THE WHITE HOTEL by D. M. Thomas

THE WHITE HOTEL

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Thomas (The Flute Player) has a good idea here but, by pulling it a little longer than it should naturally go, it ultimately snaps on him. Lisa Erdman is a second-rank Viennese opera singer, and she is undergoing analysis with Freud himself. She scribbles a long, highly erotic poem in the margins of a score of Don Giovanni; it details delirious days and nights (all fantasized) spent at an Alpine resort hotel in the company of Freud's son (transference once removed, you see). But, as the lovers devour each other, the hotel accidentally catches fire and burns to the ground around them, many killed. And this poetic view of the fantasy is accompanied by a journal in prose about the same sex-death orgy--which is highly, skillfully symbolic of Lisa's real-life traumas: failures in career and in an early marriage; a late marriage to the impresario husband (Russian) of a dead diva whom she loved and admired. Finally, however, Lisa's life will actually end at the Babi Yar massacre by the Ukrainians and Germans during World War II: she resurrects and re-incorporates in a heaven that seems very much like Palestine. . . Throughout, Thomas shows great respect for the innate narrative potentials of the great Freudian case-histories; in replicating one, however, he can't seem to find a center, so he ends up scrabbling around much of the time. Half-engrossing, half-confusing, and less than the sum of its parts, then--but persistently, demandingly intriguing.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1981
ISBN: 0140231730
Publisher: Viking