THE FIFTH CORNER OF THE ROOM by Israel Metter

THE FIFTH CORNER OF THE ROOM

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A dry but interestingly veined little book by Leningrad writer Metter in which an old man, a very minor academic, after giving a not especially important lecture, is waylaid by a woman acquaintance from his past--an encounter that subsequently calls up pinched spasms of memory and reflection in the form of a letter from the man to the woman. Born to a Jewish ``fifth-category'' family (``self-employed and others''), the narrator never gets to attend the various institutes his intellect marks him for, and instead must pick at the edges of intellectual work as an unsanctioned math teacher or scriptwriter (during the siege of Leningrad), all the while carrying on a passionate but interrupted (by respective spouses) romance with the one love of his life, Katya. What makes Metter's novel interesting is the narrator's velleity, his self-admission of ideological guilt (despite all he himself suffered) simply for being another silent Russian during Stalin's horrors. Unfortunately, Michael Duncan's translation (``As regards the ideas, toward the protection of which he devoted such incalculable effort, he no longer had occasion to think about them'') destroys whatever small effect of flow the original might have, draping the prose in stiff and stilted gauze.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-374-15487-2
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1991