THE QUEST by Elisabeth Langgasser
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This is a powerful and important novel by one of Germany's best-known modern writers and brings to mind Thomas Mann's Magic Mountain not only in its use of individuals as archetypes to express a particular phase of society while always keeping the stature of their unique personalities but also in its erudition and familiarity with mythology and folklore of all ages of history....which may make it out of bounds for many readers. But for those with understanding and background this will be a moving and memorable experience. Just after the fall of the Reich in 1945, seven people, widely different and strangers, meet by chance on the outskirts of Berlin and find that each has the same destination -- the convent of Anaistaiendorf; that each is, in his heart, a pilgrim seeking to be freed of guilt and remorse, the nightmare accretion of the war years. Each looks to the Abbess, Mother Demetrius, a passionate, magnificent woman with a humanity far beyond the call of duty, to help him find salvation. The soldier whose home has been bombed while he fought to protect it; the actor who was forced to drop his mask during the war; the young girl who believes in the Russian way of life; the Jewish couple who found refuge at the convent while their two sons and their daughter died in concentration camps; the architect and his sister who believes her husband, a sensitive composer, to have been lost in action -- these are the central figures. In the host of others, left in the wake of jeeps and tanks, are the incredibly old orphans, the helplessly young old people, the parvenu black marketeers, the daring, obscure saints -- all, with their ruined hopes, on a quest for redirection, for absolution and for solace. Deeply felt, serious and thoughtful this is rewardingly worthwhile.

Publisher: Knopf