Pure magic

21 03 2015

The Magician by Somerset Maugham

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Set in the bohemian café society of Paris at the turn of the nineteenth century, Maugham’s exploration of hypnotism and the occult was inspired by the sinister black magician Aleister Crowley. At the start of this compulsive gothic horror story, Arthur and his beautiful, innocent fiancée Margaret look forward to an idyllic life together, until they encounter the mesmerising and repulsive Oliver Haddo…

It’s a really good yarn and something of a horror story based around the black arts. Needless to say therefore that the idyllic life anticipated by Arthur doesn’t quite come to pass and the Crowley-esque Haddo has a dramatic and disturbing impact on him. But even more so on Margaret….

stars-3-5.

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Marching

14 03 2015

The Radetzky March by Joseph Roth

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The Radetzky March is a meditation on the Austro-Hungarian Empire through the prism of three generations of the Trotta family. The novel opens in 1859 at the Battle of Solferino, when the young Lieutenant Trotta saves the life of the Emperor and is ennobled. He owes the Empire everything, and his son also becomes a conscientious servant of the great multinational state even as it enters into its period of chaos, with competing nationalisms and ideologies tearing it apart. The final generation of Trottas cannot comprehend or survive the collapse of the Empire, which no longer has any purchase on reality.
Beginning at the moment when the Habsburg dominions began to crumble, and ending at the moment when the old Emperor’s body is finally entombed in the vault of Capuchins in Vienna, the narrative arc of Roth’s novel is perfectly judged. However, it is Roth’s intelligent compassion and ironic sense of history that confer on The Radetzky March its greatness.

 

 
One of those books that really should be much better known than it seems to be. Have been recommending to everyone I can since reading it. It’s really well judged, nicely translated and just an excellent read.
 

 

four stars








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