cover image Young Gerber

Young Gerber

Friedrich Torberg, translated from the German by Anthea Bell. Pushkin Press (Consortium, dist.), $18 paper (352p) ISBN 978-1-906548-89-6

Austro-Czech journalist and writer Torberg depicts the unadulterated torment of school examinations in this new translation of his first novel, originally published in 1930. Torberg chronicles Kurt Gerber through his senior year of school as he is impelled towards his foreboding Matura, a concluding exam requisite for his high school diploma. His obstacle in this endeavor is not the material at hand, but his sadistic, sanguinary math instructor, Professor Kupfer, who has singled out the bright but defiant Gerber as his adversary. Gerber's mounting anxiety is bolstered by his romantic tribulations with the alluring but ambivalent Lisa and his father's weak heart, which surely could not withstand the strain of his son's failure. Torberg depicts the incremental rise and asphyxiating atmosphere of despotic terror. Kupfer quashes the possibility of unified student rebellion, enlisting students and teachers, besetting factions against each other, and rendering all complicit. The parallel to the political landscape in Vienna in that era adds deeper insight to the rise of tyrannical regimes, which is all the more powerful considering the original publication was banned and included in the first Nazi book burning. More than a coming-of-age novel, this lost treasure lends insight to repressive authority. (Dec.)