THE REDHEAD by Alfred Andersch


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A scrambled novel contains some excellent and absorbing writing; it is highly intelligent; it is threaded onto an unlikely, melodramatic plot; it is full of loose ends which are, however, not without interest. Franziska, The Redhead, is German, and an intelligent, cool, sexually practical woman, who, to escape from an affair with their employer, has married pedantic adathete, Herbert. Fed up with the situation she flees to Venice and arrives broke. Scenes of her first day alone -- counting resources and opportunities -- are mixed with inside views of Venetian life, canals intrigues, backgrounds, and with encounters with other refugees, especially the violinist, Fabio. The wealthy Irish homosexual, O'Malley, draws her in from the periphery and, to further his resolve to kill ex-Nazl Kramer, tricks her into meeting the obscene monster-murderer. Feeling that Franziska will probably denounce him, O'Malley decides she must either join his organization or be killed. Trapped on an island (magnificently described) and between O'Malley's weakness and Kramer's brute evil, she endures an insane nightmare but is freed when O'Malley actually finds the courage to poison Kramer, and Fabio's love offers a final refuge. While most of this is fairly chaotic and much of the prose admittedly Faulknerian, many of the ace and the prose have a cold, almost lunatic, aliveness, and some of the subplots are swift etched, memorable short stories. If there is too much going on (and there is) a great deal of this is ily fascinating.

Pub Date: March 28th, 1961
Publisher: Pantheon