cover image Indecent Dreams

Indecent Dreams

Arnost Lustig. Northwestern University Press, $17.95 (159pp) ISBN 978-0-8101-0773-1

Much of the current fiction in English about World War II is escapist writing, couched in terms of derring-do, that cheapens the people who actually had to suffer Nazis brutality. The three novellas in this collection have nothing to do with that kind of writing; fruit of the late '50s, they are intense, powerful depictions that evoke the madness of the era through simple incidents. In ``Blue Day,'' a German prostitute, whose life was pleasant enough until the Nazi collapse, confronts the consequence. Her Prague neighbors slap her face. But she has a worse problem: what to do about the Army judge hiding in her apartment who sentenced thousands of Jewish and other people to death. In ``The Girl with a Scar,'' a ward of the Special Prague Institute for Girls of Pure Race for the Non-Germanic Territories confronts the man who caused her parents' deaths. And in ``Indecent Dreams,'' the almost unbearably poignant title piece of this collection, the heroine daydreams about love but finds the opposite in the Hitlerian Gotterdammerung of 1945. The hallucinatory energy of these stories operates at a level of Faulknerian intensity. They blend the bloody public events of the last days of the ``thousand-year Reich'' with private passion, and in so doing they celebrate our humanity. Lustig, who writes in Czech, has been well served here by three translators. (June)