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A rich and powerful novel, with the protagonists and the historical setting vividly depicted, this title holds it's place in the urban novel genre as a modern classic in a strong European tradition. This novel belongs to the urban novel genre, and is set in the Vienna of the 1920's. The tortuous and humiliating marriage of Gurdwell and Thea is evocatively set against the backdrop of a city which had witnessed the collapse of it's Empire in the 1st world war. Social decay in the external environment of the city is mirrored by despair, cruelty, depravity and disintegration within the marriage, narrated in rich and vivid prose.
wanted to stop it, but did not know how. On the other hand, he felt a perverse desire to hear it all, although he knew that what was to come would be painful, and might expose things better left hidden. He sat still. Out of the corner of his right eye, he took in the name of the author of a book lying on the table: Arthur Lerchner, which for some reason he transformed to Arthur Merling, prompting him to read it again, letter by letter. This process of transformation took place quite unthinkingly,
manuscripts in their yellowing newspaper parcel, and began pulling his underwear and collars out of the wardrobe and throwing them higgledy-piggledy into the suitcase. Suddenly he stopped and let the shirt he was holding fall to the floor. He straightened up and clutched his head in his hands. ‘What are you doing?’ he groaned. ‘This is insanity!’ At that moment the door opened noiselessly and the old landlady came in. She shuffled up to Gurdweill and stood looking first at him, and then at the
and the occasional cheap café or tavern. He stood and glanced rapidly around him, as if to make sure that he was not being followed. All of a sudden he realised the insanity and senselessness of his flight, and once more he felt a tremor of fear, but a different fear this time, not of anyone outside him, but of himself — at the mercy of every passing wind to buffet him as it would, without his being able to offer the least resistance. He felt a dull pain in his head, which was as heavy as a lump
‘Poor sick people — they’re suffering.’ Gurdweill got off with the rest of the visitors, paused for a moment next to the tram, and then approached the gate. From the other side of the fence there was a loud burst of mocking, demonic laughter, mingled with the high, clear voice of a woman singing a merry tune from an operetta. Gurdweill could not make out the words, but he was familiar with the tune, which everyone was singing in the city below. And hearing this merry song here made a profoundly
change …’ He was sure she would refuse. But for some reason she consented, stipulating only that he make her a cup of coffee first. After drinking the coffee and lighting a cigarette, she called her husband and sat him on her lap. ‘You’re not really a coward at all, or are you, rabbit?’ ‘A coward? I don’t know. Why?’ ‘I’m just curious. Who knows, one dark night I might take it into my head to strangle you in your sleep … Ha-ha … Aren’t you afraid?’ ‘I’m not afraid. You’re not capable of it.