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Memoirs of an Anti-Semite: A Novel in Five Stories (New York Review Books) Paperback – December 4, 2007


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Product Details

  • Series: New York Review Books
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics (December 4, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590172469
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590172469
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #110,332 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Rezzori has a remarkable lyric gift that he uses to describe the wide expanses of Bukovina. In a series of beautiful set pieces, he evokes the vanishing world of Germanic chivalry, already in its last stages of degeneration into the debased kitsch that the Nazis would exploit, the emerging commercial melee of post-war Bucharest with its Armenian and Jewish shopkeepers and its red light district; and shabby-genteel Vienna, where he socializes almost exclusively with Jewish artists and musicians." --NextBook

"In his remarkable Memoirs of an Anti-Semite: A Novel in Five Stories...von Rezzori brought his lost homeland back to life so sharply and in such pungent detail that we feel from the first sentences as though we have lived there ourselves...For all its poignancy, Memoirs is no foray into nostalgia but a deliberately fragmented, and often quite funny, version of the classic German bildungsroman' — what might be termed the novel of formative influences." -The New York Sun

" A superb and unsettling satirical novel from 1979, in which the cosmopolitan and apolitical narrator exposes the ugliness of 20th-century Europe through his attraction-repulsion obsession with Jews." -Martin Levin, The Globe & Mail

“Gregor von Rezzori, in his newly reissued novel Memoirs of an Anti-Semite, meshes the micro and macro versions of interwar anti-Semitism very skillfully indeed... [a] welcome new edition in the library of classics kept evergreen by The New York Review of Books... Writing as he did from the wreckage of postwar Europe, Gregor von Rezzori could claim the peculiar distinction of being one of the few survivors to treat this ultimate catastrophe in the mild language of understatement. This is what still gives his novel the power to shock.” –Christopher Hitchens, The Atlantic

Gregor von Rezzori’s “novels and memoirs revealed the tragic sweep of European history through two world wars and beyond.” –The New York Times (Michael Kaufmann, Obituary)

“The last great remembrancer of a region that has vanished from the map and mind of Europe.” –The New York Review of Books (Michael Ignatieff)

A “rich, disquietingly good book…these stories…are wonderfully intricate in character and texture, studded with observation” –The New York Times (Stanley Kauffmann)

“A literature in which the author envisions himself as a character in a design arranged from the data of his life as another author might arrange items from fictitious notes…He is an artist, devilishly honest, stubborn, the creator and the created of an artwork about a survivor…It is through Mr. von Rezzori’s art, rather than through any vanity or apology, that we are enlightened.” –The New York Times Book Review (Stanley Kauffmann)

“Here is a work that tackles–without reproof, without illusions, and without shallow moral judgments; by turns, engaged and detached, funny and sad, tender and heartless–the phenomenon of anti-Semitism, and its correlative anti-Goyism, the double tragedy of banal misunderstandings that changed the face of Europe and the world.” –Bruce Chatwin

“What we recall…is the breathtaking richness of the history it recounts and the extraordinary way it makes time pass by…Yet it is not alone for the vividness of its settings and characters that we attend to Memoirs of an Anti-Semite. We also savor the sound of the author’s voice, an extraordinary blend of bitter self-denigration and sweet recollection. We relish his haunting evocations of twilight…and of course we an never avert our eyes from the dissection of anti-Semitism that keeps going on in the background–a dissection that amounts to an anatomy of Central Europe in the 20th century.” –The New York Times (Christopher Lehmann-Haupt)

“The ‘I’ in these pages–ambitious dreamer, insatiable lover, solitary night-wanderer–achieves more than catharsis: he comes to vivid, full life in the mind of the reader. The gloriously rendered settings…are an opulent banquet table spread for every taste.” –Die Welt

Language Notes

Text: English, German (translation) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

The author has an elegiac style that is very engrossing.
Bogdan Hagiu
Nevertheless, the tales are worth reading for the actually very rare insights they convey of life and conditions in those times in those places.
Lost John
I was interested to see appreciations of this book by Elie Weisel.
Irene

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

46 of 49 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 26, 1999
Format: Paperback
Gregor von Rezzori has taken some of the hardest things in the world to talk about and with them rendered stories that are decent, beautiful, and immensely entertaining. These are five stories that make up a novel, and it is not always apparent that the narrator is the same exact character from story to story, but the truth and the powerful feelings of each story present a great unity. In each chapter, the narrator grows close to a Jewish person who he loves and admires (though he has been taught to despise them as a class) and ends up hurting or failing them. Sounds monstrous, but it is a wonderful book.
I confidently recommend this book to anyone interested in modern literature and European history.
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40 of 43 people found the following review helpful By neverwithoutespresso on June 21, 2003
Format: Paperback
This is one of the best books I have ever read. The writing style is brilliant. You feel like you are living side by side with the author, almost inside his skin, experiencing what he is experiencing, or perhaps at least you are an intimate friend, someone with whom he shares the details of his inner life as well as his worldly adventures.
While I read the book, I felt I was engaged in a relationship with a real person, sharing the sights and sounds of rural Rumania, the excitement of Bucharest, the conflicts and confusion he experiences as he faces life on his own and tries to sort out his feelings and experiences about the people he meets in light of the teachings of his family and society.
As someone mentioned in another review, Mr. Von Rezzori has the literary voice of a cultured, sensitive, articulate, sophisticated, intelligent, perceptive European. Many times, he charms you quite legitimately with the wit of the raconteur and the insight and agility of the boulevardier.
Although the beginning of the book is exciting and full of energy, the end is sad--in fact, deeply mournful--as the author recalls some deep regrets of his life.
This book is an interesting journey with an interesting, complex, and articulate man with a gift for literary intimacy.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 10, 1998
Format: Paperback
"Memoirs of an Anti-Semite" is a series of short stories, loosely connected and remotely chronological, which capture the inner turmoil and outer turbulence the narrator experiences while growing up in Eastern Europe between the Wars. Romantic Cafe's, spicy brothels, Viennese sophistication and Carpathian bleakness are but a few of the contrasting realities which continue to mold and shape the mind and soul of this young Rumanian. The pathological anti-Semitism he acquires while growing up in a petty bourgeois family in the Bukovina becomes an increasing source of irony in this novel, as the narrator finds himself surrounded more and more by Jewish friends and lovers.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By David M. Ross on January 24, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Despite the suggestive title, this is NOT about or written by an antisemite. It is a colorful view of life in eastern Europe between the two World Wars. Very readable. Superb.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Luc REYNAERT on November 21, 2010
Format: Paperback
In this naturally flowing, brilliantly written, but also raging reactionary, prose Gregor von Rezzori brushes an in depth picture of the fate and the mentality of the aristocratic class during the first half of the 20th century. It is the world of the Dual Empire, of troth, but ultimate defeat by `the ruse of history'. It is the world of S. Zweig's `The World of Yesterday' and Joseph Roth's `The Emperor's Tomb'.

The Dual Empire and Troth
The Dual Empire was an idea and an ideal. It was Holy, because God's State on earth.
It had a constitution that offered uniform protection, leadership and administration to a gigantic territory inhabited by many nations and threatened by many dangers.
It was held together by the ethical principle of troth, loyalty, the allegiance of vassals, the unconditioned obedience that the liegemen had sworn to their lord and his flag, the two-headed eagle of the Holy Roman Empire.

The aristocratic class
The aristocracy of the 20th century was a class where `people were beginning to accept the notion that work was not necessarily shameful, `something my family still found hard to fathom.' `But anything connected with selling in a store was below social acceptance.'

The ruse of history: defeat
The aristocrats fought among themselves for European supremacy. They not only destroyed their own empire, but also that of their enemies (?). They destroyed the very thing they pretended to fight for: `ideals, holy traditions, values handed down for generations'.
They offered political and social power to `power-drunk demagogues mounted on a pedestal made up of interwoven interests - financial, mercantile and political'.
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16 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Keith A. Comess VINE VOICE on February 13, 2008
Format: Paperback
This book was recently re-issued by NYRB as part of the series of revived (and ignored/forgotten) "classics". It was favorably (and eloquently) reviewed in the February, 2008 "Atlantic" by Christopher Hitchens and received laudatory reviews at the time of it's initial publication. Probably because of the author's eloquence, poetic imagery and lack of a "compelling" plot-line, it was out-of-print until this 2008 re-issue.

The author was born Gregor Arnulph Hilarius d'Arezzo in a fringe region of the former Austria-Hungarian Empire in Czernowitz, Bukovina, the hinterlands where much of the novel is set. While his family supposedly had "origins" in an "aristocratic" Sicilian background, his father was a civil servant. Possibly with intended (or with inadvertent) irony and aping the arriviste behavior ascribed to some of his Jewish characters, he "Germanified" his name and added the aristocratic "von". The author lived and wrote in the 20th century and only recently died (1998) though the novel's atmospherics are more evocative of the late 19th century. It should be noted that the author lived and worked in wartime Berlin as a radio announcer and in films: this put his thoughts and perspectives under the direct scrutiny of Joseph Goebbels' propaganda ministry. The wartime German art world was not a haven for dissenters.

Rezzori's book, comprised of 5 "novellas", evokes the "lost" , decadent and slowly dying world of "fin de siecle" mittle Europa. The book is redolent with literary and theological allusions/pretensions, weltschmerz and young adult angst with overtones of sarcastic remove and irony. Laced throughout the book are lacerating and vitriolic anti-Semetic charicatures, uttered (with occasional flashes of self-insight) by the author/protagonist.
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