JANET FLANNER'S WORLD: Uncollected Writings 1932-1975 by Janet Flanner

JANET FLANNER'S WORLD: Uncollected Writings 1932-1975

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A tacky title for some of the most acute, far-seeing, full-bodied reportage around--New Yorker pieces distinct from Flanner's biweekly ""Letters from Paris."" In the first section: a withering biographical and psychological portrait of Hitler in 1936--""with tears on his cheeks, but life and death in his hands""--that outweighs later writings many times its length; fine-tuned impressions of the Salzburg Festival pre- and post-Anschluss (Flanner's musical knowledge is a recurrent pleasure); the Central European tangle traced in a household census (""the owner is an aristocratic Hungarian, usually broke""; the house servants are Slovaks, the tradesmen Czechs, the estate farmers Jews, the stablemen Magyars; and ""the gamekeepers are Germans, originally imported by Queen Maria Theresa, mother of Marie Antoinette""). The onset of war brings a mordant communiqu‚ from ""Paris, Germany"" (at the Ritz, a chambermaid asks Madame's permission to consume her remaining cafˆ au lait) and the tale of an expatriate's seven-months touch-and-go flight (presumably Flanner's) to Portugal and the U.S. Postwar, Flanner reports from Nuremberg--most tellingly, on the comparative performance of the English, American, French, and Russian prosecution; from tacitly Communist, perennially ""crooked"" Poland (""The tragedy of the Poles is that they are always talking about freedom from someone else but are afraid to give it to one another""); and from the DP camps--each of which, diplomatically, houses only one nationality or religion. Assorted profiles follow, including a standout on the transplanted Thomas-Mann m‚nage (""Goethe in Hollywood""). Section three contains diverse reports from Italy: in 1945, ""the best film in Europe"" is Open City; in 1948, the Italian Communists are still, prophetically, ""too humanistic to be entrusted [by Moscow] with a victory. . . which would set a standard for all the subsequent Western-democracy communizations."" The fourth, capstone section consists primarily of portraits of three slightly mad American expatriate women whom Flanner knew: Sylvia Beach of Shakespeare and Company, publisher of Ulysses; Little Review editor and vagrant spirit Margaret Anderson; and (""Memory Is All"") Alice B. Toklas. Not every one of these 90 pieces is imperishable, but the best of them would rate three Michelin stars.

Pub Date: Nov. 7th, 1979
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich