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Publishers WeeklyStarred Review.
This beautiful, impressive early novel by von Rezzori (The Snows of Yesteryear), generously translated by Boehm, takes place in the fictional town of Czernopol, where pairs of Dalmatians run gracefully between coach wheels, the premature removal of a jacket constitutes a grave faux pas, and an old miser keeps two wives-one blue-blooded princess, one common peasant girl-under the same roof. Austrian officer Nikolaus Tildy's aristocratic elegance and trials on behalf of his wife, the beautiful, afflicted Tamara, capture the imagination of child narrator (and his sister) Tanya. While Tildy's story is compelling, von Rezzori's greatest achievements are his meditations on the nature of childhood, especially "that inviolable majesty of the child" and its gradual erosion as the once fascinating, mysterious world begins to reveal itself as a place of "crude banality," which ceases to inspire any longing. In its near-mythical treatment of childhood, the book recalls Nabokov's Speak Memory, or Rebecca West's The Fountain Overflows.
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