THE BLACK OBELISK by Erich Maria Remarque


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This is one Remarque novel that, for my money, could have been inferred in the German language, unpublished here. I found it not only distasteful but boring. The setting is a middle sized German town during the inflation, when quotations on the market spiralled from hour to hour, wiping out earnings, savings and fortunes, making the operations of business in buying and selling a matter of guessing ahead of the next fellow- or going under. Acquisition of the bare necessities became a matter of barter. But when it came to tombstones, as in this story of a dealer in , the problem of long range agreements was bringing the business to the verge of . The employees used their wiles to secure advance payments; to trick their suppliers in the wholesale field by offering bribes of various sorts- wine and women especially. It is an unsavoury portrait of the little man of Germany under duress -- and even more of the ""little woman"". Salted through the main story is a strange interlude, as Ludwig, who tells the story, finds himself falling in love with Isabelle, a gently born girl suffering from schizophrenia, and confined in the mental hospital where he earns some free meals by playing the organ at the services. There's a quite extraordinary achievement in conveying the way in which a mind off balance functions- a sensitive, compassionate handling of a tenuous, lyrical romance. But it never quite blends with the main story and is not in itself enough to compensate.

Pub Date: April 2nd, 1957
Publisher: Harcourt, Brace