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A novel by the Czech-Israeli Perutz (By Night Under the Stone Bridge, p. 460, etc.), who wrote in German and died in 1957, that was banned by the Nazis soon after its publication in 1933. The story of a laboratory experiment inducing mass hysteria had far too many parallels to be countenanced. Again Perutz invokes an older, even mystical world, as he tells the story of the young doctor Georg Amberg, who awakes in a hospital after a serious accident to discover that his memories of what happened are not believed. There seems to be a conspiracy of sorts afoot. He remembers that he was struck by a blow from a fall, but the medical authorities insist that he was knocked down by a car in the town square. As he lies in bed, Amberg recalls how he came to accept a job as village doctor in a remoter rural area in Germany--a place where time stood still. On the nearby estate there of Baron von Malchin, an old friend of his historian-father, all farm work was done the old way. There were no machines and the villagers seemed to live feudal lives. The Baron, an obvious fanatic, dreamed of reestablishing the Holy Roman Empire and bringing God back to a world where religion was dead. The Baron was preparing an heir to take over the country. To bring God back, he had a young chemist and colleague of Amberg's, the beautiful Bibiche, create an elixir--St. Peter's Snow--whose purpose was to induce religious frenzy. Amberg, in love with Bibiche, witnessed the fatal execution of the plan: the people found God, but he was the god of political revolution. And now, as Amberg recovers, he learns that his memories are true--that there is a conspiracy to make him forget. A compelling stow, not only about the terrible consequences of fanaticism and delusion, but also about the reluctance to accept their existence. And the contrast between the rather ordinary Amberg, the witness to the madness, and the scope of the Baron's compulsive delusion is underscored by vivid and evocative writing. A timeless tale.

Pub Date: Oct. 30th, 1990
Publisher: Arcade--dist. by Little, Brown