INDECENT DREAMS by Arnost Lustig


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Lustig (The Unloved, 1985; Dita Saxova, 1979; etc.), writing in Czech, has consistently focused on the fragile terror of youthful femininity counterposed against the Holocaust. Most often the young girls of his fiction are Jewish, all facing destruction; but in this volume, consisting of three novellas, the women are not Jews but, rather, a German prostitute who is in Prague as the Nazi war machine collapses; a schoolgirl whose politicized parents have been sent away to the camps but who herself, as pure-Aryan stock, is put into an orphans' school for later disposition (perhaps as a field prostitute for the S.S.); and a young woman who works as a cashier in a Prague movie theater that doubles (upstairs) as a Nazi court where German deserters are killed summarily with injections directly into the heart. In each story, Lustig captures the almost swoony perversity produced when hormonal confusion finds itself in fascinated thrall of cruelty. In each, too, he makes these women creatures of utter fear--only waiting until greater male strength (evil male strength, at that) turns next to them The novella form doesn't perfectly suit Lustig--the pieces often seem here repetitious, here attenuated; but together they have a rinsing action whereby feelings become clearsightedness and then, on occasion, acts of tragic bravery.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1988
Publisher: Northwestern Univ. Press