×

Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

Sad Strains of a Gay Waltz: A Novel
     

Sad Strains of a Gay Waltz: A Novel

by Irene Dische
 
With the onset of a debilitating illness, Benedikt, an ascetic mathematician, longs for a child so advertises to adopt a boy. A couple of impoverished Russian refugees mother and son respond. With this unlikely pair, Benedikt undergoes a hilarious, agonizing, sentimental education set against the chaotic backdrop of reunified Germany.

Overview

With the onset of a debilitating illness, Benedikt, an ascetic mathematician, longs for a child so advertises to adopt a boy. A couple of impoverished Russian refugees mother and son respond. With this unlikely pair, Benedikt undergoes a hilarious, agonizing, sentimental education set against the chaotic backdrop of reunified Germany.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
When is it too late to love? That's the question posed by this unflaggingly arch, if unimaginatively plotted second novel by Dische (Pious Secrets and the short-story collection Strange Traffic). It chronicles the slow ensoulment of one Benedikt Waller, an unmarried, 41-year-old mathematical physicist living in post-reunification Berlin. Walleractually Benedikt August Anton Cecil August Count Waller von Wallersteingarnered from his lonely childhood a love of science, a horror of his aristocratic origins and a distaste for human society so strong it verges on emotional autism. But when he contracts a terminal illness (possibly AIDS, although it's never specified), Waller heeds his sister's urgings to open his heart to others: "You'd be able to die with your feelings informed, you'd know what you missed," she says. He advertises in the paper for a child to adopt and is soon sharing his apartment with a shy, suspicious young boy named Valerie and his mother, Marja, a disheveled, strong-minded former pianist, both refugees from the Soviet Union. The chronicle of Waller's frustrated attempts to win Valerie's affectionand to puzzle out the increasingly appealing Marjais larded with innumerable subplots involving Waller's housekeeper, his assorted colleagues and relatives and the staff at the 14th-century ancestral castle to which he eventually decamps with his charges. Dische, an American filmmaker and Berlin resident, is a highly accomplished, unsentimental satirist with a sharp eye for human quirks and for the class conflicts and petty xenophobia of contemporary Germany. But her vivisectional flair can't compensate for characters that never fully come to life or for a story that inches along to a pedestrian, conventionally bittersweet conclusion. (Aug.)
Library Journal
Benedikt Waller's terminal illness is merely the physical complement to a moribund emotional life. A German count by birth, he is a mathematician dedicated to the study of the solitron, a particle that never collides with another particle. Facing death, however, he places an ad for a baby boy, hoping to obtain an heir. What he gets is Marja, a dirty Russian immigrant woman, and Valery, her incorrigible son. Unable to turn them away, Benedikt takes them back to the family estate and marries Marja. For a solitary man, he soon has a rich, if strange, life. Also orbiting him are his sister and her family; his institute colleagues; Schmidt, his male lover; and the estate staff. Set against the reunification of Germany, this allegorical tale by the author of Strange Traffic: Stories (Holt, 1995) moves wryly toward its strangely touching conclusion. Recommended for large collections.Paul Hutchison, Bellefonte, Pa.
Kirkus Reviews
A curious tale, by turns sympathetic and aloof, of the humanization of a German mathematician/aristocrat who seeks contact with his own kind after learning he has a terminal disease, from the quirky imagination of Berlin-based American expatriate Dische (Strange Traffic, 1995, etc.).

Benedikt Waller von Wallerstein spent his adult life in the single-minded pursuit of the solitron, a theoretical particle that by definition exists forever on its own, until a lethal illness brings him face to face with his mortality. As the last male in his noble line, he naively decides to advertise for a child to adopt as his heir—and is rewarded by the arrival of a wild, disheveled Russian woman and her son, Valerie, who move right in. Not having a clue about how to deal with them, Benedikt is first angry, then resigned, and, when a dotty pensioner shows up looking for work as a housekeeper, he decides to leave Berlin and take all three to his ancestral castle. There, he renews ties with his bedridden grandmother, who takes an interest in the Russians, going so far as to get out of bed for the first time in 20 years—an act that kills her. Benedikt decides to marry Marja to make his adoption more seemly, the fact that she already has a husband notwithstanding. After a much publicized wedding, however, he takes action to get rid of her, finding Marja to be a disruption in his effort to be fatherly to Valerie. But events overtake those plans, and though he loses his wife and son somewhere in the Swiss Alps, all manage to find their way back to Berlin—in time for Valerie's true father to find them.

Eccentric doesn't begin to describe this rich, Germanic- flavored saga, but the twists and tangents that clash in mood and purpose finally make it seem more a collection of ingenious pieces than a finished work.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780805053579
Publisher:
Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
08/01/1997
Pages:
288
Product dimensions:
5.81(w) x 8.56(h) x 1.08(d)

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews