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Wolfgang Koeppen, Michael Hofmann

A Sad Affair


Koeppen examines the obsessive side of young love in his first novel, a sly romantic satire that was banned in Nazi Germany in 1936 for its candid depiction of a decidedly one-sided, non-Aryan relationship in which the woman calls most of the shots. The story picks up the enthralled narrator, Friederich, as he meets the woman of his dreams, Sybille Schloss, an actress in a theater troupe. The would-be lovers unite during Sybille's theatrical run after Friederich pursues her in Zurich, but Friederich's desire for romantic and sexual perfection prevents him from making love with her. Sybille's flightiness is part of the problem, as she conducts affairs with several other men, including Bosporus, an officer in the German army; the theater owner, Dr. Magnus; and Walter, a famous critic. Friederich thinks a trip to Tuscany will help his lady love focus on him, but their muddled relationship finally ends in a sequence in which the tortured, angst-ridden Friederich gives Sybille a gun and begs her to put him out of his emotional misery. The one-dimensional plot helps the satire work as a commentary on the romantic straightjacket of Nazism, and Koeppen's ruminations on love are occasionally provocative, especially when he delves into its effects on our freedom and the ways in which it falls short of expectations. In addition, the group portrait of the theater troupe is incisive, and in spite of their indecisiveness both Friederich and Sybille are well-drawn characters. A perceptive introduction by translator Hofmann sheds light on Koeppen's literary legacy.

Format: Hardcover
Published: in USA in 2003
Publisher: W W Norton & Co Inc
Pages: 176
Language: English
ISBN 13: 9780393057188
ISBN 10: 0393057186
Edition: Reprint

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A Sad Affair