COMRADE HUPPERT by George Huppert


A Poet in Stalin's World
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The troubled life of Hugo Huppert (1902-1982), a respected but largely forgotten Austrian writer and communist.

When George Huppert (Emeritus, History/Univ. of Illinois, Chicago; The Style of Paris: Renaissance Origins of the French Enlightenment, 1999, etc.) began researching Hugo, it was because he, like the author's own father, was an Austrian Jew born in 1902, a time marked by growing anti-Semitism. Rather than attempt to find connections between the two families, however, the author was drawn into the tangled life story Huppert told in his autobiography and other writings he left behind. The son of middle-class parents, Huppert—who early on revealed a gift and penchant for writing—had an idyllic childhood and adolescence. His life changed dramatically after he moved to Vienna in the 1920s. There, Huppert joined the Communist Party and experienced the political upheavals that came in the aftermath of the Austrian empire, including the rise of Hitler in Germany. As much as he wanted to immerse himself in the Viennese literary scene, however, Huppert found himself putting his political work before his own artistic endeavors. In the late 1920s, he went to Moscow, where he taught and also continued to engage in activities as “political culture worker” for the Soviet Communist Party. Imprisoned and then freed during the Stalin purges, Huppert could not return to Hitler-controlled Austria until 1945. At that time, the Communist Party sent him there to oversee political activities only to recall him four years later for conducting an illicit affair with a local girl. The narrative is slim and limited in its scope, but the author is strongest in his focus on his subject’s struggle between his literary/artistic ambitions and his need for security after years of grueling, often bitter unrest. A loyal Communist Party member until his death, Huppert found peace but only after submitting to ideological forces greater than himself.

Of interest to scholars of Austrian literature and history but not to a general reading audience.

Pub Date: May 1st, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-253-01978-3
Page count: 168pp
Publisher: Indiana Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 2016


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