LITTLE APPLE by Leo Perutz


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An absorbing tale of revenge with strong allegorical underpinnings, by the late Czech-Austrian writer Perutz (Saint Peter's Snow, 1990, etc.), now makes its American debut. Taking his title from an old Russian marching song--which asks, ""Where are you rolling, little apple?""--Perutz tells the story of Georg Vittorin, who has spent two years in a Russian POW camp in Siberia. There, Vittorin and his friends have been maltreated by sadistic camp commandant Selyukov. Released, they return home to Vienna vowing revenge--but only Vittorin takes the pledge seriously. Obsessed with his mission, he sets off in late 1918 to find Selyukov in a country now in the midst of civil war. He encounters Bolsheviks and White Russians, is imprisoned, released, then reaches Moscow, where he joins what he believes to be Selyukov's regiment--but his prey always eludes him. Leaving Russia, he continues on to Istanbul, Rome, Paris, and finally back home to Vienna, where he finds his quarry but not as he imagined. Vittorin now simply wipes ""his life's slate clean of two years,"" oblivious to all those he had hurt, even betrayed, while obsessed: his girlfriend Franzi, who becomes a prostitute; his father, who loses his job and has to be supported by a daughter, who does so by marrying a man she detests; and a slew of Russians of all beliefs, including soldiers once under Vittorin's command and a socialist who had helped him escape arrest. The moral is disappointingly heavy-handed, but the compelling story, vivid characters, and brilliant portrait of a man obsessed more than compensate. A welcome appearance.

Pub Date: April 8th, 1992
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: "Arcade--dist. by Little, Brown"