THE BLUE DANUBE by Ludwig Benelmana


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We are accustomed to think of the weapon of ridicule belonging to our literary heritage, not our literary present, but Ludwig Bemelmans, has here redeemed that weapon from obscurity in a vitriolic satire on the Nazi beast. Once again he has done an incomparable job of blending tenderness, pathos, humor, irony and a slight element of fantasy. He's done it with a kind of poignancy that prevents it from descending to horseplay and yet there are sharply etched scenes which would lend themselves readily to farcical handling. His story tells of the idyll of a tiny island in the Danube, an island where old Anton, deprived of his beer garden -- now dominated by the Nazi village officials, makes a slim livelihood of raising radishes and manages to escape any sort of jurisdiction due to the fact that his island disappears under flood tide for part of each year. Add to this constant irritant the fact that Anton dares to scoff at the Nazis dares to tell the truth, -- and then picture the petty officials, jealous of their prerogatives, vying with each other for means of retribution. There's a bit of romance -- when a French prisoner is assigned to help the island family; there's the byplay as the ""animal with a voice"" attempts to play the gallant and gets only laughter for his efforts; there's bootlicking and double crossing and cruelty and, at the close, as Old Anton is a victim, one feels that below the surface victory of the Nazi machine -- elements of a robust indifference and scorn will win more victories than guns.

Pub Date: April 6th, 1945
Publisher: Viking