The Hussar

David R. Slavitt, Author Louisiana State University Press $19.95 (179p) ISBN 978-0-8071-1364-6
In formal, elegant language well suited to a military tale set in 19th century Austria, the author seems at first to spoof regimental ceremony and the inchoate lusts of Stefan, a virginal lieutenant billeted in the bourgeois cottage of a stout, proper mother and her lame daughter. Stefan, bleary-eyed from brandy and unconsummated longings, is confronted in his bedroom by the mother, who has more than mere words of comfort in mind. Later, when the daughter steers the conversation around to free love, he makes his bed available to both women. The daughter becomes pregnant and reluctantly agrees to marry him. Suddenly, a deadly seriousness invades the novel. Stefan forfeits his life to pay a gambling debt and a quixotic debt of honor. The tone of mocking seriousness that has been sustained throughout leaves the reader unprepared and unwilling to accept tragedy in a book that, until the final scenes, has been an enjoyable potpourri of roistering hussars and traffickings in the night. (May 22)
Reviewed on: 05/01/1987
Release date: 05/01/1987
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