- Series: NYRB Classics
- Paperback: 128 pages
- Publisher: NYRB Classics (August 8, 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1681370840
- ISBN-13: 978-1681370842
- Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.4 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #746,298 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Late Fame (NYRB Classics) Paperback – August 8, 2017
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"Late Fame does surprise. It is ironic and restrained. . . . The narrative is astute on the bravado, politics and longing which compel literary dreamers at the mercy of their tentative aspirations." —Eileen Battersby, The Irish Times
"Completed over a century ago but unpublished until now, Schnitzler’s droll, engrossing short novel of artists in 1890s Vienna tempers its satire with keen insight….Readers are fortunate to have this late publication." —Publishers Weekly
“[An] elegant comedy edged with tragedy.” —Kirkus Reviews
"Schnitzler is worth revisiting because of his wit, his insight into men and women, and his grasp of the way sex, love, and hate intersect." —Slate
"As a writer, Schnitzler has two somewhat contradictory principal gifts: he is very methodical, and he loves to surprise...couched in terse, powerful sentences." —Michael Hofmann, The New York Times
"[Schnitzler] had an uncanny ear for dialogue, a gratifying wit, a talent for spinning out tales of adultery in almost infinite variations, a keen psychological eye even if it did not match that of Freud." —Peter Gay, The New York Times
About the Author
Arthur Schnitzler (1862–1931) was born in Vienna to a well-to-do Austrian Jewish family. His father was a prominent laryngologist, and Arthur followed him into the profession, obtaining his doctorate of medicine and working at Vienna’s General Hospital until he stopped practicing to pursue writing full time. His first play, Anatol (1893), was a success. Other early works include Reigen (1897), which was adapted into Max Ophüls’s 1950 film, La Ronde; and Lieutenant Gustl (1900), a military satire denounced by anti-Semites who successfully lobbied for Schnitzler to be discharged from his position as a reserve officer in the medical corps of the Austro-Hungarian army. In 1903, he married Olga Gussmann, and the couple had a son and a daughter. Schnitzler wrote dozens of novels, novellas, and plays, including The Road into the Open (1908); Fräulein Else (1924); and Traumnovelle (1926), which Stanley Kubrick adapted into Eyes Wide Shut. Schnitzler and Gussmann were divorced in 1921. In 1928, their daughter, Lili, committed suicide; Schnitzler died following a stroke three years later.
Alexander Starritt is a writer, translator, and journalist who lives in London. His writing has been shortlisted for the Paris Literary Prize and he has contributed articles to The Times Literary Supplement, The Spectator, and The Mail on Sunday.
Wilhelm Hemecker teaches in the Department of European and Comparative Literature and Language Studies at the University of Vienna.
David Österle is a researcher and assistant to the director at the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for the History and Theory of Biography in Vienna.
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Be that as it may, we have the story now. The broad outline of the story is that Eduard Saxberger, an "unremarkable civil servant", returns home one night to be met by a young poet who enthusiastically exclaims that a book of poems that Saxberger wrote as a young man has been rediscovered by the artistic youth of Vienna, who celebrate his artistic genius. So, rescued from a life of boredom, routine and obscurity, Saxberger finds himself surrounded by a circle of self-proclaimed young intellectuals and artists who treat him as a venerable poet. How divine.
The joke here is that in his youth Schnitzler was a member of "Young Vienna", a circle of avant-garde artists, and the book is in many ways an affectionate, gentle, and partly melancholy send up of that crowd. (I imagine that if you really know your German literary history from that period you could play some guessing games about who might be who in the book. The excellent afterword to this volume does a bit of that). For mere mortals like myself, though, the fictional young artists were quite entertaining enough.
The book, thus, proceeds on two levels. On one hand we observe the rise and fall and reconciliation with life and fate that is Saxberger's tale. On the other hand, we witness the excitement, pretentiousness, certainty, and self-delusion of the young artists. As I say, this is all done with a fair amount of affection - there is no figurative blood left on the floor and only a few bruises.
The translation is excellent. The narrative, and especially dialogue, is crisp with just the right color, darkness, and wistfulness. The conflict between Saxberger, who is surprisingly self-aware once the flattery wears off, and his young admirers, who are delusional and oblivious, is penetrating, if gentle. This struck me as a kind but clear-eyed summing up by an accomplished writer, and was a delightful find.
(Please note that I received a free advance ecopy of this book without a review requirement, or any influence regarding review content should I choose to post a review. Apart from that I have no connection at all to the publisher of this book.)
The young people decide to seek publicity by holding a public reading of their work. The rest of the novella is about the preparations for the reading and the actual evening. During this period Saxberger’s mood fluctuates all the time, not least because her knows he is no longer capable of writing poetry. The young people are certainly vain, dismissive of more successful authors as “careerists”, and quarrelsome; and it becomes increasingly clear that they were not neglected people of talent but really didn’t have any worth-while talent at all. They rage when the press notices of the reading disappoint them - only Saxberger’s response is philosophical, and confirms our impression that he is a very nice old man.
An Afterword tells us that in the 1890s Schnitzler belonged to a writers’ circle called The Young Viennese and that several of its members are models for his cast of characters.
The book, written in 1895 when Schnitzler was 33, was never published in his life time, was first issued in German in 2014, 83 years after Schnitzler’s death, and immediately translated into English by Alexander Starritt for the admirable Pushkin Press, to which we owe so many excellent translations of continental authors.