dancing with the young President, and dancing with the handsome man who has no face, and cannot be named, while ten quaaludes are slushing through your blood system and dark hands are pouring margaritas for you at each slow waltzlike revolution of the enormous ballroom from whose windows the glitterball reveals gun barrels glinting. Through all the slow-as-the-Devonian-Age build up to even the first faint gleamings of the plot to kill John Kennedy your brain gets reformed, your aesthetic sense gets taken down and reworked with minor chords replacing all the major ones, its like a dream but a weird lovely one, one of those thousand year long dreams you wake from on some Sundays when the world can take long minutes to suck back into place... how long have I been away? Whose face is on my own head now? It takes so long to read Libra, it's such a slog through all this stuff which might have gone down like that or might on the other hand, or not, or partly.

What DD does in his gradually accelerating sarabande is to take the absolute standard CIA/Mafia/Teamsters/FBI/Cubans conspiracy and weave all the ghosts and spirits together, voices humming like a hive, all the five hundred characters, into a symphony of incidence and co-incidence wittingly but at the same time blindly moving like a giant shoal of fate towards the moving target in the limousine in Dallas on the day that Deep Purple by Nino Tempo and April Stevens was number one on the Billboard charts.

This is a fantastic novel. The imposter "Don DeLillo" could never have written it.
Profile Image for Steven Godin.
2,321 reviews2,196 followers
January 3, 2021

Oh yes - this one hit the spot alright.

I've always regarded DeLillo as a bit of a hit and miss writer, who can be sloppy in one novel and quite brilliant in another. When he does hit top form though: which I believe he absolutely does here, it's such a rewarding reading experience.

Apart from knowing that Oswald shot JFK then got whacked two days later by Jack Ruby, my knowledge on the whole history leading up to, arguably, the mother of all assassinations, was practically zilch. So, taking that into account, I had no idea what was solely fiction or half-speculation, and what was based more along the lines of fact. He's obviously taken a lot of stale research material and weaved together something altogether new - largely by the means of simply inventing - filling in the blanks so to speak. DeLillo has: from I've read of him anyway, had a keen eye for conspiracy, and his fascination with this theme goes into overdrive here - no doubt about it. This also had a genuinely feeling of slow-building dread: despite the fact you know what's going to happen, all the way through it, and had me thinking: although completely different novels, of 'The Names', which happens to be one of my DeLillo faves. Well, now I have another.

In particular I was fascinated by the whole Castro angle of the novel, and also Oswald's time spent in Russia - where he was to meet his wife. From the brilliant interior monologues, to the richly constructed scenes involving a whole array of other characters, this labyrinthine underworld of a novel was simply top notch, and due to the way the plot is structured, probably DeLillo's most complex work at the time.

It's a five for me.
Profile Image for Violet wells.
433 reviews2,964 followers
October 30, 2020
A friend of mine once sat me down and made me watch the documentary Loose Change. For those that don't know Loose Change is a detailed documentary positing the idea that 9/11 was a false flag operation. Its modus operandi is to follow the money. Without question, it's a disturbingly convincing film on many levels but at a certain point I began to think about the urgency with which my friend needed to believe he now possessed secret inside information. I could sense how he felt it empowered him. To believe you have the secret to a plot is to be transformed from a bystander to an insider. And the zeal with which he wanted to convert me to his way of thinking was religious in essence. He had that glazed intent look Jehovah's Witnesses have on your doorstep. However, there's no denying the big four American conspiracy theories, all of which debunk the comforting notion that America is a democracy, are compelling stories. DeLillo described the JFK assassination as a story about our uncertain grip on the world and you could say the same about 9/11 and the Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy assassinations. What they all had in common was they enabled hugely profitable wars to be continued or begun.

DeLillo in his novel doesn't follow the money nor does he pay much attention to Vietnam. Nevertheless, he creates a hugely plausible depiction of how JFK came to be killed. Libra is probably Delillo's only novel which has what might be described as an exciting plot. In fact, it's a novel that makes you think a lot about the role plot plays in life. A plot, you could say, is a kind of secret harmony of converging forces. We'd all like to think there's a plot to our lives. We're happiest when we feel we are in control of the plot. Unhappiest when it appears someone else is plotting against us. In DeLillo's book Oswald is constantly scrambling around on the fringes of conventionality in search of a plot for his life. What he most wants is to be seen, acknowledged - in other words, a slice of fame. He's a brilliant multifaceted character, riddled with warring contradictions. You like him for showing kindness to persecuted impoverished black men; you hate him for beating his wife. He's so slippery he eludes every attempt at pinning him down. He's like history itself in this sense.

Since this novel was published Oliver Stone's film JFK has offered a detailed alternative account of the assassination in which Oswald is wholly innocent. In Stone's overly tidy version of events everyone from vice president Johnson, the CIA, the FBI, the Mafia down to lowlife common criminals is in on the plot. The cover up, the doctoring of evidence which probably always takes place after any event that rocks a nation will always arouse the suspicion that the people doing the covering up also committed the crime. I'm not saying I don't believe Stone's version. How on earth can any of us really know? I do know official accounts of historical events are generally self-serving and bogus. But DeLillo's more muddy version of events is, in my eyes, more credible. It begins with an idea by two disgruntled ex CIA operatives who are angry Kennedy is seeking a rapprochement with Castro. Their idea though is to have someone fire a shot at JFK and miss and then blame it on Castro. The idea travels and in its travels changes.
For everyone who's never read DeLillo, the most important living novelist in my opinion, this is the ideal book to begin with.
Profile Image for Robin.
475 reviews2,561 followers
January 26, 2021
Intuition is a funny thing. I'd been meaning to read Don DeLillo for years now, but was avoiding him. He appeared everywhere (usually accompanied by stellar praise), including my own bookshelf, where Libra sat and sat and sat. See, I've been intimidated by DeLillo. For no good reason, other than this intuitive idea I had that he would be difficult.

I was right, too. It took me weeks to read this book. Not because I didn't understand what was happening - but because I struggled, on a page-by-page basis, to connect to the material. DeLillo's writing style is both dense and cold. Added to this, a huge raft of characters to keep track of. The worst kind - FBI and CIA agents and their cronies, all of which get mixed into an annoying stew of interchangeableness. Plus, a constantly changing point of view, which wasn't a problem for me most recently in Kesey's Sometimes a Great Notion, but well, that book has so much heart and soul in it, you can't help but get swept up by its tide.

I should probably back up a bit to mention that this book is a fictionalized account of JFK's assassination, and the "Libra" in question is Lee Harvey Oswald, the famous would-be shooter (or patsy?). I should also mention that I was raised by a father who was 14 years old on that fateful day in Dallas, and I inherited his lifelong curiosity about what really happened. He's read all the books, he's watched all the documentaries and the films. I watched them alongside him, I listened to his thoughts and theories and questions. So I went into this reading fairly knowledgable about the event, and with the expectation that I would likely find it as riveting as my father would.

It would be unfair and wrong to overlook the incredible amount of background detail that went into this 450 page novel. DeLillo does a spectacular job of providing the reader with the who, what, where, why, how. It's not a small thing, and I felt appreciation and admiration for what he does in these pages, if not interest or enjoyment.

Well, that's not entirely true. My interest flared up each time LHO entered the scene, because he was so strange, such an unknowable outsider. So young, so unpredictable, so mediocre, so idealistic, so poor... and also now this historical figure who is known by all his given names. My interest peaked on the November 22 chapter. DeLillo captured the events in such a powerful, cinematic way, I found myself recalling the iconic film sequence almost frame by frame, my heart pounding and clenching as President Kennedy waved, and mouthed "thank you" in the moments before the bullets flew, seconds before his wife would be holding part of his brains in her hands.

I also found it interesting the way the author interpreted the assassination to be rooted in CIA dissatisfaction, post Bay of Pigs. I similarly enjoyed learning about Oswald's defection to the USSR, his marriage to a Russian woman, and the importance U-2 aircraft play in the story.

Yet... I struggled to feel engaged in these pages. For the most part, I experienced a huge emotional distance between me and the text. Perhaps this was a deliberate outcome on the part of the author, but in my view, it does a disservice to an event that has painfully lodged itself in the hearts of people, worldwide. An event that serves as a reminder that we can’t always know the answers. That idealism can be shattered. That everything can go to shit. It’s the broken heart of one of the great unsolved mysteries.

The heart was missing here, or hearts, of the man who was always on the outside, let down by his country, and of the man who was bravely leading it.
Profile Image for Luís.
1,827 reviews479 followers
October 30, 2022
Don Delillo does not facilitate the reader's task. The text is dense, and according to the characters, the story is far from linear chronologically; it takes time to adapt. Then I regularly have trouble with some of his dialogues that I would describe as enigmatic. A Don Delillo has to be earning! Does this mean you must know the JFK case well to appreciate Libra? I don't think it's an obligation, but it will clarify the reading and increase the pleasure you get from it. So much for the negatives.
Once well hung, we turn the pages without realising it. The decisive point, in my opinion, is the magnificent portrait of Lee Harvey Oswald developed by Don. This antihero will systematically miss out on his life without controlling or understanding the scope of his actions or encounters. This book is not yet another version of what could have happened on November 22. Still, more of a series of captivating portraits of the various, more or less direct actors in the plot, to conclude in a thriller, the final scenes of the assassination being a pure marvel of writing. Beyond the raw facts, we appropriate the context, the elements, and the feelings of the protagonists.
It's mastered to the end, so successful. Very heavy.
Profile Image for Franco  Santos.
485 reviews1,333 followers
November 22, 2019
Libra es donde convergen todas las teorías conspirativas que han ido surgiendo con el correr de los años, a partir del famoso 22 de noviembre del 1963, una fecha que, en palabras de DeLillo, quebró la columna vertebral del siglo en Estados Unidos. En Libra DeLillo propone que el asesino «oficial» del presidente Kennedy, Lee Harvey Oswald, solo fue la cara visible de una conspiración mucho más grande y enrevesada, fundada desde el mismo corazón de los EE. UU., a partir de una decisión que muchos consideran un error de Kennedy, durante una invasión a Cuba (Bay of Pigs del 61) para derrocar a Fidel Castro. Por supuesto que Libra no necesariamente condice con lo que realmente piensa DeLillo (al menos no con exactitud), incluso ya lo ha hecho explícito en varias ocasiones, pero siempre es interesante llegar con literatura a lugares imposibles de la vida real.

Leyendo reseñas de otros usuarios, me encontré con personas a las que les pasó lo mismo que a mí: este DeLillo de Libra no es el mismo que el DeLillo de, por ejemplo, White Noise. DeLillo es intensamente criticado por su modo de escribir, sus tramas insulsas y sus personajes planos y de cartón; sin embargo, en Libra queda claro que DeLillo es un grandísimo escritor, y no solo su modo de narrar es extraordinario, sino que es un escritor que se adapta. En White Noise, DeLillo utilizó una narración muy vacía y sin mucho cuerpo precisamente porque a aquello iba su libro, a criticar la deshumanización de la sociedad debido al consumismo desalmado. En Libra, la escritura de DeLillo adquiere un tono mucho más fragmentado, hasta asfixiante. En casi ningún momento el lector tiene plena constancia de lo que está sucediendo y de quién es cada personaje, como Nicholas Branch, entre datos solitarios que se juntan en coincidencias incognoscibles que alimentan la paranoia. Y para volver más desesperantes las cosas, quiebra la narración con frases que parecen salidas de la nada y aun así, de alguna forma, se sienten en armonía con lo que estabas leyendo. DeLillo juega con cambios de tiempo aleatorios y sin previo aviso, diálogos entre personajes que le hablan al aire, dentro de un soliloquio cortado por otras voces en el fondo y a las que también se debe escuchar, y todo este caos crea un clima que absorbe al lector en la misma conspiración.

Pero principalmente quiero resaltar el aspecto que, en mi opinión, es el más valioso de Libra. DeLillo ha sabido establecer personajes tan complejos y tan bien desplegados que hasta asustan de su tridimensionalidad. DeLillo bebió de personas reales y las representó en papel sin casi perder su condición de reales. Se apoderó de Lee Oswald y lo encajó en literatura, en un Coming of Age trágico y plagado de malas influencias que hace que se llegue a sentir una clase de apego por Oswald, quizá lástima. Porque a eso va DeLillo, la verdadera historia se desarrolla detrás del telón. Personas como arañas en la oscuridad susurrándose entre sí son las que marcan el inicio de un tiempo y cierran otro. «La historia se compone de la suma de los elementos que no nos cuentan». DeLillo nos explica que la historia se gesta a nuestras espaldas y lo que vemos es solo un breve fragmento perdido del que se agarran los medios y la histeria social para explicar hechos de lo que nunca lograremos saber su verdad.

Probablemente jamás se forme una segunda Comisión Warren que explique lo que la primera todavía no puede explicar, seguiremos de este lado de la historia, del lado de la luz, viendo efímeras chispas que se escapan de lo que se nos está prohibido observar. Aquí nos ha tocado estar.

«Cuando estás convencido de que has visto todas las formas en que la violencia puede sorprenderte, aparece algo nuevo que ni siquiera habías imaginado. ¿Con cuánta fuerza golpean las balas para alcanzar a un hombre en el pecho y hacer que su sombrero vuele un metro y medio por los aires en línea recta? Fue una lección sobre las leyes del movimiento y un recordatorio para la humanidad entera de que nada es seguro».
Profile Image for mark monday.
1,634 reviews5,007 followers
August 6, 2019
a work of bright and ruthless genius, the jfk assassination as recounted by some alien being from the far future. well actually, not really, not at all. well actually, at times it felt like it. is delillo less than human or more than human? the novel makes no attempt to be historically factual. actually, the facts presented are reasonable and sound. the novel is historically factual, as much as anything can be. the narrative is, of course, almost too complex to be detailed. although it is, in its way, a straightforward narrative, straight as an arrow, straight as any history of well-known events could be. conspiracy theories, so many of them, competing with each other, often making complete sense as they are told, only to be collapsed by the next conspiracy theory. the conspiracy theory as just one version of the many-told tale, stories handed down from teller to teller. an interesting conceit. actually, more than that - storytelling is perhaps the point of the whole novel. what is the truth in a story? who is the real person behind the historical personage, behind the character in the story? the novel wonders: can reality ever truly be represented? such a humorous book at times. the jokes are secret jokes, told with a straight face. the deaths are no joke, no joke at all. the novel is dead serious. the death of lee harvey oswald is a harrowing, moving experience, the best sequence of many excellent sequences in the book. the novel is powerful and yet filled with minutiae, with meaningless detail. each detail is packed with meaning. it is a Choose Your Own Adventure, of sorts. astrology is real, it defines us and all of our actions. astrology is an illusion, as is motivation and circumstance and conspiracy and history itself. Libra is a post-modern classic. well, actually
Profile Image for Francesc.
382 reviews193 followers
August 8, 2022
No he conseguido conectar con el libro. La lectura se me ha hecho pesada.
Aunque el tema está tratado desde un punto de vista original, el estilo narrativo no me ha transmitido emociones. Una redacción muy fría. Y cuando entra en digresiones y pensamientos de los personajes aún es peor porqué la lectura se hace lenta y tediosa.
Reconozco que es una lección interesante para quién le guste indagar en los hechos que rodearon el asesinato de JFK. A mi, personalmente, me gustan estas teorías conspiratorias y por eso me animé con esta novela.

I haven't managed to connect with the book. The reading has become heavy.
Although the subject is treated from an original point of view, the narrative style has not transmitted emotions to me. Very cold wording. And when the author gets into digressions and thoughts of the characters it's even worse because the reading gets slow and tedious.
I admit that this is an interesting lesson for anyone who likes to investigate the facts surrounding JFK's murder. I personally like these conspiracy theories and that's why I got motivated about this novel.
Profile Image for Michael Finocchiaro.
Author 3 books5,482 followers
October 8, 2019
This book of DeLillo was a brilliant dive into the background of Kennedy's presumed assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald (with a cameo of his killer Jack Ruby). It is well-written and well-paced and a great read. I would put it on the level with Mao II and White Noise but below Underworld. So an essential DeLillo as long as you have UW under your belt already.
Profile Image for Agnieszka.
258 reviews919 followers
August 10, 2017

One can read Libra as a political thriller or a voice in the discussion about who actually stood behind one of the most notorious political assassinations of the twentieth century. Shots in Dallas proved that this an event can not be easily interpreted, it melts in the mist of conjectures and hypotheses and still is a breeding ground for more and more daring conspiracy theories. (I’m not a huge fan of conspiracy theories, neither in books nor in real life. In fact we, in Poland, have enough these ones. People are divided on those who think that Smolensk was tragic plane accident and others who belive that it was a criminal assassination. Sorry for this personal comment).

Libra operates on three plans. The first one it is a story of Lee H. Oswald shown from his childhood in the Bronx, through his service in Japan, his romance with Marxism and stay in the Soviet Union until his death from Jack Ruby’s hand. Oswald is the title "Libra", the man full of contradictions, like the zodiacal sign of Libra, you really don’t know what could tip the scales on one or other side. From DeLillo's writing emerges portrait of a man without qualities, somewhat mysterious yet undecidable character - we fail to know what exactly his motivation was.

On the second plan we get the conspiratorial activities of the special services and the criminal groups. Here the main roles play retired agents, members of the anti-Castro opposition, anti-communist activists, mafia. Independently of each other are preparing a provocation aimed at Kennedy.

And finally, the third thread, which takes place many years after the assassination of Kennedy. The main protagonist here is a CIA analyst buried by Agency with meticulous facts and factual evidence, trying to order them and get to know what really happened in Dallas. Yes, the same DeLillo is doing.

Like every tragic and unsolved mystery Kennedy’s assassination became a source of a variety theories trying to get a logical explanation. The picture that DeLillo creates is so unsettling and thought-provoking, and the whole story so coherent and plausible that when we finish our reading, our thinking is and what if that was like that … .
Profile Image for Brian Michels.
Author 3 books218 followers
July 1, 2020
So, I like to read, and I want to fancy myself as a writer. After finishing Don DeLillo's Libra, I can honestly say that I am still a reader. If anything has changed in that department, maybe, I'd say I'm now a flabbergasted reader. As far as me being a writer, this here book has certainly made me question that, at least as far as whether I am a great writer or not. Don DeLillo certainly is an excellent writer. His book is a weird and suspenseful folding of fiction and reality surrounding the Kennedy assassination and government agents and bad people and good people and confusion and WTF moments abound, all of it amounts to storytelling distilled with mastery. I'm not going to read anything for a little while so that the book can stay with me.
Profile Image for Paul Haspel.
534 reviews62 followers
November 22, 2022
Libra was Lee Harvey Oswald’s astrological sign, and it is from this bit of biographical trivia that Don DeLillo’s 1988 novel Libra takes its title. Among all the vast body of work that has been written over the years regarding the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Libra stands out for a couple of reasons.

First, by choosing the novelistic format, rather than publishing a “nonfiction” book that claims to uncover a hitherto undiscovered “truth” regarding the JFK assassination, DeLillo untethers himself from the long, dreary litany of writers obsessing over grassy knolls and single-bullet theories and homeless men with well-shined shoes. Second, DeLillo, in writing an openly fictional book that does not claim to tell the “truth” about the assassination, is able to get at some real truths – truths regarding both the way in which historical moments unfold, and the ways in which human beings try to make sense of that history.

DeLillo’s great theme seems to be the way in which the systems that human beings construct invariably end up revealing human folly and weakness. This general principle applies to works like White Noise (1985), DeLillo’s satire of academia, in which the main character’s development of a Department of Hitler Studies at a prestigious liberal-arts college illustrates both the modern academy’s tendency to overspecialize and the way in which academics can become untethered from the real-world significance of what they study (the “Hitler Studies” department somehow never seems to find time to discuss the Holocaust).

That focus on human systems as demonstrative of human weakness also seems to apply to Libra, in which the elaborate post-World War II national-security apparatus that was developed to protect the citizens of the United States of America from foreign enemies ends up killing off the president of the United States.

Much of the JFK conspiracy-theory detail that has gathered around the assassination over the years, like a grotesque pearl forming within a polluted oyster, has stemmed from one known historical fact – that there were operatives within the CIA and other agencies of the U.S. government who were unhappy that President Kennedy, after the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961, refused to consider war with communist Cuba.

The catch in Libra – and what gives DeLillo’s JFK-assassination scenario its unique power – is that the assassination conspiracy begins as a conspiracy to fake an assassination attempt against the president, while leaving a metaphorical breadcrumb trail that goes straight back to Fidel Castro. The conspirators believe that the apparent assassination attempt will force President Kennedy to lead the U.S.A. into a war against Cuba. Somewhere along the line, however, the plot to fake an assassination attempt becomes a plot to commit an assassination – and the key figure, the fall guy, the patsy, becomes one Lee Harvey Oswald.

Oswald emerges as a helpless, pathetic figure throughout Libra – poor and uneducated; incapable of thinking critically or independently; forever at the mercy of, or being manipulated by, indifferent or hostile outside forces. When, during his brief career as a U.S. Marine, he is imprisoned at a Marine brig, Oswald witnesses the guards’ brutality against prisoners and “tried to feel history in the cell. This was history out of George Orwell, the territory of no-choice. He could see how he’d been headed here since the day he was born. The brig was invented just for him. It was just another name for the stunted rooms where he’d spent his life” (p. 100).

Other characters share Oswald’s helplessness before larger historical forces. A worried Marguerite Oswald calls the State Department because she is concerned about her son; Lee Harvey Oswald has defected to the Soviet Union, and she has not heard from him since he disappeared into the U.S.S.R.
Her frustrating interaction with a State Department aide will resonate with anyone who has faced the impersonality and indifference of government bureaucracy:

[S]he finally gets connected, after a lot of back and forth, to a man who seems to be talking from an office instead of a switchboard. There is a silence around him and he says he is an aide and asks her politely what the trouble is.

“I have come to town about a son of mine who is lost in Russia.”

She tells the man she is not the sobbing-mother type but the fact is she is getting over a sickness and she doesn’t know whether her son is living or dead. He is somewhere abroad working as an agent of our American government. He has the right to make his own decisions, she says, but there is a good chance he has become stranded by his government and cannot get out.

The man says the Weather has predicted a terrible snowstorm and they have orders to leave early.

Marguerite is wary of conspiracy.
(p. 200)

Oswald’s story, leading up to 22 November 1963, is interwoven with another story taking place in the novel’s present – the story of Nicholas Branch, a CIA historian who has spent many years working on a secret CIA history of the assassination. Branch, forever receiving reams and reams of information on the assassination, comes to engage in some very DeLillo-esque reflections on the impossibility of arriving at the truth about anything:

The Oswald shadings, the multiple images, the split perceptions – eye color, weapons caliber – these seem a foreboding of what is to come. The endless fact-rubble of the investigations. How many shots, how many gunmen, how many directions? Powerful events breed their own network of inconsistencies. The simple facts elude authentication. How many wounds on the President’s body? What is the size and shape of the wounds? The multiple Oswald reappears. Isn’t that him in a photograph of a crowd of people on the front steps of the Book Depository just as the shooting begins? A startling likeness, Branch concedes. He concedes everything. He questions everything, including the basic suppositions we make about our world of light and shadow, solid objects and ordinary sounds, and our ability to measure such things, to determine weight, mass, and direction, to see things as they are, recall them clearly, be able to say what happened. (pp. 300-01)

Branch is writing a history that will never be finished – a history that, even if he does finish it, will go forever unread. It is understandable, therefore, that Branch, taking refuge in notes that are becoming an end in themselves, “has decided it is premature to make a serious effort to turn these notes into coherent history. Maybe it will always be premature. Because the data keeps coming. Because new lives enter the record all the time. The past is changing as he writes. Every name takes him on a map tour of the Dallas labyrinth” (p. 301).

Libra reaches its climax on 22 November 1963, as Oswald, assured by the powers behind the conspiracy that he will be able to do his part and suffer no real consequences, takes his place on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository and plays his role in the hideous drama that unfolded that day in Dealey Plaza:

Lee was about to squeeze off the third round, he was in the act, he was actually pressing the trigger.

The light was so clear it was heartbreaking.

There was a white burst in the middle of the frame. A terrible splash, a burst. Something came blazing off the President’s head. He was slammed back, surrounded all in dust and haze. Then suddenly clear again, down and still in the seat. Oh he’s dead he’s dead.
(p. 400)

All this time, Oswald imagines himself getting away with it: “He had a picture, he saw himself telling the whole story to someone, a man with a rugged Texas face, but friendly, but understanding. Pointing out the contradictions. Telling how he was tricked into the plot. What is it called, a patsy?” (pp. 400-01). Yes, a patsy. A patsy to the end, Oswald has no idea what is about to happen to him.

For my part, I have always believed that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. As a reader of history – from Herodotus and Thucydides, through Edward Gibbon, to John Hope Franklin and Doris Kearns Goodwin – I have always been struck by the way great events often turn upon tiny chances: the contingency theory of history. For me, a vast conspiracy – one in which some combination of pro-Castro Cubans and anti-Castro Cubans and the CIA and the FBI and the Mafia and Lyndon Johnson and Southern white supremacists seamlessly coordinate and execute a successful criminal conspiracy that goes forever undetected – seems none too plausible, especially as, more than 50 years later, there have been no deathbed confessions. People tend to want to tell the truth on their deathbeds.

But a lone misfit crouching in a high place with a gun and – suddenly, horribly, irrevocably – changing the course of history? That seems only too plausible.

I think that the JFK conspiracy theorists are engaged in an ultimately futile attempt to impose some sense of order upon the chaos of the historical process. But it is the job of fiction to ask “What if?”, to let the human imagination roam free, ask difficult questions, pose thought-provoking scenarios. DeLillo’s willingness to do just that, and to link the story of the JFK assassination with larger insights about human nature, makes Libra a great and profound novel.
Profile Image for Megha.
79 reviews1,059 followers
March 6, 2012

DeLillo and I are friends now!!
We had started off on the wrong foot, but Libra has patched things up. I too share Paul's suspicions about Libra and White Noise having been written by the same person. Had I been handed these two books without the cover, I wouldn't have known those words had flown out of the same figurative pen.

Libra is a terrific piece of work. It has a huge cast of characters and a very complex web of events, all handled neatly and elegantly. While DeLillo's characters never really open up to the readers, they can still be haunting and memorable. The writing is very dense and can have a lot of sub-textual meaning. Instead of directly telling the readers what the mood of a scene is or how a character feels, he creates the atmosphere with his words and conveys the feeling quite effectively. Among other things, I liked the way he would give one the sense of slowly or rapidly passing time without saying as much (I have lost my copy, otherwise I could have pulled out a few quotes to show you what I mean. Oh well.) Oswald's mother's neurotic behavior, his wife Marina's feelings of helplessness, dilemmas of many characters are portrayed so well that even minor characters carve a niche for themselves and stay with the reader.

Unlike typical thrillers where characters are mere caricatures blindly running after power/money ***, DeLillo's characters are quite real. They do stop long enough to breathe and think. The reader is privy to their objectives, their motivations, their hesitations and dilemmas. Despite knowing how the story is going to end, it is never uninteresting.

For me, the most outstanding part of Libra is the realization of the character Lee Harvey Oswald. He is terrifyingly real and complex. He doesn't conform to either hero or anti-hero stencil. I neither like him nor dislike him, but I feel great sympathy for him. His whole life seems to be something of an accident (I mean more accidental than most lives are). It is as if one day he closed his eyes, spun around and then started walking in the direction that he had ended up facing. As a very young teenager, Marxism and communism caught his fancy, without anyone directing him that way. And this very passion acted as his guiding light. What if something else had caught his eye at that stage? He would have been an altogether different person. Though his behavior is far from ideal, he has so many great qualities that could have led him to an exemplary life. He is man of great commitment. He stands by what he believes in and would go to any lengths to support his beliefs. How painstakingly he kept at writing and reading despite his dyslexia is mentioned often in the book. If only....

Like Lee's life, the theme of accidental happenings is something DeLillo highlights too. Agent branch trying to solve the confusing maze of the events leading upto JFK assassination finds it impossible to know how much of the history was planned and how much of it was coincidences and destiny. For any scheme to be pulled off, lot of things do need to fall into the right place.

I am holding off the fifth star only because political thrillers and conspiracy theories don't hold much interest for me. But Libra really is very impressive.

*** I am looking at you American Tabloid. I loved Ellroy's stacatto writing, but it was 600 pages of pretty much the same thing.



Libra has been on a long hiatus as I have been occupied with a hundred other things. While I have not been reading this book about JFK's assassination, I did recently happen to drive by the actual location of Kennedy's assassination and the sixth floor museum.


Second and last chance for DeLillo to impress me. All my GR friends have rated this either 4 or 5 stars (mostly 5). So I am setting my expectations high.
If it begins to sound anything like White Noise, it is going straight out of my window.

Mr. DeLillo there is a lot of pressure on you. Pull up your socks.
Profile Image for Lee Klein .
794 reviews838 followers
October 29, 2007
This one took about a month to read so I should respect that time turning its pages and write a few commemorative words. All I can really say is that on every page the writing reeks of literature, but rarely is it literary. What I mean is that DeLillo's sentences always seem to have an eye on a subtextual prize, that is, they always seem like an updated, abstract response to that question posed long ago by some cavedweller about the meaning of life, as opposed to turns of phrase for the sake of well-crafted whateverness. Any given paragraph is obviously DeLillo. His style is absolutely particularly his, but also it's readable and clear, with lyrical potential, too, but never romantic, or sensory solely for the sake of activating the reader's senses. All characters are part of the whole (society, history, the universe), and all characters have been brought to life solely to speak DeLillo's words. This would annoy if DeLillo had nothing to say, but he has some serious things to say, and so his characters say them, then conspire to kill the president. A particular brand of American anxiety is represented here. This is a difficult review to write. What I should just say is that several times while reading this while walking to work I would laugh out loud at awesome language or a turn or development or insight (rarely at something funny, though humor exists if not necessarily abounds) and sometimes I'd even say out loud that this dude is a freakin' great writer. I should be better able to articulate why I'd say this aloud while walking/reading, but I think it has to do with his authority, ambition, dry-eyed humanity, intelligence/wisdom, scope/range, humor, boldness, the beautifully honed/hefty sentences of course, and also something to do with the structure, how scenes emerge and dissolve ("boldly" as Ethan says) without much helpful orientation from the author, and it all seems held together loosely, artfully, in a way that seems like it wants to very carefully, very gently create in the reader a state similar to what's being experienced by the characters? Something like that? It's real good. Maybe his masterpiece, even more so than "Underworld"? -- it definitely feels longer (maybe 'cause it's denser?) and goes slower than "Underworld" . . . Also, plot-wise, the whole time you know how this one ends, but such knowledge is hardly an annoyance, the opposite in fact, same as with re-reading Hamlet etc.
Profile Image for Håkon.
40 reviews45 followers
July 21, 2019

As the young Lee Harvey Oswald was speeding through the underground railways of New York, my plane-ride was speeding down the line and leaping off the ground, with its final destination being the beautiful city of Wroclaw, Poland. Both of these acts happening simultaneously, reflected the enormous speeding forces of history that I was about to witness in this novel, moving toward its endpoint. It would of course be much more poetic if the plane also landed at the same time as this novel ended, because as it happens, this novel is very much like a plane-ride: it speeds like a tsunami at the beginning, while in the air, there are moments of turbulence and confusion (is it normal for it to shake this much, did lightning just hit the wing of the plane, jesus christ can that guy behind me stop kicking my fucking seat?), and simultaneous joy and fear at the prospect of a landing, a resolution to the turbulence in between. Like a plane ride, we all know the story. We know how it begins, and we know how it ends. History dictates that we do. But there is always possibility in the plot between the take-off and the landing. I think DeLillo's novel is very much about this center of possibility; of that which has not yet been explored properly surrounding the Kennedy Assassination; the conspiracies, the coincidences, the various drives and impulses of people and institutions, the forces and mechanisms of history and of spectacle.
Profile Image for Ian "Marvin" Graye.
855 reviews2,133 followers
March 20, 2019
I Believe All That I Read Now

"I believe all that I read now
Night has come off the corners
Shadows flicker sweet and tame
Dancing like crazy mourners."

Howard Devoto, "Motorcade"

Plots That Move Toward Death

"Libra" has one of those plots that, in the words of Don DeLillo himself (from “White Noise"), “tends to move deathwards”.

Here, DeLillo repeats and elaborates on his aphorism:

“Plots carry their own logic. There is a tendency of plots to move toward death. He believed that the idea of death is woven into the nature of every plot. A narrative plot is no less than a conspiracy of armed men. The tighter the plot of a story, the more likely it will come to death. A plot in fiction, he believed, is the way we localize the force of the death outside the book, play it off, contain it. The ancients staged mock battles to parallel the tempest in nature and reduce their fear of gods who warred across the sky.”
There are 24 chapters in the novel. They alternate between place (e.g., “In Dallas") and time (e.g., “22 November"), as the narrative moves inexorably towards the assassination of JFK and then, two days later, the murder of the apparent perpetrator, Lee Harvey Oswald, by nightclub owner, Jack Ruby. It's interesting that we describe one act of extreme violence as an “assassination" and the other as a (mere) “murder", when in fact both are murders. Does the identity of the victim somehow elevate the crime?

If there's one factor that subjectively differentiates assassinations and murders, it's their place in history. The murder of a politician or a prominent figure is destined to make it part of history, whereas the murder of a less public figure is more likely to obtain some temporary tabloid notoriety.

The Secret World Inside the World

Although DeLillo reveals much about the personal lives of the characters, his main concern seems to be their part in history, the personal story in the public history.

As easy as it is to make these distinctions, it’s also arguable that DeLillo’s achievement is to obliterate the boundary between public and private, which he does by outlining so much of the private in the make-up of the public event. A person remains a person when they're part of a crowd, no matter how much they might assume the characteristics of a mob mentality. It's no excuse to be part of a mob.

Several times, DeLillo writes, “There is a world inside the world.” It's this world he's interested in, no matter how personal or intimate or secret it might seem. The CIA operative, Win Everett, uses a domestic analogy:

“When my daughter tells me a secret, her hands get very busy. She takes my arm, grabs me by the shirt collar, pulls me close, pulls me into her life. She knows how intimate secrets are. She likes to tell me things before she goes to sleep. Secrets are an exalted state, almost a dream state. They're a way of arresting motion, stopping the world so we can see ourselves in it. This is why you're here. All I had to do was provide a place and time...You're here because there's something vitalising in a secret.”

DeLillo describes the secret in almost spiritual terms, as “the life-insight, the life-secret.” To this extent, the novel can be summed up as a descriptive abstraction.

Coherence in Some Criminal Act

It's arguable that DeLillo's interest in conspiracy or, at least, conspiracy theories/theorists is secondary. It's an extension of his interest in secrecy and mystery (or mysticism), an issue that pervades his earlier novels.

Another CIA agent, Laurence Parmenter, sings:

“Oh we are the jolly coverts,
We lie and we spy till it hurts.”

Later, Delillo adds:

“Spy work, undercover work, we invent a society where it's always wartime.”

“Spy planes, drone aircraft, satellites with cameras that can see from three hundred miles what you can see from a hundred feet. They see and they hear. Like ancient monks, you know, who recorded knowledge, wrote it painstakingly down. These systems collect and process. All the secret knowledge of the world.”

“Strip the man of his powerful secrets. Take his secrets and he's nothing.”

��The thing that hovers over every secret is betrayal. Sooner or later someone reaches the point where he wants to tell what he knows.”

Innocents Before the Mystery

Towards the end of the novel, DeLillo writes (in the guise of the secret CIA historian, Nicholas Branch):

“If we are on the outside, we assume a conspiracy is the perfect working of a scheme. Silent nameless men with unadorned hearts. A conspiracy is everything that ordinary life is not. It's the inside game, cold, sure, undistracted, forever closed off to us. We are the flawed ones, the innocents, trying to make rough sense of the daily jostle. Conspirators have a logic and daring beyond our reach. All conspiracies are the same taut story of men who find coherence in some criminal act.”
In contrast, he describes secrecy in the community like this:

“After dark the stillness falls, the hour of withdrawal, houses in shadow, the street a private place, a set of mysteries. Whatever we know about our neighbours is hushed and lulled by the deep repose. It becomes a form of intimacy, jasmine-scented, that deceives us into truthfulness.”
The Whirl of History Inside Him

Even at school, the patsy assassin, Oswald, “wanted subjects and ideas of historic scope, ideas that touched his life, his true life, the whirl of time inside him.”

Concerned with social justice and the plight of the working class (traits of a Libran), the people of Russia represent to Oswald “the other world, the secret that covers one-sixth of the land surface of the earth.”

For him, men like Lenin and Trotsky “lived in isolation for long periods, lived close to death through long winters in exile or prison, feeling history in the room, waiting for the moment when it would surge through the walls, taking them with it. History was a force to these men, a presence in the room. They felt it and waited.”

The Secret of Who You Are

Oswald read Marxist books to fuel and develop his interests.

“The books were private, like something you find and hide, some lucky piece that contains the secret of who you are. The books themselves were secret. Forbidden and hard to read. They altered the room, charged it with meaning. The drabness of his surroundings, his own shabby clothes were explained and transformed by these books. He saw himself as part of something vast and sweeping. He was the product of a sweeping history, he and his mother, locked into a process, a system of money and property that diminished their human worth every day, as if by scientific law.”

“Life is hostile, he believed. The struggle is to merge your life with the greater tide of history.”

“History means to merge. The purpose of history is to climb out of your own skin. He knew what Trotsky had written, that revolution leads us out of the dark night of the isolated self. We live forever in history, outside ego and id.”

He must become part of history. He doesn't want to be “a zero in the system.”

Another CIA operative, David Ferrie, says to Oswald, “I've studied patterns of coincidence. Coincidence is a science waiting to be discovered. How patterns emerge outside the bounds of cause and effect. I studied geopolitics at Baldwin-Wallace before it was called geopolitics.”

“We don't know what to call it, so we say coincidence. It goes deeper...There's a hidden principle. Every process contains its own outcome.”
This hidden principle is more real for Oswald than other aspects of normal social life:

“These were important things, family, money, the past, but they did not touch his real life, the inward-spinning self...”
Real life is the self that spins within history, just as much as the history that spins within the self, “the whirl of time, the true life inside him.”


The Scripted Gunman

Win Everett is the CIA agent who formulates a plot to shoot at JFK but miss him (in revenge for Kennedy's refusal to order air support for the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba)(This is Delillo's fictionalised version of at least one of the JFK conspiracy theories). He builds a profile of the kind of shooter he wants to carry out the plot. Like a novelist, he would “put someone together, build an identity, a skein of persuasion and habit, ever so subtle. He wanted a man with believable quirks.” He was “devising a general shape, a life. He would script a gunman out of ordinary dog-eared paper, the contents of a wallet...pocket litter.” He would “show the secret symmetries in a nondescript life.”

Evoking James Joyce, DeLillo writes, “It lies so flat on the page, hangs so still in the lazy air, lost to syntax and other arrangement, that it resembles a kind of mind-spatter, a poetry of lives muddied and dripping in language.”

Everett would later insert Oswald into this shape, this life. In the same way, DeLillo would insert and extend the processes of fiction into the mechanism of history. Oswald would inhabit and personify the historical design.

Parmenter says to Oswald, “You're a quirk of history. You're a coincidence. They devise a plan, you fit it perfectly.”

Similarly, DeLillo suggests that the CIA made Jack Ruby “a dupe of history.”

The Deepest Levels of the Self

Ferrie elaborates with respect to Oswald:

“Think of two parallel lines. One is the life of Lee H. Oswald. One is the conspiracy to kill the President. What bridges the space between them? What makes a connection inevitable? There is a third line. It comes out of dreams, visions, intuitions, prayers, out of the deepest levels of the self. It’s not generated by cause and effect like the other two lines. It's a line that cuts across causality, cuts across time. It has no history that we can recognise or understand. But it forces a connection. It puts a man on the path of his Destiny.”
The Secret History of the Mystery

DeLillo used the fictitious CIA employee, Nicholas Branch, to write the secret history of the assassination in “his room of theories" at Langley. “He is writing a history, not a study of the ways in which people succumb to paranoia.”

“There is enough mystery in the facts as we know them, enough of conspiracy, coincidence, loose ends, multiple interpretations. There is no need, he thinks, to invent the grand and masterful scheme, the plot that reaches flawlessly in a dozen directions.”
A Deception So Mysterious and Complex

Attached to history is a concern with the role of destiny:

“Destiny is larger than facts or events. It is something to believe in outside the ordinary borders of the senses, with God so distant from our lives.”

“The nature of things was to be elusive. Things slipped through his perceptions. He could not get a grip on the runaway world.”

Parmenter believed that “nothing can be finally known that involves human motive and need. There is always another level, another secret, a way in which the heart breeds a deception so mysterious and complex it can only be taken for a deeper kind of truth.”

Mystery inhabits the gap or space between facts or knowledge (or words).

There is Superstition

For all our re-enactment of life's mysteries in the form of art and fiction, we still can't truly comprehend them. Instead, we institutionalise them, so that they master and tame us, and lead us into submission.

“The real Control Apparatus is precisely what we can't see or name...It is the mystery we can't get hold of, the plot we can’t uncover.”
Likewise, Parmenter opines, “Religion just holds us back. It's an arm of the state.”

As DeLillo achieves with Oswald’s own story, it is this mystery that puts us in our place and time (in history).

Profile Image for Jayakrishnan.
488 reviews161 followers
March 11, 2021
Libra is a conspiratorial thriller in which Lee Harvey Oswald is hired by a bunch of ex-CIA spooks with business interests in Cuba to botch up the Kennedy assassination. They hope that the assassination attempt would lead to the US declaring war on Cuba. It is not just any ordinary spy thriller. It is a thriller by a great writer who has interesting views on technology and media and their impact on human nature. I was constantly thinking about Norman Mailer's Harlot's Ghost while reading Libra. Libra might not have as big a scope as Mailer's novel but I really enjoyed reading DeLillo's mumbo jumbo (not used as a pejorative) about spooks and how they create enemies.

DeLillo's writing style is interesting. A third person narration would suddenly shift to the inner conversation of the character. This style is used a lot during the first few chapters about Oswald's teenage awareness and his perpetual feeling of being the other. And it is used extensively for Oswald's mother Marguerite. I also enjoyed DeLillo's cinematic description of the Kennedy assassination. It was breathtaking and might have inspired the assassination sequence in Oliver Stone's JFK.

I was not really drawn to any of the characters as I am not a person with strong political convictions. But I found myself sympathizing with both Oswald and Ruby. In the novel, they are both passionate and stupid men who are used by the powers that be to achieve their devious ends. I think DeLillo was saying that these men were driven by forces beyond their control. According to Marx - "It is not the consciousness of man that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness’, and so creates the idea that history is being driven by man, however, it is their social class that determines the history they drive."
Profile Image for Paolo.
143 reviews144 followers
July 28, 2016
Libro definitivo sulla madre di tutti i complotti e di come Mafia/Cia/FBI/Anticastristi portino quasi per sbaglio un ragazzo di ventitre anni che non aveva il motivo, le capacità e nemmeno la volontà, ad uccidere Kennedy.
Impareggiabile DeLillo fa di Oswald un Forrest Gump in negativo che attraversa l'universo - America, detrito fra i detriti.
Meraviglioso poi lo Stabat mater finale.
Profile Image for Perry.
631 reviews503 followers
March 15, 2019
" There's always more to it. This is what history consists of. It is the sum total of things they aren't telling us. "

The novel is a tragic, speculative account of the people, places and things leading to the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy. Delillo uses many of the actual words of Oswald and his mom Marguerite, as well as numerous documented facts surrounding the life and times of Lee Harvey Oswald, so that I had difficulty discerning where the public records stop and the fiction begins. This is likely why Delillo takes pains to remind us that his novel makes "no claim to literal truth" and that he "made no attempt to furnish factual answers to any questions raised by the assassination."

It is significant to note that the several films speculating on Lee Harvey Oswald, a conspiracy and the assassination of JFK, such as Oliver Stone's "JFK" from 1991, came after the 1988 publication of Delillo's Libra. Not realizing this, I initially gave the novel only 4 stars when I finished it earlier this year. The more I think about it, the more impressed I am with Delillo's brilliance and imaginative creation.

Delillo expertly saves this from being labeled a political novel by his character Nicholas Branch, a researcher who undertakes the nearly impossible task of looking for patterns in a mountain of data and trying distinguish them from mere coincidence. Branch/Delillo concludes that Kennedy's death was the product of a mixture of confederacy and chance, or "a rambling affair that succeeded in short term mainly due to chance."

Specifically, Delillo paints Oswald as a lonely and grotesque fringe dweller who becomes the perfect shill for a plot by current and former CIA operatives to take an errant shot at JFK, with the unsuccessful assassination attempt to be blamed on Cuba.

To get to the ultimate point, Delillo takes us on a truncated tour through Oswald's life of trying to escape his fate and futilely searching for a place where he could fit in.

First and foremost, Lee Harvey spends his life trying to forget that overbearing mother of his, Marguerite, who is both train-wreck compelling and revolting, depicted by Delillo via her unique manner of speech to a judge to whom she provides her list of excuses and complaints for the poverty in which she raised her son and the way he turned out.

Then, he is a Marine who, after discharge, defects to Soviet Russia, only to be disappointed in its Westernization and return to the States as a Marxist with a Russian wife. Finally, he sees Cuba as a possible vista.

A few things I found uniquely fascinating in this novel. One is the theme of entropy I have seen in other Delillo novels; that is, the fact it's impossible to control people and events pursuant to some type of plan.

Second, how Delillo has such an appreciation for the awkward vernacular of professionals, e.g., CIA, and the staccato dialect of the uneducated.

Third and most singular is how Delillo shows Oswald as being captivated by media imagery. I cannot help but believe that many of the recent mass murderers also project themselves as being played out in images on living room TV screens. After being shot by Ruby, Oswald imagines how the shot looked on camera. Back in Russia, when he tried to commit suicide just before being expelled, he views his razor slices across his wrist while a violin plays somewhere offstage. Finally, as Lee Harvey fades away, he pans out, watching himself from "a darkish room, someone's den."
Profile Image for Sean Wilson.
190 reviews
February 15, 2017
“Facts are lonely things.”

American history is profoundly dark in its timeline. From the slaughtering and near genocidal extermination of the Native Americans to the 9/11 attacks, American history presents itself as an almost constant struggle for survival. History has not been so kind when it comes to America. Inevitably, and understandably, it is so very interesting, and the American people are also equally interesting. Their history is internationally relatable due to the ancestral voyages undertaken, and their subjective stories illuminate the overall objectified view of Uncle Sam. Libra refuses to show America from a political, sociological or a generalised historical standpoint. Instead, in Tolstoyan fashion, DeLillo examines the ‘six seconds that broke the back of the American century’ artistically. Not a single detail is left unnoticed. The scariest part is: What is real? Fact, hypothesis, speculation and fiction are all methodically rolled into one, creating this postmodern odyssey.

Libra, an immensely impressive work by American writer Don DeLillo, is one of those books that defines the feeling of America, past, present and future. It’s stylish in its execution, believable in its convictions, thrilling in its story and downright disturbing in its resolution. I remember having these exact feelings whenever I watched the certain episodes of the X-Files— you know, with governmental corruption, conspiracies and paranoia seeping from every frame. Libra does this, utilising words, and every sentence counts, as he ruthlessly dissects America during the Cold War, leaving the sugarcoating and flag-waving patriotism at the back door.

Libra, in all its glory, terrifies the reader with its powerful examination of Lee Harvey Oswald and the events leading up to the assassination of JFK. However, as great as it already is, Libra is so much more than being about Lee Harvey Oswald. DeLillo is reflecting back to America of the 50’s and early 60’s, with visually arresting scenes, taking us back to Cold War era as an artistic tool in order to comment on the America of today. Although written in 1988, it still packs a punch that would immediately startle Sonny Liston, with its messages still unsettling us in our post 9/11 world. Don DeLillo isn’t showcasing the past from a politically oriented point of view, as the book is neither conservative or liberal in its underpinnings; instead, it’s a metaphysical shadow, a nameless dread, that looms over these events, seeing it differently from the grounded senses of a human being. It’s a deeply philosophical look, almost epic in scope and as analytical as anything written by Solzhenitsyn. Like I stated earlier, not a single detail is left unnoticed. How DeLillo accomplished this, I will never know.

Don DeLillo places Lee Harvey Oswald as the Great Man, the centre of the universe, the Napoleon of the twentieth century, in his quest for remembrance. From the first page, we are instantly dropped into Lee’s world as a young boy, following his upbringing, his discovery of Marxism, political science, Cuba, the military, Japan, Soviet Russia, military espionage and his increasing bitterness of America. DeLillo hurls the facts at breakneck speed and is relentless in his storytelling, blurring fact and fiction so successfully that I refuse to even separate them, fearing I would ruin a work of artistic genius. I cannot describe how I felt when I read the scene with shot down U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers being interrogated by the Russians. This real life incident was recreated perfectly for the book, and sent paranoid shivers up and down my spine.

Philip K. Dick was firm in his views on subjective reality. He believed that ‘objective reality is a synthetic product’. His written thoughts are permanently embedded in my mind: Reality is illusory, fragmented, highly subjective and downright confusing. Everything from the curious eyes of a human being has to be questioned, measured and analysed extensively before contributing to the past, and even then, did it necessarily happen that way? Or has it been a collective agreement to preserve objectivity? So as the story progresses, reality is laid bare, the past is tested and actions are questioned from the viewpoint of DeLillo, disguised as a fictional agent assigned to piecing the past together years after the event. Here the reader is bombarded with an array of information, paranoia, conspiracy and startling insights into the nature of being, time, existence, DeLillo waxing the philosophical with his stark brutality. In postmodern fashion, our senses are shellshocked and we have to do nothing but go along with the ride.

“He questions everything, including the basic suppositions we make about our world of light and shadow, solid objects and ordinary sounds, and our ability to measure such things, to determine weight, mass and direction, to see things as they are, recall them clearly, be able to say what happened.”

Each page has the power to genuinely unsettle the reader. I recall having to close the book many times in order to breath normally again before reopening the pages. The final part is unforgiving and continuously impressive, evoking nostalgia, invoking fear, advocating a sort of coherent truth. Its tension is utterly superb. The paranoia of the Cold War-world will never fail to disturb. Don’t let that put you off though, as Libra is one of the most powerful statements of America ever written.

“The truth of the world is exhausting…”
Profile Image for Girish Gowda.
80 reviews74 followers
March 13, 2023
"I am reciting a life and I need time"

What a goddamn writer. DeLillo arrives on the page with no urgency. A nonexistent hurriedness permeates these pages. The story of Lee Oswald unravels at an arresting pace. In fact, it's my firm belief that Delillo's contribution to world literature concerns the inevitable slowness of existence. Its inexorability. Much has been said about the fast moving plot. The necessity to keep moving from one event to the other. But here is DeLillo holding you against the arresting moments. He wants you feel the terror not as an outsider. The writer who is trying to give meaning to the singular event, shaping history, giving its deserved tenderness, meaning and memory.

In his piece written for the Guardian post 9/11, titled "In the Ruins of the Future", he mentions what the writer is trying to do when he is recapturing history on the page. The history herein being the sum total of all the things they haven't told, unquestionably. The history which takes shape and structure, events forced into cogency, through news , emanating from locked rooms behind which men change the shimmer of history. History perpetually mutating. History perpetually destined to be customised to make it palatable for public consumption. The writer here is trying to imagine the moment. Not the events that led up to it or the inevitable aftermath of the event. Here he takes into the consideration the event. The shot heard around the world. Shots heard round the world. He imagines the moment that shapes the history desperately. Trying to capture it unvarnished. But the moment doesn't present itself individually. There are of course plots deeply embedded. Plot so subtle yet unshakeable that it's to nobody's surprise the Framed feels this was how it was meant to be. This was destined.

A word on the structure. Interesting. DeLillo narrates the events in a way that seemingly comes across as random but only until we realise Lee's story is unraveling a bit slowly, a bit intentionally off set and behind and fills in expertly when we look at it from his pov. How he showed up at the wrong place at the wrong time through out. How his innate disability to permeate the inner normalcy of living, of society, was ammunition to spin plots that seems seemingly unavoidable given the larger context of his role to be played in history.
Profile Image for SAM.
247 reviews5 followers
September 25, 2019
My first foray into the JFK Assassination was the superb Oliver Stone film. I watched it without any prior knowledge of the conspiracy and became fascinated. After this i read Plausible Denial by Mark Lane, which at the time i was in awe of but i’ve since realised is probably a bit fanatical. Plus Mark Lane went way down in my opinion since i’ve read of his involvement in Jonestown.

Libra is a speculative fiction/non-fiction novel that follows Lee Harvey Oswald during his short life from his school days up to his murder by Jack Ruby. I say non-fiction because the majority of this, i.e. his time in Russia, various associations and political beliefs, are probably pretty accurate. The shooting itself is pure conjecture because nobody (except the super secretive government) is au fait with the truth as the main player was killed soon afterwards and the majority of the other alleged conspirators died also. So unless LHO is holding a Q+A session in the afterlife we’ll remain in the dark. This is probably a good thing because the speculation and the who/what/where are always more interesting than the truth, which is why Libra is such a great book.

If you’ve read other Don Delillo you’ll know he has a certain writing style, which takes a couple of chapters to adjust to. I’ve previously read the brilliant Underworld so i was able to instantly settle into his unique mesmeric prose. Running alongside the LHO chapters is the hypothetical story of where the JFK assassination idea originated from. In this case it’s a couple of disgruntled FBI agents who are holding a grudge over the Bay of Pigs fiasco. A brilliant book about an intriguing moment in history. I would also recommend 11/22/63 by Stephen King.
Profile Image for Ned.
294 reviews121 followers
September 5, 2016
There are a number of reasons I chose this one to occupy a couple of weeks of reading time in my life. First, I wanted an introduction to DeLillo since I understand he can be difficult to read, yet I wanted to be entertained. The subject matter is near and dear to my heart, as the Kennedy assassination spawned perhaps the greatest assortment of conspiracy theories in our nation’s history. Most of the story occurred during the period of history in which I was born (1960) and marks and colors a substantial portion of the collective history which informed my upbringing. My own father was fascinated with the event, being unafraid to ask hard questions in Dallas when vacationing there. My daughter lives in Dallas now and on a cold March day we toured the book depository (I was astonished at the proximity of the street from the 6th floor, it felt very probable that this could have happened). Lastly, I remember purchasing this book for my father when it came out back in 1988, back when I was reading book reviews voraciously – I don’t think he ever read it and I’m guessing the first edition hardback is gathering dust somewhere (and I have asked him now to find / read it – I intend to retrieve that original for my own collection!).

I did not debate with myself much in giving this top rating because, in total, it is highly entertaining and artfully arranged and written. Like the event itself, it is a swirl of characters and backstory. It shouldn’t surprise me, but somehow it often does, that the heart of man never changes. Even when I was a babe, a time I want to think when people were more generous or normal, they were just as venal, petty, hateful, weak-willed and conniving as they are today. It helped that I knew the plot, and recognized the name of characters. Otherwise the tale would have seemed preposterous and I would have accused the author of excessive indulgence in fantasy. The Oswald character is rendered in all his contradictory and confused state of mind, dyslectic yet intelligent, moving from one minor failure to another, seeking a grand stage. I had forgotten he had attempted to assassinate a public figure before JFK. This novel captured the fervor and deep fear of communism, from Russia to China to Cuba. The motivations made sense of the conspirators, anger at the first catholic president for not supporting the invasion of Cuba leading to the Bay of Pigs fiasco. The massive CIA and other agency apparatus run amuck, disgruntled and powerful shadowy agents concocting plots that went awry yet by coincidence came together. DeLillo must have delighted when he realized the truth of the history is best told in novel form, since reality (alas) will never be known by mankind. In a way this event strikes at the heart of all historical accounts in that the particular events cannot be known to perfection. Reality is stranger than fiction, and what a startling plot where an idea to create a failed assassination plot spirals out of control and leads to a cavalcade of events ultimately leading to the violent death of the most flamboyantly powerful man in the world (sealing his fate as a most cherished man and what some consider, certainly falsely, the end of innocence for its time). The sordid backdrop of New Orleans hardliners and peripherals, aka Jack Ruby, was brilliantly told.

DeLillo did some strange things with first and third person, switching within the same paragraph. That was an intentional device, I’m sure, but to what effect I can’t understand. All I know is the entire concoction worked beautifully and this was a page turner for me. The characters, even when un-knowable, are deep and real and carefully nuanced. I’ll give you one little snippet to show you the talent of this writer (p. 295), when an unemployed ex-agent was enjoying being back in the game, sitting in the swamps of Florida with other like-minded ex-warriors, training for some yet to be identified mission:

“The wind was battering the shack. They talked for hours, telling funny and bloody stories. Wayne felt sweet and light as Jesus on a moonbeam.”
Profile Image for Sentimental Surrealist.
293 reviews48 followers
April 24, 2018
This fucking book, man, it just leaves me at a complete loss for words. I've heard people discredit the terrific work DeLillo did to make Oswald a compelling and complex character - maybe DeLillo's most compelling and most complex character - because Don was working with a real person and therefore had plenty of raw material to go with, but I insist that it takes just as much talent to sculpt what is known of Oswald (his upbringing, his politics, his time in the war) into a real and weirdly relatable anti-hero. DeLillo pulls him out of the realm of history and makes a goddamn person out of him, and all it takes is a maybe-implausible - but certainly, you cannot deny, all sorts of fun to read about - conspiracy to do so. DeLillo uses that conspiracy as a jumping-off point for an in-depth study of Oswald's motivations; his determination to make a mark on history is pulled against by the plot he finds himself wrapped up in, a plot that puts Oswald on strings and pretty much leaves the strings visible. This is what they talk about when they say "character-driven writing."

So what does that make Libra? Proof that DeLillo can do character and write in a more traditional mode? Well, it's still DeLillo, so that's not quite the case. Libra may be a character-driven novel, but it's also a thriller, and a thriller in the DeLillo mode, which means he spoofs some thriller conventions (notably the sudden escalations and ridiculously tangled webs of players vs. players), affirm others (the fast pace, the violence, the political undertones), and stay in the DeLillo-space for still others (the paranoia and conspiracies). DeLillo's a smart guy, so it's hard to take this as some YouTube nutjob yelling his head off about the Grassy Knoll and the holes in the Warren Commission, and yet it's equally hard for me to fully buy into DeLillo's disclaimer at the beginning that insists Libra is intended to be pure speculation and isn't supposed to provide any answers.

Which I'm sure is the idea, and could even be a little joke on DeLillo's part, since I'm sure he's aware that he's perceived as existing on the brilliant/crazy faultline by his fans and his detractors alike, but it's hard for me to know what to make of this novel, if it was intended as a straight-but-sophisticated historical thriller (I feel Running Dog is more obviously parody, but this isn't Running Dog), even an attempt to legitimatize the genre, or an Eco-style parody of our fascination with the currents of history. It's also hard for me to know if DeLillo honestly believes what he puts out here. I know Kennedy had his enemies and am not naive enough to believe that politicians don't throw other politicians under the bus on the daily, and yet I wonder if this is the ravings of an exceptionally talented lunatic. I know it's an in-depth analysis of the currents of history centered around a fascinating and often demonized figure, but it could also be completely crazy. Or dead the fuck on. Either way, DeLillo's prose is the best it's ever been, the portrayal of Oswald is masterful, and the montage-style climax is out of this world good. Due for a reread.
Profile Image for Jonfaith.
1,837 reviews1,343 followers
June 4, 2022
A conspiracy is everything that ordinary life is not. It's the inside game, cold, sure, undistracted, forever closed off to us. We are the flawed ones, the innocents, trying to make some rough sense of the daily jostle. Conspirators have a logic and daring beyond our reach.

I barely remember the year 1991. There were serial missteps of which I was slowly then suddenly recovering. I also went to see the film JFK with my best friend Joel. It was either before then or afterwards that Joel bought a weighty stack of documents from some self-styled researcher and analyst from Texas. The documents pushed the blame for the Kennedy Assassination from the Cuba/Mafia nexus to the corridors of power in the Beltway. There was an exhilaration in the audacity of that thesis. I was in awe and then a little afraid. Shortly thereafter I read Umberto Eco and such matters became more of intellectual exercise than a means of understanding history and the world. I outgrew it.

I believe like much else I simply became agnostic.

I had thus been leery for over twenty years of reading Libra. I was likely mistaken. I am glad I finally did.

DeLillo has never been a favorite novelist of mine, but one I would read on occasion The Names was likely my last encounter, when I was first infected back in 2020. I liked that one for the same reasons I loved this: Libra finds the sublime in the collection of data, the unwieldy and the coincidental lapse into meter and refrain, no need for the authorial push. DeLillo finds the audit a sufficient flex and where there's silence, there's a secret.
Profile Image for Krell75.
272 reviews15 followers
October 29, 2022
Ammetto che il genere spy non è tra i miei preferiti e che la vicenda dell'omicidio di Kennedy non suscita alcuna mia curiosità. Leggere questo romanzo è stato un esercizio, su consiglio, per testare DeLillo.
Il risultato per me è deludente.

Mi diranno: DeLillo scrive bene! DeLillo è praticamente intoccabile! osannato e divinizzato....si ok, non mi basta.

Leggere la storia di un personaggio amorfo e senza spina dorsale per 300 pagine, marionetta di poteri più grandi che tramano nell'ombra e decidono il suo destino e forse quello del mondo dalla stanza dei bottoni, non mi ha coinvolto neanche per una pagina.

La vicenda si raggomitola e devia, salta e si riarrotola tra la tediosa figura del protagonista, sballottato come una foglia al vento, e le macchinazioni fantasiose di organismi statali ultra segreti.
I voli pindarici dello scrittore denotano un buon esercizio di stile, ma fine a se stesso. Una storia, oltre ad essere scritta bene, deve anche coinvolgermi emotivamente e questo purtroppo non accade.
Vogliamo parlare dei dialoghi? Mai letto di peggio. Imbarazzanti.

Lo lascio volentieri a chi riesce ad apprezzarlo.
Profile Image for Kansas.
557 reviews255 followers
October 30, 2022
"No se trata del propio Kennedy sino de lo que la gente ve en él.
¿Sabes qué significa para mí carisma? Significa que él guarda secretos, los peligrosos secretos que solían guardarse al margen del gobierno. Tramas, conspiraciones, secretos de la revolución, secretos sobre el fin del orden social. Si le quitas los secretos, se convierte en un don nadie."

Esta es una novela sobre Secretos. No cabe duda de que el asesinato de JFK fue el secreto mejor construido del siglo XX, un misterio que devino en múltiples teorías conspiratorias. No ha habido un enigma que haya generado más debate, un tema fascinante teniendo en cuenta los tiempos que corrían, un momento crucial histórico en Estados Unidos que de alguna forma rompió en pedazos un sistema perfectamente ensamblado de cara a la galería y que dio como resultado un país expuesto frente al resto del planeta. John Fitzgerald Kennedy era el hombre más poderoso del planeta y de repente fue asesinado, fue el blanco de ¿quién?? Lee Harvey Oswald fue el asesino oficial pero si fue así, entonces ¿por qué hoy se sigue debatiendo sobre este asesinato? Es un tema tan complejo, que aún hoy en día sigue resultando un misterio sin resolver: Fidel Castro, la mafia de Chicago, la guerra fria, la CIA… elementos que estuvieron envueltos en una trama donde Oswald de alguna forma fue el comodín de quita y pon.

"La verdad no es aquello que sabemos o sentimos, sino lo que aguarda más allá."

Y aquí entra Don Delillo en escena construyendo una novela fascinante en torno a este misterio centrándose sobre todo en el personaje de Lee Harvey Oswald, porque Don Delillo, como gran diseccionador de la sociedad, sabe que hay una página en blanco entre la historia oficial y las teorías conspiratorias que no paran de surgir desde 1963. Delillo sabe que la verdad está en algún punto de esta página en blanco así que toma personajes reales e históricos y los mezcla con personajes surgidos de su imaginación y va reconstruyendo una historia encajando las piezas y apoyándose sobre todo en el personaje de Lee Harvey Oswald, como centro neurálgico donde van confluyendo todas lineas argumentales. Desde el momento en que Delillo toma un hecho histórico y lo noveliza dotándolo de diálogos, anécdotas personales, reflexiones de sus personajes, consigue encontrar un punto de equilibro que la historia oficial nunca nos ha proporcionado. Claro que los diálogos son resultado de su imaginación e incluso la psicología de sus personajes, pero el esqueleto estaba ya ahí, solo que Delillo de esta forma resalta que tras los hechos oficiales había personas reales con sus pequeños momentos domésticos, por ejemplo y con sus historias personales que los hicieron confluir hasta verse sumergidos en en uno de los momentos históricos más trepidantes de la historia americana. Y tal como resalta en un momento de la novela, todos y cada uno de nosotros podríamos convertirnos en personajes de una trama...

"Llevamos vidas más interesantes de lo que creemos. Somos personajes de las tramas. Atentamente analizadas en todas sus afinidades y vínculos, nuestras vidas abundan en significados sugerentes, en temas y giros enrevesados que no nos hemos permitido ver en su totalidad."

La estructura de Libra es reveladora en su forma porque Delillo la divide en dos hilos narrativos perfectamente delimitados a través de capítulos:

- por una parte los episodios de la vida de Oswald desde su infancia hasta el momento del asesinato y su posterior muerte. Desde el primer momento que conocemos a Oswald, ese niño inseguro, outsider, y con dificultades de aprendizaje, el lector es consciente aquí de que Delillo ha construido un personaje de carne y hueso, cálido, lleno de recovecos, con sus luces y sus sombras, de múltiples matices, una persona que con sus inseguridades y su aislamiento, va definiendo una narración dotando de humanidad un hecho histórico por demás frio y caotico. A Delillo se le nota que está cerca de Oswald, sobre todo porque lo describe en varios momentos de su vida, aislado y queriendo llamar la atención a la vez, un personaje contradictorio donde los haya, pero la naturaleza humana es así, está llena de matices. Delillo nos muestra a Oswald en las diferentes etapas de su vida que lo definieron, su infancia en el Bronx, en los marines en Japón, su solitaria etapa rusa y su deserción y su posterior vuelta a los Estados Unidos que es cuando llama la atención de los conspiradores.

"Los ojos de Oswald son grises, azules, pardos, Conduce, no sabe conducir, Es tirador de primera y no le acierta a tres en un burro. El aspecto de Oswald es tan cambiante que sus fotos parecen de hombres distintos. Es robusto, frágil, de labios delgados, de fracciones fuertes, extrovertido, tímido y con aire de empleado de banca, con el cuello como una columna de zaguero. Se parece a cualquiera."
"Asistía al cine y a la biblioteca. Nadie conocía las dificultades que tenía para leer frases sencillas, No siempre lograba tener una imagen clara de mundo ante sus ojos. Escribir le resultaba más penoso. Si estaba cansado, apenas conseguía interpretar cinco palabras correctamente, escribir una palabra sencilla sin confundir las letras.
Se trataba de un secreto que jamás revelaría."

- y por otra parte, el otro hilo narrativo paralelo se concentra en las acciones que van definiendo a todos los participantes de la conspiración: agentes de la CIA totalmente fuera de control por la desilusión que les supuso el fracaso de Kennedy en la trama cubana de la invasión de la Bahia de Cochinos: estos podrían ser los primeros conspiradores. Algunos de ellos fascinantes como Win Everett a quién se le ocurre inventar un intento de asesinato fallido a Kennedy para culpar a los cubanos. Win Everett es el primero que idea esta trama, necesitan un chivo expiatorio a quien culpar y va diseñando un primer plan, que consistió precisamente en fallar el intento de asesinato pero tantos personajes implicados van haciendo cambiar este plan inicial y convirtiéndolo en algo mucho más complejo. Y aquí es una vez más donde brilla Delillo, no solo como escritor sino como absoluto conocedor de la naturaleza humana y de la historia porque en la historia hay mucho de accidental y de hechos no intencionados, ya lo decía Tolstoy en Guerra y Paz.

"Todos eran espectros, primos o crédulos, agentes dobles, correos engañados o desertores, o estaban relacionados con alguien que lo era. Todos estábamos enlazados en una descomunal coincidencia rítmica, concatenación o rumor, sospecha o deseo íntimo."

En medio de estas dos lineas argumentales paralelas entre Oswald y los conspiradores, se construye otra, de transición, y que sigue a Nicholas Branch un archivista de la CIA a quien se le asigna la tarea de reconstruir la trama de este asesinato a Kennedy. Branch podría ser el alter ego de Delillo en el sentido que intenta encontrar una verdad que está camuflada entre muchos personajes y datos, y por supuesto, escondida en una ingente cantidad de información, tal como bien define uno de los personajes de la trama: “Todo dato es inocente hasta que interesa a alguien, momento en que se convierte en información”. Esta es la información que tiene que desentrañar Branch/Delillo, y es aquí donde la estructura de la novela se convierte en algo realmente fascinante porque el lector se enfrenta a unos datos que podrían haber surgido de una película o de una novela, pero son reales. El lector toma consciencia de esto gracias a esta estructura en la que Nicholas Branch les recuerda continuamente que los datos que está manipulando no son ficción, sino que son hechos históricos puros y duros. Hay momentos en los que Branch se horroriza porque el peso de la información es tan ingente que le resulta imposible encontrar la verdad que hay detrás.

"Secretos que intercambiar y guardar, ciertos peligros, la posibilidad de moverme en puntos de tensión, de esgrimir un arma en la cara de la gente. Es una sociedad hechizada.
Trabajo de espía, trabajo secreto, inventamos una sociedad en la que siempre se está en guerra. La ley es muy poco flexible."

Hasta el momento Libra es la novela que me ha resultado más impactante de Don Delillo, no tanto por como nos presenta un hecho histórico tan llamativo y conocido, sino porque consigue dotar de auténtica humanidad un personaje tan mediático como Oswald, y no solo a él, sino a Margaret Oswald, su madre, o a Marina, su esposa rusa. Delillo presenta a Oswald como un idealista que quiso cambiar el mundo pero esa carencia de herramientas emocionales que le hizo ser un inadaptado durante su vida, le convirtió en una especie de chivo expiatorio casi inconscientemente. Oswald que estaba obsesionado por brillar y salir en el Times, lo consiguió y ahora aparece en todos los libros de historia, pero mucho después de muerto, y aquí está el gran talento de Delillo en su retrato de Lee Harvey Oswald, una persona en conflicto consigo misma, vulnerable y frágil, que llevo una vida de desesperación casi en silencio. Una novela asombrosa e impactante que me ha emocionado en muchos momentos por la forma en que Delillo nos presenta la naturaleza humana.

"Los libros eran privados, como algo que se encuentra y se oculta, un elemento de suerte que guarda el secreto de lo que eres. Los libros mismos eran secretos prohibidos y dificiles de leer. Modificaban la habitación, la dotaban de significado. Esos libros explicaban y transformaban la monotonía de su entorno, sus ropas raídas. Los libros le convertían en parte de algo."
"Caminó por el centro vacío de Dallas, en un domingo vacío en medio del calor y de la luz. Sintió la soledad que siempre le desagradaba reconocer, un aislamiento más vasto que Rusia, sueños más extraños , un resplandor blanco y mortecino que escuece."


Profile Image for Roberto.
627 reviews1 follower
August 8, 2017

Impatto imminente

Una boccia su un tavolo da biliardo impatta su un'altra. Proviene da un punto relativamente remoto. L'impatto non è altro che l'evoluzione di un percorso partito tempo prima, effetto sulla stecca, deviazioni di sponde, abilità e strategia del giocatore, posizione iniziale delle bocce. L'impatto che si osserva è l'epilogo.
Come ci si è arrivati, a quell'impatto?

Questa è la domanda che si è fatto DeLillo con questo intrigante libro.

Il tempo è il 22 novembre del 1963. Il luogo è Dallas, sulla decappottabile presidenziale. L'impatto è tra la testa del presidente John Fitzgerald Kennedy e un proiettile sparato da un fucile di precisione.

Chi ha sparato? Lee Oswald, dicono le indagini. Forse.

Aiutato da qualcuno? Forse.

Come ci è arrivato lì, un uomo come Lee Oswald? Come è arrivato a imbracciare un fucile e a sparare? E' stato un suo percorso personale? O ci è stato portato? C'è chi l'ha selezionato per le sue inclinazioni? O chi ha tramato nell'ombra per plasmare la sua mente e spingerlo in questa direzione senza possibilità di ritorno? Quest'uomo è stato abilmente manovrato magari affascinandolo con l'idea di essere ricordato nei libri di scuola come l'uomo che uccise il presidente degli Stati Uniti d'America?

De Lillo si fa la domanda. E in questo bellissimo libro parte da lontano e ipotizza ragioni, sviluppo e svolgimento dell'azione, partendo dal punto di vista proprio di Oswald, uomo non mentalmente stabile, solitario, abbastanza debole, incline alla violenza, spinto da ideali (chiederà asilo in Russia) nemmeno troppo chiari per lui.

Chi è Oswald? Un assassino, un sovversivo, un pazzo, un poveraccio in balia degli eventi, un burattino manovrato? O una vittima?

Il libro inizia molto prima dello sparo di Dallas e termina subito dopo. Non è stato per me immediato entrare nella trama, perché molti dei personaggi non sono presentati e non sapendo che ruolo abbiano poi nella vicenda è necessario darci dentro con Google. Ma dopo poche pagine il libro inizia a volare alto e diviene estremamente interessante (uno dei migliori libri di Delillo letti fin'ora).

Delillo si è documentato meticolosamente per scrivere il libro e dare alla luce la sua visione dei fatti. Complotto? Coincidenze? Chissà, forse nessuno potrà ormai dirci com'è andata davvero. Anche se non nego di far fatica a immaginare che un apparato, la CIA, comandato dal Presidente possa arrivare a (far) uccidere il Presidente stesso.

Mi sono domandato spesso, durante la lettura, quanto JFK debba la sua notorietà a ciò che ha fatto come Presidente degli Stati Uniti d'America e quanto invece alle sue vicende private (donne...) e alla sua morte violenta, su cui, leggevo, sono stati scritti circa 40000 (quarantamila!) libri.

Un gran bel libro comunque questo di Delillo. Interessante per la prospettiva assolutamente innovativa e per la scrittura, veramente bella e coinvolgente.
Profile Image for Marco Tamborrino.
Author 6 books164 followers
June 19, 2012
- Quando è il tuo compleanno?
- Il diciotto ottobre, - rispose Lee.
- Libra. La Bilancia.
- Sì, la Bilancia, - disse Ferrie
- L'Equilibrio, - disse Shaw.
Quelli della bilancia. Alcuni sono positivi, padroni di sé, equilibrati, con la testa a posto, saggi e rispettati da tutti. Altri invece sono negativi, cioè piuttosto instabili, impulsivi. Tanto, ma tanto, ma tanto influenzabili. Propensi a spiccare il salto pericoloso. In entrambi i casi, la chiave è l'equilibrio.

A volte finisci dei libri e non è che ti senti privato di un amico. Ti senti privato di un mondo intero. Finisci dei libri e ti chiedi cosa succede là fuori, perché mai tu sei dentro casa a leggere. Ti portano via un universo. Le ultime pagine. Le lacrime che colano sull'inchiostro. E le domande, le migliaia di domande prima dell'ultima riga. Ti hanno derubato, quando finisci dei libri. Così io mi sono sentito: come se mi avessero tolto ogni certezza. Le certezze derivate da un mese di lettura, da un mese di lettura sulla vita di Lee Harvey Oswald. Ventiquattro anni. Una vita giovane, eppure una vita immensa. Adesso ho bisogno di aria. Ho finito un libro che è poesia. Quando finisci un libro che è poesia è normale che ti venga voglia di uscire a respirare un po' d'aria fresca. È il disfacimento interiore delle proprie convinzioni. Le parole che graffiano, stridono, si artigliano ai tuoi vestiti, ti si accalcano addosso. Non puoi farci niente. Sono gelide e secche, sono lì per fare del male.

Ma che cos'è Libra?
Io penso che Libra sia Lee Harvey Oswald, e che Lee Harvey Oswald non possa essere altro che Libra. Il romanzo stesso. Tutti i dettagli della sua vita. L'infanzia, la giovinezza, l'amore. L'Unione Sovietica, l'odio per il sistema capitalista. Lee Harvey Oswald è conosciuto dalla maggior parte di noi semplicemente come l'assassino del trentacinquesimo Presidente degli Stati Uniti d'America, John Fiztgerald Kennedy. Ci fermiamo qui e lo odiamo. Pensare a un complotto sarebbe troppo complesso. Un complotto implica centinaia di piste da seguire, centinaia di dati su centinaia di personaggi, tutti coloro che sono entrati in contatto con Lee Harvey Oswald. Perché alla fine gira tutto intorno a lui. Tutto riporta a lui. Sono un capro espiatorio, disse prima di venire ucciso da Jack Ruby.

"C'è abbastanza mistero nei fatti così come li conosciamo, abbastanza complotto, coincidenza, questioni irrisolte, vicoli ciechi, molteplicità di interpretazioni. Non c'è bisogno, pensa, di inventare la grande macchinazione magistrale, la congiura che si ramifica impeccabilmente in dieci direzioni diverse."

Non ce n'è bisogno, già. Ma alla fine non si può far altro. Fu veramente Oswald a uccidere il presidente. Era l'unico a sparare, quel giorno? Ventidue novembre millenovecentosessantatre. Come mai tutte le persone che entrarono in contatto con lui negli ultimi mesi della sua vita morirono pochi anni dopo? De Lillo intreccia ai fatti reali sulla vita di Oswald gli eventi fittizi che darebbero vita a un grande complotto per assassinare il presidente e far pensare che Oswald fosse stato inviato da Cuba, e alimentare quindi una nuova invasione dell'isola dopo il fallimento della Baia dei Porci. Ancora oggi, dopo tre inchieste (una delle quali è la famosa e abnorme Commissione Warren), non si è riusciti a dimostrare che si trattasse di un complotto. E così hanno deciso che è stato lui e basta. Lee Harvey Oswald ha ucciso il presidente. Da solo. Ma noi non leggiamo Libra per sapere questo. Questo lo sappiamo già. Noi leggiamo Libra per sapere se la vita di L. H. Oswald era una vita come tante oppure una vita speciale. E scopriamo, quasi con sorpresa, che era entrambe le cose. Che tutte le nostre vite soneo entrambe le cose. Speciali e normali. Che l'amore è speciale e normale. Che avere una figlia, diventare padre, è insieme una cosa meravigliosa, inaspettata e incredibile, tanto quanto una cosa quotidiana e noiosa.

Chi è Lee Harvey Oswald?
"L'assistente sociale scrisse: «Le risposte alle domande rivelano che il ragazzo sente fra sé e le altre persone un velo che lo rende irraggiungibile, ma preferisce che il velo resti intatto»."

Lee H. Oswald è un ragazzino maltrattato dai compagni di scuola che vive da solo con la madre. Si spostano in continuazione. A dieci anni ha già cambiato sei scuole. Cresce leggendo il manuale dei marines di suo fratello Robert, già arruolato. Poi inizia a leggere letteratura marxista. Si arruola a 18 anni. Nell'esercito gli capita di sbagliare, e viene spedito nel carcere di rigore ad Atsugi, Giappone. Conosce il sistema della prigione americana. Poi, passando per la Finlandia, va in Unione Sovietica. Si innamora di Marina, la sposa, e quando si accorge che il comunismo è tutto tranne quello che pensava, torna in Amerca. Qui viene preso di mira dai servizi segreti americani, ex agenti della CIA che tramano per uccidere il presidente e far partire un'invasione di Cuba. Viene preso di mira perché ha tutte le caratteristiche del personaggio di cui questi congiurati hanno bisogno. È l'uomo perfetto.

"L'obiettivo principale è che Kennedy muoia.
Il secondo obiettivo è che muoia Oswald."

Secondo la classica ricostruzione dei fatti, quella che - più o meno - tutti conosciamo, Lee Harvey Oswald sparò tre proiettili in meno di sei secondi. Il primo ferì lievemente il presidente sotto il mento. Il secondo mancò il bersaglio. Il terzo aprì un buco nella testa di JFK. In Libra, quando Oswald sta mirando per sparare il terzo proiettile, nel mirino del suo fucile vede la testa del presidente esplodere, ma non per il suo colpo. Sono un capro espiatorio, disse. E noi, ancora oggi, non sappiamo quale sia la verità.
Ma Lee Harvey Oswald era anche il ragazzo che ha saputo amare con tutto se stesso come qualsiasi essere umano. Il ragazzo che passava le notti a fissare la figlia, tanto l'amava. Tornato in America si mise a picchiare Marina, è vero, ma paradossalmente non smise mai di amarla.

"Il saluto con cui le rispondeva era infantile, un agitar di mano, un piacere profondo e toccante. Sembrava dirle, dalla sua barchetta: - Guardaci, siamo un miracolo, così autentico e sicuro."

Quali sono i personaggi che ruotano attorno all'universo di Libra, al mondo di Lee Harvey Oswald?
Ce ne sono tanti. Ogni attentatore ha la sua storia, la sua famiglia, i suoi sentimenti. Ogni membro dell'operazione volta ad assassinare Kennedy richiede pagine e pagine di approfondimento. Niente è messo lì a caso. il più rilevante è forse David Ferrie (pilota della marina), omosessuale convinto di avere il cancro.

"- Dave, tu in cosa credi?
- In tutto. Specialmente nella mia morte.
- La desideri?
- La sento. Io sono la pubblicità vivente del cancro.
- Ma ne parli così volentieri.
- Perché, avrei altra scelta?"

Poi c'è Marguerite Oswald, la madre di Lee. Nei suoi capitoli sembra sempre parlare a un giudice in un'aula di tribunale. Dice che non può spiegare la vita di suo figlio con una semplice deposizione. Deve raccontarla tutta. E i toni con cui racconta sono drammatici, forti, impregnati di un opprimente senso di perdita allo stesso tempo umano e storico. E dopo Marguerite c'è Marina. Marina e il suo amore sincero per Lee, convinta che le cicatrici che lei e il ragazzo portano sulle braccia siano un segno del destino, un segno che li ha fatti incontrare e li farà stare insieme. Ma quando lui comincia a picchiarla, lei inizia a chiedersi se l'ami veramente, pur rimanendo invariato il suo amore per lui.
A Marguerite e Marina si aggiunge una carrellata di personaggi più o meno importanti. Ma ognuno di loro, a modo suo, è tragico e malinconico. Ognuno si porta dietro una tristezza infinita, e il lettore sa perfettamente che tutto dovrà culminare con la morte del presidente. Perché è l'anima del complotti, terminare con una morte.
Win Everett, ideatore dell'attentato, a tal proposito formulerà questo pensiero:

"Le trame possiedono una logica. C'è una tendenza, nelle trame, a evolvere in direzione della morte. Lui era convinto che l'idea della morte fosse insita nella natura di ogni trama. Nelle trame di narrativa come in quelle di uomini armati. Più la trama di un racconto è fitta, più è probabile che approdi alla morte. La trama di un romanzo, credeva, è il nostro modo di localizzare la forza della morte fuori dal libro, di esorcizzarla, di contenerla."

Qual è il senso di Libra?
Forse DeLillo non aveva un secondo fine. Forse lo scrittore americano voleva solo scrivere un bel romanzo sulla questione documentandosi molto. Ma io credo che abbia voluto dare anche un segnale. Che la vita di ogni essere umano non è semplice. Non si può giudicare da un gesto. Non si può rinchiudere in un istante di tempo e lasciarla lì. Kennedy era un simbolo prima ancora che un uomo. E Lee Harvey Oswald o coloro che sono rimasti nell'ombra l'hanno distrutto. Ma perché? Non sono umani anche loro? Non sono simboli anche loro? Simboli di un America, di un sistema sbagliato?
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