Synopses & Reviews
A New York Review Books Original
“The city lies somewhere in the godforsaken southeastern part of Europe and is named Czernopol,” Gregor von Rezzori writes in the prelude to this major early novel, the first part of a trilogy based on the author’s childhood that would grow to include some of his finest work: the scintillating memoir The Snows of Yesteryear and the trickily titled novel Memoirs of an Anti-Semite. In The Ermine of Czernopol, Rezzori summons the disorderly and unpredictable energies of a town where everything in the world is seemingly mixed up together, a multicultural society that existed long before the idea of multiculturalism. The novel, ostensibly centered on the curious tragicomic fate of an Austrian officer of supreme ineffectuality, gathers a host of unlikely characters and their unlikelier stories by way of engaging the reader in a kaleidoscopic experience of a city where nothing is as it appears—a city of discordant voices, of wild ugliness and sometimes heartbreaking disappointment, but in which, for all that, “laughter was everywhere, part of the air we breathed, a crackling tension in the atmosphere, always ready to erupt in showers of sparks or discharge itself in thunderous peals.”
This first complete English translation of The Ermine of Czernopol makes a masterpiece of postwar literature available to American readers.
"This beautiful, impressive early novel by von Rezzori (The Snows of Yesteryear), generously translated by Boehm, takes place in the fictional town of Czernopol, where pairs of Dalmatians run gracefully between coach wheels, the premature removal of a jacket constitutes a grave faux pas, and an old miser keeps two wives one blue-blooded princess, one common peasant girl under the same roof. Austrian officer Nikolaus Tildy's aristocratic elegance and trials on behalf of his wife, the beautiful, afflicted Tamara, capture the imagination of child narrator (and his sister) Tanya. While Tildy's story is compelling, von Rezzori's greatest achievements are his meditations on the nature of childhood, especially 'that inviolable majesty of the child' and its gradual erosion as the once fascinating, mysterious world begins to reveal itself as a place of 'crude banality,' which ceases to inspire any longing. In its near-mythical treatment of childhood, the book recalls Nabokov's Speak Memory, or Rebecca West's The Fountain Overflows. (Oct.) Â Little Did I Know Mitchell Maxwell Prospecta Press (Perseus, dist.), (336p) ISBN 978-1-935212-57-7 In Broadway producer Maxwell's debut novel, set in 1976, a rental ad for America's oldest summer stock theater in Plymouth, Mass. tempts Samuel August to try to fulfill his dream of producing classic musicals. Enlisting the financial and moral support of friends proves simple compared to dealing with Dr. Anderson Barrows, the theater's wealthy elderly owner and his seductive young wife Lizzy (who hits on Sam). To produce five full-length musicals with only nine days of rehearsal, Sam immerses himself in the Herculean task of physically restoring the theater and landscape, auditioning cast members, coping with outsized egos, and igniting creative fires in his actors. Further challenges include sham building inspectors demanding excessive fees, Lizzy's chameleon acts, encounters with a pack of raccoons, weather crises, along with the hopeful distraction of a romance with a local beauty. Although the book's pedestrian pace may deter many readers, those who persevere will appreciate the reality of stage productions and applaud a far-wiser Sam by the end. (Oct.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
An NYRB Classics OriginalSet just after World War I, An Ermine in Czernopol centers on the tragicomic fate of Tildy, an erstwhile officer in the army of the now-defunct Austro-Hungarian Empire, determined to defend the virtue of his cheating sister-in-law at any cost. Rezzori surrounds Tildy with a host of fantastic characters, engaging us in a kaleidoscopic experience of a city where nothing is as it appears—a city of discordant voices, of wild ugliness and heartbreaking disappointment, in which, however, “laughter was everywhere, part of the air we breathed, a crackling tension in the atmosphere, always ready to erupt in showers of sparks or discharge itself in thunderous peals.”
About the Author
Gregor von Rezzori (1914–1998) was born in Czernowitz (now Chernivtsi, Ukraine), Bukovina, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He later described his childhood in a family of declining fortunes as one “spent among slightly mad and dislocated personalities in a period that also was mad and dislocated and filled with unrest.’’ After studying at the University of Vienna, Rezzori moved to Bucharest and enlisted in the Romanian army. During World War II , he lived in Berlin, where he worked as a radio broadcaster and published his first novel. In West Germany after the war, he wrote for both radio and film and began publishing books at a rapid rate, including the four-volume Idiot’s Guide to German Society. From the late 1950s on, Rezzori had parts in several French and West German films, including one directed by his friend Louis Malle. In 1967, after spending years classified as a stateless person, Rezzori settled in a fifteenth-century farmhouse outside of Florence with his wife, gallery owner Beatrice Monte
della Corte. There he produced some of his best-known works, among them Memoirs of an Anti-Semite and the memoir The Snows of Yesteryear: Portraits for an Autobiography (both published by NYRB Classics).
Philip Boehm has translated numerous works from German and Polish by writers including Ingeborg Bachmann, Franz Kafka, and Stefan Chwin. For the theater he has written plays such as Mixtitlan, The Death of Atahualpa, and Return of the Bedbug. He has received awards from the American Translators Association, the U.K. Society of Authors, the NEA , PEN America, the Austrian Ministry of Culture, the Mexican-American Fund for Culture, and the Texas Institute of Letters. Currently he is translating Herta Müller’s The Hunger Angel. He lives in St. Louis, where he is the artistic director of Upstream Theater.
Daniel Kehlmann is a widely translated German-Austrian novelist. He has won the Candide Prize, the Literature Prize of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, the Heimito von Doderer Literature Award, the Kleist Prize, the WELT Literature Prize, and the Thomas Mann Prize. He is a prolific author of fiction and criticism, and three of his novels—Me and Kaminski, Measuring the World, and Fame—have been translated into English.