Snake in the Heart

Henrik Stangerup, Author, Anne Born, Translator Marion Boyars Publishers $24.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-7145-2996-7
Self-disgust is the snake of this dour novel's title, which was inspired by words Karl Marx penned as a student. Max Mollerup, dissipated correspondent for a Danish newspaper in Paris during the mid-1960s, is well acquainted with this particular viper. In taking the measure of his life, he feels victimized by his once-bright past; by his overbearing mother, a fading movie star; by the insularity of the Danish expatriate community in Paris; and by the feeling that he is ""condemned to be free."" When Max's courtship of a sleek Italian woman soars, then falters, his days begin a downward spiral that will end with his life seeming like ""something he might have seen in a bad film."" In short order, Max is frequenting brothels, dodging spies in back alleys, stalking old girlfriends, devoting days to the study of paper-airplane construction and unabashedly pilfering another writer's work. This latest Stangerup novel to cross the Atlantic (after Brother Jacob) is written deftly, with an appealingly elegiac tone. But it suffers from a protagonist who is harmed not by a noble flaw but by his own misanthropy-and as Moliere demonstrated, that's more aptly a subject for farce than tragedy. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 07/03/2000
Release date: 07/01/2000
Genre: Fiction
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