RADITZER by Peter Matthiessen


Email this review


A curious novel which concerns Raditzer, a bastard, who grew up in an orphanage,-- sly, ugly, a familiar of urban evils, permanently warped by deprivation and wistful for prestige. To Charley Stark, who first sees him crawling out of a hatch in a howling storm, he is a power of evil. A lawyer's son, Charlie has rejected his father's practice in the hope of being a Gauguin, and has further expunged his middle class guilt by entering the Navy as an enlisted man. Raditzer sticks to Charlie throughout his regrettably inactive war in Honolulu, and by admiring and envying all Charlie's despised virtues, and worshipping (in his imagination) the wife Charlie is no longer sure he loves, Raditzer becomes the loathsome personification of Charlie's own bad conscience. Charlie manages, in a drunken moment, to destroy Raditzer's romantic faith in him-, but he is later forced to save his life from sailors he has cheated. As the ship docks at home, Charlie, who dreads the meeting with the wife he has betrayed, accidentally causes Raditzer to fall and be killed before the crowd. Or-- he has now killed his conscience... A strange, not easily likable book, in which reality is inclined to be fuzzy. But as a symbol of guilt Raditzer has a weird, uncomfortable power.

Pub Date: Jan. 26th, 1960
Publisher: Viking