THE DEMONS by Heimito von Doderer
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In translation from the German by Richard and Clara Winston, this enormously long and complex novel deals with the relations among a group of people in Vienna in the late 1920's. In a sense little happens but the whole texture and detail of a society is reconstructed, in cafes, bourgois homes, castles, workrooms, offices. And they are welded together by astonishing, lucid perceptions of the most peripheral insights and relations. As one huge group scene merges into the next, the steady evolution of a few principal characters is revealed. Some, notably a man named Schlaggenberg, pervert reality. Separated from his wife, he is half humorously obsessed with fat women (perhaps a symbol of the past; all the matrons worry about their obesity as opposed to the slimness of modern women; and indeed, the society itself is ""fat"", is rich.) Schlaggenberg later becomes the leader of a group of youths, and he also lives as a brother with Quapp. The others more or less forge their own reality. Quapp faces the fact she is not a musician. Leonhard, a weaver, educates mind and heart by studying Latin. Stangeler, a rich boy, slides into a parallel but softer reality as a historian. Minor characters reach less positive conclusions. The climax comes during streetflighting. In when the more definite characters (including the narrator) make their final choice of marriage, and the least real of all, a former lover of Quapp's, is killed on a barricade..... Narrower, drier, more intellectualized than Proust, though in some ways as complete a segment of a society, this pinpoint concentration on the minut of many lives is a complex and brilliant reading experience. It will command major critical notice.

Publisher: Knopf