Book #42: The Enormous Room

I wasn’t sure what to make of The Enormous Room.

Maybe it was because it was ee cummings writing a BOOK. Or maybe it was because I couldn’t tell what that book was supposed to be.

Let me explain – the book is a semi-autobiographical account of Cummings’ time in a French prison camp after World War I. He and his friend spent four months there after his friend was accused of writing sensitive letters. During his time in the prison camp, Cummings encounters strange, horrible, and also wonderful people. All of them cause him to reflect about life and on the way people should be.

The Enormous Room partially reads like a sort of allegorical, philosophical “story” on human nature and the nature of freedom. Cummings is in prison, but he says several times that those were the happiest months of his life. He lost his identity (he is known as “the other American,” and nearly everyone else he talks about has a nickname of sorts) and his possessions (except for the 20 francs he is allowed to withdraw every so often in order to buy chocolate, cheese, and wine from the canteen). However, he is still happy and enjoys his life in the Enormous Room where he and the other prisoners live.

All told, the book should have been a beautiful reflection on life and things. So why, then, did I feel like I was reading a Kurt Vonnegut novel? It was a bizarre thing. At certain points, I would be absolutely sure I was reading Vonnegut. and then I’d realize that I wasn’t. And I could tell by the way it was written. It was just the strangest thing, and I think it ruined the book for me a bit.

I semi-enjoyed it, except for the points when I, inexplicably, wanted it to be by Kurt Vonnegut, and it wasn’t.

Rating: ***
Up Next: Howards End


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