Some of us favor thin books in summer, rushing out to buy the latest Ian McEwan or an NYBR reprint of Dorothy Baker’s Cassandra and the Wedding. Others among us beat the heat by ensconcing ourselves on the porch with Wilkie Collins, Dostoevsky, or, in my case, Hermann Broch.
And coffee, please. Iced.
“Where’s your Hermann Broch Assistance Group?” my husband wants to know.
He knows I’ve declared I will read Hermann Broch’s novel, The Death of Virgil, this summer. He suggests that I might find an internet group to read with–after all, the Big Book might be back in fashion, as Infinite Jest was read by a group last summer.
“Well, maybe there are some German literature readers. Put it up on your blog.”
So I ask you: Is anybody interested in reading The Death of Virgil? Small chunks at a time. A certain amount of Joycean bafflement will probably rule, but I do know my Virgil.
According to Wikipedia, this modernist novel was begun in 1938 when Broch, an Austrian Jew, was in a concentration camp. Eventually he ended up in the U.S., where the first edition of the novel was published in 1945 in an English translation by Jean Star Untenmeyer. This is the only English translation, as far as I know. A German translation appeared in Zurich in 1947, but it was not published in Germany until 1958.
Here is an excellent quote from Wikipedia about the book:
“This great, difficult novel, in which reality and hallucination, poetry and prose are inextricably mingled, reenacts the last hours of life of the Roman poet Virgil, in the port of Brundisium, where he accompanied Augustus, his decision – frustrated by the emperor – to burn his Aeneid, and his final reconciliation with his destiny. Virgil’s heightened perceptions as he dies recall his life and the age in which he lives.”
I’m pretty sure German literature is out of fashion in the U.S.–the colleges are cutting all the graduate programs– so it’s good to revive the German classics. And we can assist each other with this Big Book, which admittedly does not look easy!
So if there are any volunteers…!