In Paradise tells the story of a group of men and women who come together for a weeklong meditation retreat at the site of a World War II concentration camp, and the grief, rage and upsetting revelations that surface during their time together. Even as it probes the suffering, conflicts, and longings of these diverse characters, In Paradise raises provocative and unanswerable metaphysical questions: what responsibility comes with bearing witness to such cruelty and tragedy; and what insights into the nature of good and evil may be lost in the next decade or two, as the last survivors of - and witnesses to - the death camps pass away. Having participated in three Zen retreats at Auschwitz beginning in the 1990s, Matthiessen had long wished to comment on the ongoing fallout of last century's global catastrophe, but ‘as a non-Jewish American journalist, I felt unqualified to do so, I felt I had no right. But approaching it as fiction - as a novelist, an artist - I eventually decided that I did. Only fiction would allow me to probe from a variety of viewpoints the great strangeness of what I had felt.'
‘Skilful… affecting and powerful… In Paradise gets at the heart of the defining tragic enigma of the 20th century… [It] is Matthiessen's complex and worthy adieu'
‘Lucid, compelling… A masterclass in fiction… Stunning'
‘Powerfully lyrical and atmospheric'
‘A curious, risky novel'
‘A moving valedictory for one of America's most wide-ranging and poetical writers… compelling… vivid… hypnotic'
‘The best passages here are beautifully observed evocations of the place… There is much to meditate on and many reasons to read this novel'
‘Darkly humorous… [In Paradise] gives no hint of the writer's age or declining physical powers. The maturity of its insights, and its emotional restraint, are the only signs the author is not a youth'
'His writing does every justice to the blood and fury of his themes.'
‘The fiction of Peter Matthiessen is the reason a lot of people in my generation decided to be writers.'
‘A dark but thoroughly testing, ambitious and thought-provoking novel'