THE CAREER OF MAGDA V. by Joseph Machlis


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As he did in Lisa's Boy (1982), Machlis draws upon his considerable knowledge of music in this novel, in which Magda, a German soprano, reaches artistic maturity during the Nazi regime. A story of love and politics as well as art, the narrative is paced by the succession of Magda's four lovers: Erich, Jewish (Magda is Gentile), intellectual, sensitive; Kurt, Aryan, gallant, an active anti-Nazi; next Otto, S.S. general, swinish and powerful; and finally Dan, American Jew, orchestra conductor, lover of young men. Magda loves Erich dearly, but abandons him because he wants to leave Germany. Her love for Kurt is even stronger, but he is murdered by the Nazis. While she has no love for Otto, he protects her during the war. After the war, Dan offers Magda a record contract; Magda loves him, and they marry. Despite her love affairs, Magda's career is her main concern, and her unrelenting drive for success in fact makes her rather unattractive. While she sings before Hitler and gives a private recital at a party for Himmler (to her credit, this makes her physically sick), she continues to maintain that her art is supreme and allows her to ignore political events. Opera and war-history buffs alike will enjoy this book: Richard Strauss is an interesting minor character, and the ugly machinations of the Third Reich are convincingly portrayed. Magda, as artist, fails to confront Hitler's immoral state power with any strength, and, through her, Machlis warns us against passivity in the face of a ruthless state authority. One only wishes he had brought this theme more to the fore and left Magda's somewhat routine and tedious love life in the background.

Pub Date: June 17th, 1985
Publisher: Norton