Oedipus at Stalingrad

Gregor Von Rezzori, Author, Gregor Von Rezzori, Author Farrar Straus Giroux $25 (289p) ISBN 978-0-374-22426-4
Translated into English 40 years after its German publication and well after Rezzori made his name here with Memoirs of an Anti-Semite and other books, this novel, which was his debut work, announces itself as a rumormongering, mordantly ironic satire of social-climbing in Hitlerite Berlin. The career of Traugott von Jassilkowski, an East Prussian of negligible nobility, blindly follows traditional ambitions in 1938, when Nazism has fully permeated German society: nightlife of Weimaresque decadence, marriage to a peroxide Aryan with a munitions fortune and friendship with assorted German aristocrats who have subtly incorporated Nazi ideology into their social customs. The cast of characters runs acoss the social register with animated grotesqueness-especially Mrs. von Schrader, Traugott's mentor and bridge partner. In the form of garrulous gossip to an unseen interlocuter, Rezzori's narration explores with lyric sarcasm his mock hero's trivial rise and pointless inner turmoil. For this dandified Werther, an Oedipal complex is something inflicted like a preemptive punishment along with German romanticism, social blundering and political obtuseness. Compared to his later work, Rezzori's first novel is less profound as satire, its prose often overexuberant and its characters lacking lasting presence, but its indirect animadversions deftly play on postwar denial while sardonically portraying an era in all its aristocratic vainglory. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 10/31/1994
Release date: 11/01/1994
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