Only Revolutions

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title Only Revolutions
Original title Only Revolutions
country United States
author Mark Z. Danielewski
publishing company USA: Pantheon Books
D: Klett-Cotta Verlag
First publication USA: September 12, 2006
Ger. Translation: March 15, 2012

Only Revolutions is Mark Z. Danielewski's second novel after Das Haus - House of Leaves . It was published by Pantheon Books in the United States in 2006 and was shortlisted for the National Book Award for Fiction that same year . The German edition was published by Klett-Cotta Verlag in 2012 , also under the title Only Revolutions .


The focus of the plot are Sam and Hailey. Both are forever sixteen - "Almighty sixteen years old and freeiiiiii". Their love story takes place in two hundred years of American history, starting with the Wars of Liberation in 1863 and the murder of J. F. Kennedy in 1963.

The novel can be read from both sides, once from Sam's perspective and once from Hailey's perspective, with the other view being upside down. The description of their desires, their feelings, ideas and thoughts contrasts, but despite all the differences also forms a unit.

The novel is a “poetic puzzle”, the meaning of which becomes clear when you read the story from both sides. The words are a mix of poetry and stream-of-consciousness onomatopoeia. Word formations are a frequently used stylistic device. The typeface is also literally alive: in Hailey's story, for example, plant names, in Sam's story, animal names are printed in bold, literal speech is in italics and the font size becomes smaller and smaller as the story progresses, so that it is in the middle of both narrative strands (i.e. on the pages 180/181) is exactly the same size.


Only Revolutions starts on both the front and the back. The individual pages are arranged in such a way that one half is legible but the other half is upside down. So the page numbers are opposite: on page 1 of Hailey's part are their first lines, but the page is also page 360 ​​of Sam's part, the last lines of which are upside down.

The initials of the eight-page sections are larger and in bold. If you read them one after the other, they result in Hailey's part: "Sam and Hailey and Sam and Hailey and ...". Read from Sam's side, they result in "Hailey and Sam and Hailey and Sam and ...".

The stories are also preceded by the initials of the names of Hailey and Sam. H and S are each the 8th letter of the alphabet, from the front and from the back.

The main text of every half page consists of exactly 90 words. Taken the two stories together, that's 180 words on a full page. This is intended to encourage the reader to turn the book 180 ° and read the story of the other narrator. If both pages of the book are open, the number of words doubles to 360, so you read a full turn (360 degrees) with each open double page. Hence the note on the inside of the dust jacket: "The publisher recommends switching between Sam and Hailey after every eight pages of reading."

On each page there is also a column with data from various world events. Sam's events range from November 22, 1863 to November 22, 1963, while the dates in Hailey's account range from November 22, 1963 to January 19, 2063.

This chronology, a mosaic of historical quotations from the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries, remains empty from the time Only Revolutions was published . The time when Sam and Hailey's lines diverge is November 22, 1963 - the day of John F. Kennedy's assassination .


In Hailey's story, the letter O and the number 0 are printed in gold ( Pantone 146 U). In Sam's story these are green (Pantone 356 U). The date in the marginal column is purple (Pantone 2602 U). Furthermore, the word “Creep” is highlighted in color.

Letters have “slipped” up or down on several pages. This announces that musical chords to be read vertically are "inscribed" in the text. These chords are based on the Wagnerian music from Tristan and Isolde .

German translation

The translation of the “almost untranslatable” book, published by Klett-Cotta-Verlag in 2012, was praised as a “heroic deed” in many reviews:

"The translators Gerhard Falkner and Nora Matocza have achieved amazing things."

“You can hardly do it better than Falkner and Matocza have repositioned the chants. Your poetry is rousing and astonishing, not only because the 90-word rhythm was retained, but also because Danielewski's many new words were appropriately taken into account in the German translation. "

“The fact that [the] wisdom does not turn out to be too maudlin is also thanks to the translation team, which does not capture the wording (because how is that supposed to work?), But boldly grasp the complex spirit of the world poem. Anyone who can translate “mess and a half” with “fixundfoxi”, “gambols” with “Aldi Sprüngli” and “Throesville” with “Todtnauberg” has understood that Europe defines coolness differently than its beloved role model. "

"The two translators, Gerhard Falkner and Nora Matocza, have delivered top creative performance: You have to come to terms like" lick nibble "," Schlampumpen "," Schlammschwallen "or" Hexenkessel "first."

Design of the German edition

The dust jacket has two fronts because the book can be read from both directions. Both sides show streets that are only separated by the back of the dust jacket. Sam's side of the book is in reddish brown desert tones, Hailey's side shows a blue sky. The "O" s are also highlighted in color on the cover.

The two inner flaps contain a notice from the publisher to the reader that after eight pages you should switch between Sam and Hailey.

The book cover is printed with a photograph of a still life by the artist Jessica Grindstaff. Various objects lie flat on a surface. The picture is taken directly from above, so there is no clear “top” and “bottom” and no clear “front” and “back”. The photograph can be divided into five color zones: the upper right part of the picture is yellow, the lower right part white. Hailey's story begins behind this book cover. The lower left corner of the photo is green, the upper left corner is again white. Sam's story begins behind this cover. The two parts are connected by a red section.

Two green and gold bookmarks are attached to the spine, one at the bottom and one at the top. On the end paper, text is arranged in circulating patterns and printed in mirror image on paper that reflects the color of the respective character.

Individual evidence

  1. a b Mark Z. Danielewski: Only Revolutions. Tropics 2012.
  2. Christoph Bartmann: Between mannerism and maximalism . In: Falter , March 21, 2012, p. 35. Retrieved June 4, 2013. 
  3. a b Robert Matthias Erdbeer: Stoned under flutes., March 18, 2012, accessed April 20, 2012 .
  4. ^ Mark Z. Danielewski: Only Revolutions (book tip) . Retrieved June 4, 2013.
  5. Jürgen Nielsen-Sikora: A house of leaves seconds before the storm. The new linguistic and typographical masterpiece by Mark Z. Danielewski. Glanz & Elend - magazine for literature and criticism of the times, accessed on April 20, 2012 .
  6. Roland Mischke: A book like a reversible jacket. In: Nürnberger Nachrichten, April 19, 2012, p. 8.

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