Inferences from a Sabre

Claudio Magris, Author George Braziller $15 (85p) ISBN 978-0-8076-1265-1
This thorny novella takes a historical episode and wrings from it every drop of irony. Toward the end of WW II, the Nazis promise the Cossacks a homeland in northeast Italy if the Cossacks collaborate; the Cossacks fight Italian partisans and, of course, their war is lost; they surrender to the British, who return them to the Soviets; the survivors are executed. Magris ( Danube ), a professor of literature and philosophy at the University of Trieste, examines these developments as they appear decades later to an aged priest, whose own memories of the Cossacks' collaboration are clouded by time and the vagaries of contentious historians. The interval and the confusion surrounding the identity of an exhumed corpse (presumed to be that of a Cossack general) become a paradigm for the great questions of life and literature: ``A second mystery overlies the great mystery that the Cossack general shares with every man . . . as if the mystery of faith was being confounded with the mystery of a crime novel.'' The deluded Cossack general is also a writer of purplish historical novels, a prisoner of the past that he himself has invented; the ironies continue. Studded with sententiae, Inferences is more like an outline for an essay or a novel than a novella of substance. (May)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1991
Release date: 01/01/1991
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