cover image Palace of Flies

Palace of Flies

Walter Kappacher, trans. from the German by Georg Bauer. New Vessel, $16.95 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-1-954404-02-1

The elegant English-language debut from Austrian writer Kappacher explores mortality, change, and the creative life via an impressionistic depiction of real-life author and librettist Hugo von Hofmannsthal. In 1924, Hofmannsthal, 50, grieves the losses of WWI and the collapse of the Austrian empire. He travels to the Alpine village of Bad Fusch, where he spent childhood summers, hoping that its quiet isolation will cure his writer’s block. Instead, he’s paralyzed by loneliness and unease. The letters his wife forwards remind him of unmet commitments and broken relationships, while his walks around Fusch recall the lost days when he was a prolific poet. His new friendship with Sebastian Krakauer, the private physician of a baroness, offers moments of respite. Krakauer warns Hofmannsthal to take care of his heart problems, which cause dizziness and blackouts, but Hofmannsthal worries more about premature senility as past and present, real and unreal seem to merge. With sharp sketches of the vagaries of Hofmannsthal’s imagination—“sometimes this deceptive abundance, then a period of ebb”—Kappacher captures the protagonist’s fear that his capacity to create, like the world he loved, is lost. It’s a moving portrait. (May)