Georg Letham: Physician and Murderer

Georg Letham: Physician and Murderer

by Ernst Weiss

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Mixing Fritz Lang and Alfred Hitchcock with Dostoevsky, a chilling exploration of a deviant mind.See more details below


Mixing Fritz Lang and Alfred Hitchcock with Dostoevsky, a chilling exploration of a deviant mind.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Vivid. . . . [With] the thrill of intellectual obsession. . . . Weiss's novels are remarkable for their ambitious conceits, stylistic variation, and unusual characters. . . . He uncovers the fear, apathy, longing and rage for which the now cliched psychoanalytic terms were invented. . . . His finest moments as a writer are when he plays the strict psychoanalyst, allowing his disturbed characters to speak their minds while he suspends judgment of right and wrong."
-The Nation

"Part medical detective story and part criminal confession. … the story addresses … justice, punishment, altruism, the fear of illness, the joy of recovery, the ecstasy of being alive, and the absolute worth of a single human life. … From a literary standpoint, readers can expect a sizeable reward."—Journal of the American Medical Association

"One of his strongest works. … One admires Weiss's skill at creating such a complex relationship between a subjective narrator who thinks he's objective and the reader who bears witness to it."—The Quarterly Conversation

"What an extraordinary writer he is!"—Franz Kafka

"Weiss … took soul-searching to its darkest depths. He is remarkably open searching and piercing."—The Complete Review

"What makes Georg Letham so fascinating is not that he is a murderer, but that he knows this and is still plagued with a compulsion to contribute to humanity … He kills for money, but when stripped of the need for money and forced to live, he becomes more of a human being."—Salonica

"A remarkable, haunting work. An extraordinary writer indeed. . . . Joel Rotenberg has done a fine job of rendering Weiss's snappily sardonic prose."—The Lancet Infectious Diseases

"I wonder why Weiss isn’t better known here. A doctor as well as a writer, he knew about the body as well as the heart, and you can trust him when he describes how each can act on the other."
Nicholas Lezard, The Guardian

"Ernst Weiss is in fact one of the few writers who may justly be compared to Franz Kafka . . . This is easily one of the most interesting books I have come across in years . . . One is filled with impressions, stimulated, gripped by images, characters, and episodes that are strangely real but also unforgettably fashioned. –And, incidentally, it's all very Austrian."
Thomas Mann

Library Journal
Originally published in 1931, this is an account of a crime and its aftermath, interspersed with flashbacks that may illuminate the cause of the crime and the root of the perpetrator's moral defectiveness. The title character is the novel's unreliable narrator. Letham, who describes himself as "a physician, a man of scientific training of certain philosophical aspirations," is ever a medical researcher and taxonomist, categorizing his fellow men impassively as either frogs or rats. After murdering his wife, Letham is sent to the yellow fever-ridden penal colony C, where he is able to continue his epidemiological work and questionable experiments. The author, Jewish physician Weiss, is often compared to friend and contemporary Franz Kafka, but Weiss's work is more realistic, clearly influenced by his own life and work in the medical field. Rotenberg's translation is clean and attentive, but this is nevertheless a very slow read. VERDICT Essential reading for fans of German expressionism and of interest to readers of psychological novels but overlong for the casual reader.—Karen Morse, Univ. of Buffalo Lib., NY

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Product Details

Steerforth Press
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6.00(w) x 6.80(h) x 1.60(d)

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Meet the Author

Like Kafka, a friend of his, Ernst Weiss was a German-speaking Jew from Prague. He was a physician as well as a novelist. Joel Rotenberg has translated Stefan Zweig's "Chess Story" and Hugo von Hofmannsthal's "The Lord Chandos Letter," both for the New York Review of Books series.

Read an Excerpt

How could I, Georg Letham, a physician, a man of scientific training, of certain philosophical aspirations, let myself be so far carried away as to commit an offense of the gravest sort, the murder of my wife? And to commit this crime chiefly for financial reasons? Or so it would appear to the outsider. For money was in fact the one thing I could never get from that woman, who was doglike in her attachment to me. Am I revil- ing her with this word "doglike"? No. I am only attempting to explain, and so far I have not succeeded. There is a gaping internal contradic- tion here, and yet that is how it was.

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