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Gurr, author of moody, so-so spy thrillers (A Woman Called Scylla, Troika), now goes into a long-winded, pretentious tizzy--with a 744-page historical fantasy about the 20-year psychosexual relationship between Adolf Hitler and a kinky, effete English brother/sister duo (all three of them sharing the Wagner obsession). The febrile narrator here, constantly alternating between first and third person, is Edwin Casson-Perceval--who grows up, mostly in Europe, with Wagner-crazed Mama and older sister Edwina, a budding soprano. On pilgrimages to Bayreuth, the Britishers meet not only Cosima, Siegfried, Winifred and other Wagners--but also ""the shabby nobody called Wolf,"" a.k.a. Adolf, whom Mama decides is ""a genius."" ThrOugh the 1920's, then, teen-ager Edwin boils with burgeoning homosexual/incestuous lust; sex-kitten Edwina prepares for her Bayreuth debut; and Mama researches Hitler's roots, committing Venice-canal suicide when Adolf reacts badly to her discoveries. (The Hitler past includes a part-Jewish father--just like Wagner, supposedly--and homicidal mania, along with every known sexual perversion/psychosis.) In the 1930's, as ""Wolfi"" rises to power, pianist Edwin (tormented by compulsive oral/anal incest-sex) and star-singer Edwina (shameless, selfish) daily with all the usual Nazis--from Ernst Roehm (molesting Edwin) to Heydrich, Himmler, Hess, and Goering. They dine with ""the Goat"" (Lloyd-George) and ""the Artist"" (Churchill), encouraging the Goat's enthusiasm for Hitler. While Wolfi pines and paws over the hard-to-get Edwina, Edwin--analyzed by Jung, jealous of promiscuous Sis--consoles Adolf's neglected girlfriend Eva. (""Fraulein Braun's vagina is deliciously--boy-ishly--tight!"") And finally, circa 1942, despite her disgust over Wolfi's nail-biting and flatulence, Edwina becomes Wolfi's partner in coprophilic sex (don't ask) and bears ""His"" child. . .unless the father is Edwin, who's busy searching for the Holy Grail and spying (very reluctantly) for England. Despite much preciousness, jokiness, and literary games-playing (scenes presented as farcical, operatic playlets, etc.), Gurr lacks the intellectual force and bravura style needed to carry off this sort of phantasmagorial. Despite labored cross-references (e.g., to incest in the Ring), no fresh insights are brought to the very familiar Hitler/Wagner parallels. And equally derivative is the psychosexual approach to Hitler--more persuasively explored by Beryl Bainbridge (Young Adolf), William Harrington (The English Lady), and so many others. A hard-working but thoroughly earthbound epic-manquÉ, then: too flatly predictable for surreal allure, too cumbersomely far-fetched for emotional involvement or historical resonance--mostly just tiresome and unpleasant instead Of disturbing and provocative.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1987
Publisher: Atheneum