Aristocrat

Aristocrat

by Ernst Weiss
     
 

The time: the summer of 1913. The place: House Onderkuhle, an exclusive boarding school for the sons of the aristocracy in eastern Belgium. The old order may be crumbling but at Onderkuhle training for a life of command goes unchallenged. The most important lessons: fencing, riding and, above all, the forms of etiquette - 'the refinements of aristocratic intercourse.'…  See more details below

Overview

The time: the summer of 1913. The place: House Onderkuhle, an exclusive boarding school for the sons of the aristocracy in eastern Belgium. The old order may be crumbling but at Onderkuhle training for a life of command goes unchallenged. The most important lessons: fencing, riding and, above all, the forms of etiquette - 'the refinements of aristocratic intercourse.' Boetius von Orlamunde distinguishes himself at all of these. He subdues his doubts by undertaking ever more extreme physical tests, climaxing in the breaking-in of the stallion Cyrus. On the night the school burns down, Boetius displays cowardice and forfeits nobility. Immediately recognised as a masterpiece on its first publication in 1928, The Aristocrat dissects the collapse of a world of rigid hierarchy and exposes the murderous perversity of those who persist in living by the old rules.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Originally published in 1928, The Aristocrat makes its first appearance in this country replete with glowing blurbs by Thomas Mann. It's a good book, but maybe Mann got a little carried away. The aristocrat of the title is Botius Maria Dagobert von Orlamnde, the last representative of an ancient lineage, one ``just as good as that of the Habsburgs''. Unlike the Habsburgs, however, the Orlamndes are broke. When the novel begins in 1913, Botius is a poor, somewhat overaged resident at a noble boys' school in Belgium where he has learned riding, fencing, swimming and the like while admitting: ``I cannot count properly, nor write quite without errors.'' What he does best is worry about death (usually referred to as ``D.''). Fearing that his fear of death undermines his nobility, he challenges himself by breaking a skittish horse and saving a drowning friend. But, faced with real danger when the school catches fire, Botius loses his nerve. Suddenly homeless, he returns to his birthplace and bravely gets a manual job at a turbine factory. Here, he says, ``I no longer hunger for `tests'. I am in reality.'' Clearly, the broad hint here is that an 18-year-old wrestling with and conquering his fear of death in Europe circa 1913 is fate's fool. It's not enough of a device to support the loose narrative or Weiss's style, one of obsessive detailing at times worthy of Huysmans. (Aug.)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781852422622
Publisher:
Serpent's Tail Publishing Ltd
Publication date:
08/28/1995
Pages:
210
Product dimensions:
5.41(w) x 7.79(h) x 0.62(d)

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