Quicksand Born to an indifferent white mother and an absent black father and scorned for her dark skin Helga Crane has long had to fend for herself As a young woman Helga teaches at an all black school in th

  • Title: Quicksand
  • Author: Nella Larsen
  • ISBN: null
  • Page: 206
  • Format: Paperback
  • Born to an indifferent white mother and an absent black father, and scorned for her dark skin, Helga Crane has long had to fend for herself As a young woman, Helga teaches at an all black school in the South, but even here she feels different Moving to Harlem and eventually to Denmark, she attempts to carve out a comfortable life and place for herself, but ends up back wBorn to an indifferent white mother and an absent black father, and scorned for her dark skin, Helga Crane has long had to fend for herself As a young woman, Helga teaches at an all black school in the South, but even here she feels different Moving to Harlem and eventually to Denmark, she attempts to carve out a comfortable life and place for herself, but ends up back where she started, choosing emotional freedom that quickly translates into a narrow existence.

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    One thought on “Quicksand”

    1. Oh, this short novel got under my skin!You could argue that it is a story about the peculiar hardships of young African American women of the 1920s. And it would be both right and enough to make it a worthwhile reading experience. But there is so much more, touching on the universal and timeless questions of identity and meaning of life. Somehow, Helga Crane’s odyssey through life - from excitement to disappointment, to rebellion, break-out, and new excitement, leading to repeated disappointme [...]

    2. I read this book with a couple of close friends in mind, good friends from high school with mixed parentage who felt confused about, but have now resolved, their place in society. Protagonist Helga Crane is a similar such person, with a now-deceased immigrant Danish mother and an absent black father. Being both black and white Helga, “She, Helga Crane, who had no home” is trying to find her place in 1920s New York, where miscegenation is a taboo topic. She is an outcast but she’s so ideall [...]

    3. 3.5/5It's galling when a book does not keep the promises it makes at the outset. There's a problematic discord between Larsen's finely crafted sentences and the rather amateurish splicing of theme and plot. And this constant discrepancy morphs into a bothersome enough flaw that is responsible for those 3 stars.Life wasn't a miracle, a wonder. It was, for Negroes at least, only a great disappointment. Something to be got through with as best one could.In a way this is a failed bildungsroman where [...]

    4. 4.5 starsThis was Nella Larsen’s first novel, published in 1928 and it has autobiographical elements in it. Helga Crane is the daughter of a white Danish mother and a black father. We follow her over a number of years; initially as a teacher in an all-black school in the south. Then she lives in Chicago and Harlem, before moving to Denmark to stay with her mother’s relatives. A number of suitors pursue her and are brushed aside. Crane returns to America and following a religious experience m [...]

    5. Worst of all was the fact that she understood and sympathized with Mrs. Nilssen’s point of view, as she always had been able to understand her mother’s, her stepfather’s, and his children’s points of view. She saw herself for an obscene sore in all their lives, at all costs to be hidden. She understood, even while she resented. It would have been easier if she had not.Someone at the helm of NYRB Classics fell asleep at the wheel, for the fact that this work has not yet been granted a reb [...]

    6. Not as complete or as beautiful as "Passing", though most of the same themes are kept intact. That in a conservative environment nothing changes is absolutely correct--will the times ever change? Looking at the news, at national happenings, the answer is a nice, dark, heavy NO.There are some similarities to Woolf's Clarissa Dalloway--much meditation and inside-the-head narration, with very little poetry, actually. This novel bashes the reader repeatedly in the head: yes, it sucks to be a woman; [...]

    7. Helga Crane seems awkward and capricious, as introverts (like me) often do, at odds with a world better shaped to the needs of extroverts. But Helga's struggle to find a place for herself, she feels, is caused by her heritage, visible and invisible. Biracial, black, she is rejected by her white family, yet raised among whites, starved of any recognition or respect, finding refuge in aesthetic and intellectual pleasures, both drawn to and repelled by the joyous abandon of Harlem's parties and jaz [...]

    8. After reading Larsen's Passing, I wanted to read her other novella for comparison. Both are concerned with matters of race, the place of black people in the United States of the 1920s and 1930s. Both are at least partially set in Chicago and New York's Harlem. Both refer or reflect, to varying degrees, the Harlem Renaissance. But the protagonists are different, reflecting the strengths and weaknesses of their childhoods, their acceptance of their selves, their marriages, friendships, and above a [...]

    9. They feared and hated her. She pitied and despised them.It is not just pity and contempt that simmer in this cauldron, but a great deal of ambiguity, loneliness and isolation from wounds that date back to the earliest memories of childhood and are livid within the unremitting cruelty of the present. ‘Quicksand’ is story of a life riddled with an indefiniteness that is an assault on a concrete sense of identity and self. The feeling of happiness is fleeting and so is the feeling of having arr [...]

    10. This novel follows the life of Helga Crane as she struggles to find her place in the world. And she must struggle, for she was a mixed-race child in an era when that was a sin marked against her from the day of her birth.The back cover blurb tells us 'Helga's mother is white, and her father is black ~~ and absent. Ostracized throughout her lonely childhood for her dark skin, Helga spends her adult life seeking acceptance. Everywhere she goes ~~ the American South, Harlem, even Denmark ~~ she fee [...]

    11. Helga Crane is a 23-year old "mulatto" teaching in the Deep South. As the story opens, Helga breaks her engagement to a popular figure at the school and flees to Chicago. She moves on to Harlem, desperately searching for somewhere that would feel like home. She briefly finds peace there, but she also has feelings that she just doesn't belong.Outside, rain had begun to fall. She walked bareheaded, bitter with self-reproach. But she rejoiced too. She didn't, in spite of her racial markings, belong [...]

    12. To begin by stating the obvious: Quicksand is an aptly named book. And while its resonance with the experiences of the main character, Helga Crane, are made clear by the novel’s ambiguous concluding chapter, I also found it a perfect summation of my experience as a reader as well. For Larsen’s exquisite prose is subtly deceptive: delicate, and yet so incisive and sharply observed, and just like Helga’s moment-to-moment indecision never seems to add up to much in and of itself, Larsen quiet [...]

    13. i marvel at the magic that was the harlem renaissance, when african american writers and artists, still fresh from the civil war, during jim fucking crow, carved themselves a space in which to talk about race so freely, so controversially, so open-woundedly, you know the world would not be the same if the harlem renaissance hadn't happened. and thank you thank you thank you harlem renaissance for having opened space for women and queer people with such generosity. wow, what a time. the language [...]

    14. I'm not sure how confident I am about the five stars just yet, this novel hit far too close to home. Quicksand is a bit like a modernist black Madame Bovary, if one wishes to be reductive, and I loved Madame Bovary. Helga Crane is an unhappy schoolteacher at Naxos in Tennessee, chafing at the isolation and ostracization she feels being a bi-racial, class conscious woman in an all black institution in the South. She's 23 at the opening of the novel. I am 23. Too close!However, Helga lacks a home [...]

    15. I'm finding it very hard to write a review of this book. When I finished it a few weeks ago I gave it 4 stars, but it has really stuck in my mind since then, so I've decided to upgrade that to 5 stars. I think the reason it's stuck in my mind, is that although the story is a specific one, it is looking at a universal issue. That is: how do we manage to fit in and how do we manage to feel at home with different groups of people? This relates to how do we perceive ourselves, and what exactly is it [...]

    16. In one sense, Quicksand might be called an odyssey; however, instead of overcoming a series of obstacles and finally arriving at her native land, Larsen’s protagonist has a series of adventures, each of which ends in disappointment. Whenever Helga believes that she has found her home, and with it her identity, she eventually comes to realize that she is still just a visitor in someone else’s country.When Larsen’s novel about the life of Helga Crane appeared in 1928, the Harlem Renaissance [...]

    17. Like most people in their early twenties, Helga Crane is filled with the desire to be more than she is, to be more entranced by the world than she is, and to see something more of life than her teaching position in the rural South offers. The cure, then, is to dismiss, one after another, the stops on the fickle road to her contentment: her native Chicago, New York's Harlem, Copenhagen's exotic promises. Passed over too are opportunities for extended family, for marriage, and for genuine love. Wh [...]

    18. Larsen's prose is crisp and elegant. There is a beautiful simplicity in some of her descriptive passages. It feels light, delicate, effortless. Some trouble I had with the book is that the main character, Helga Crane, feels elusive and distant. Her thoughts often feel overdetermined and abstract, though in some instances it works well, as in when Larsen is finding a way to make the the political personal, inflecting Helga's thoughts with the philosophy and thinking of black radical politics and [...]

    19. Given my pessimistic outlook on life at the moment, I quite enjoyed the ending to Quicksand, which, frankly, made sense of the title. The feeling of circumstances spiraling out of control; constantly looking for salvation and finding only mediocrity, pettiness, smallness, and other people who are no help at all certainly magnified my appreciation for Larsen, and her sense of realism. Her place in the African American canon is secure; this novel and Passing are unmissable artifacts of the America [...]

    20. I thought this book was going to be about a young woman of mixed race trying to fit in with one or the other side of her heritage. And sure, The Race Issue was mentioned again and again. But for me, the book was more about a young woman's struggle with deciding who she wanted to be when she grew up.The main character, Helga Crane, is 23 years old at the start of the novel, and doesn't progress beyond her mid-to-late-twenties until nearly the end.She's a teacher in a black school. A prestigious s [...]

    21. Does not get off to a great start; the writing is pretty wince-y in the early going:"Helga ducked her head under the covers in a vain attempt to shut out what she knew would fill the pregnant silence - the sharp sarcastic voice of the dormitory matron. It came."But she gets over it pretty quick. You can almost watch her learning to write over the course of the book. By the end, she's a little overfond of awkward sentence structures:"Here, she had found, she was sure, the intangible thing for whi [...]

    22. Well, it's a book about alienation, depersonalization, and a relentless creeping despondence I loved it!This reminded me a lot of Jean Rhys. It's such a shame Larsen's 3rd novel was never published. I know I'd like to read it. It was probably a masterpiece of form and substance. Probably far ahead of its time. Stupid publishers.

    23. Not really my cup of tea. I didn't like the writing - it was difficult to read, sometimes boring. The story itself was not one that grabs the reader. It is difficult to like the characters and even harder to feel some kind of empathy. For all that, I didn't like this book.

    24. I found this book to be positively INSUFFERABLE! I understand Helga has an identity crisis because she is mulatto. That in-mind, she is insatiable, spiteful, irrational and then some. If it hadn't been a mandatory reading for class I probably would have dropped this book mid-way through. I really wish the character Helga would have taken time to reflect on her feelings of ostracism, restlessness and her goals in life. Instead she meanders about living off peoples good will toward her and acting [...]

    25. For some reason I got an immediate mental block with this book after the first two pages. I picked it up and then put it down again about three times and never got further than page three. Why? Absolutely no idea. Anyway I finally made a full on effort to get on and read it (achieved by doing a two hour train commute and taking no netbook or other reading material) and finished it in under 24 hours. Helga Crane does come across as an unlikeable character but I think if you consider the context o [...]

    26. Nella Larsen's Quicksand is indeed her Roman a clef. No need to deny the complicated background of Larsen filtered throughout the pages. It's there for us to decipher, deduce, and comprehend. Where Larsen found trouble finding her role in society, her character Helga mirrors the same trouble. Some may call Helga a free spirit fencing a society determined to tell her, based on her race and sex, her rightful place. But, Helga, in her series of wrong decisions, ultimately decides to listen. Wrong. [...]

    27. I wanted to like Quicksand from the descriptive opening scene, though ultimately I found the narrative too aimless and the conclusion disappointing. The book wraps up with a pointed pessimism that seems almost inevitable, but I wish the protagonist had gained a lasting sense of peace in the end, since she expressed such unhappiness and acted so restlessly throughout the story. Or, conversely, that she had died during childbirth, as befitting a true tragedy.Nevertheless, Larson provides an intere [...]

    28. Larsen, Nella. QUICKSAND. (1928). ***. Although written with zeal and fervor, this novel by Larsen, an icon of the Harlem Renaissance, comes across as a naive chapbook of the plight of the Negro in America. The tale is told through its protagonist, Helga Crane, a young black woman whom we first meet when she is teaching at a black college in the South. After being forced to sit through a lecture by a visiting, white do-gooder on the role of the Negro, she decides she wants a new life. She quits [...]

    29. Helga Crane is the daughter of a white woman and an African American man, but since her father left when she was young, she has grown up surrounded by white people. When the book opens she’s a teacher, but she doesn’t feel she fits in with the community there either. She resigns and, rejected by her white relatives, goes to Harlem, then to her mother’s sister in Denmark (where she is accepted, but always seen as a curiosity) and back to the USA.This is a fascinating book, apparently based [...]

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