- Setting Free the Bears
infobox Book |
name = Setting Free the Bears
language = English
release_date = 1968
media_type = Print (Hardback &
isbn = ISBN 0-345-21812-4 (hardback edition)
The Water-Method Man:"This is about the novel; for the organiztion, see Free the Bears Fund."
"Setting Free the Bears" is the first
novelby American author John Irving, published in 1968 by Random House.
Irving studied at the
Institute of European Studiesin Viennain 1963 and "Bears" was written between 1965 and 1967 based largely on Irving’s understanding of the city and its rebellious youth of the sixties. The original manuscript for the book was submitted as his Masters thesis at the University of Iowa’s Writer’s Workshop in 1967, and was later expanded and revised to its published version.
"Bears" is widely criticized as disjointed and naïve but in retrospect is deemed to have all the elements that have made Irving one of the most successful American authors of the day. These include a
Dickensiannarrative style, an inclination for the eccentric, unexpected violence, and a tendency to include thinly disguised biographical details in his work.
The book’s central plot concerns a plan to liberate all the animals from the
Vienna Zoo, as happened just after the conclusion of World War II. Irving’s two protagonists—Graff, a young Austrian college student, and Siggy, an eccentric motorcycle mechanic-come-philosopher—meet and embark on an adventure-filled motorcycle tour of Austriabefore the novel’s climax: "the great zoo bust".
Towards the middle of the book the two protagonists go their separate ways and a large section of the novel is given over to “The Notebook”—a chronicle of the Siggy character’s family from pre-WWII, through the occupation of the
Soviets, to the late 1960s. Siggy is killed in a motorcycle accident, the grief stricken Graff then continues with their plan to free the inhabitants of the Vienna Zoo with Siggy's voice echoing in his head. This ends in catastrophic results.
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