THE DEATH OF MY BROTHER ABEL by Gregor von Rezzori


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In this modernist novel by the author of Memoirs of an Anti-Semite (1981), an unnamed narrator is in the process of writing a novel which may or may not be the novel we are reading. Much of the book is a tirade against Jacob G. Brodny, a Jewish literary agent who has had the temerity to ask the narrator to describe the novel in three sentences. In the course of his reply, the narrator presents a jumble of autobiographical scenes, ruminations on literature, history and the state of Europe, erotic reveries, and considerations of the deaths of two ""Brother Abels"": his cousin Wolf-gang, bitten by a rat while serving in Hitler's army, and his editor Schwab. dead of an overdose of pills and booze. The earlier autobiographical scenes constitute the best sections of the book. As an infant, von Rezzori's narrator leads an enchanted existence as a courtesan's son, living in luxurious surroundings in Europe's pleasure spots. After his mother commits suicide by drowning, he is raised by relatives in a grim middle-class household in Vienna. Then, in the shadow of the Anschluss, he has an affair with a wealthy married Jewish woman, before he himself joins the Rumanian army to fight the Allies. The narrator has few words to say against the Nazis, other than a regret that the events of WW II destroyed a part of the privileged aristocracy he had known as a youth. He reserves his venom for the American victors for instituting the ""claptrap"" of the Nuremburg trials, and for the subsequent philistine corruption of European culture. He reels with distaste when he must be exposed to Jews or American blacks. The evocative autobiographical material here is soon submerged by windy, formless expostulatory digressions. At nearly 600 pages, this is a self-indulgent, prolix work--high-brow and ambitious--but for many, it'll be made ultimately unpalatable by the misanthropy, bigotry and narcissism it reflects.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1985
Publisher: Viking