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Publishers WeeklyStarred Review.
Mitchell, a prolific literary translator, looks at the enigmatic Gustav Meyrink (whose novels he's translated) in this vibrant biographical debut. Meyrink, a Prague native, was prominent in the late 1800s through the early 1900s, oddly enough, as a banker, mystic and satirist (best known for The Golem). Mitchell scrutinizes the man's odd life and infatuations, especially with the occult, which seems to be at the center of his first marriage's failure. Meyrink is revealed as an eccentric and sensitive individual, taking much of the material for his satire from his own troubling experience with the law, the military and the petit bourgeoisie. In this thorough biography, no angle of Meyrinks' life is left unexamined: his drug use, multiple marriages, and stint in prison (wrongly incarcerated) are discussed in depth. Mitchell's biography is both fascinating, extensive and a bit speculative; Mitchell confesses up front to "a dearth of documentary evidence" and a comparative "wealth of anecdote... much of it published after his death, and much of it recounting fantastic events." Still, Mitchell excels at his concise organization and his ability to effectively portray Meyrink through both facts ("as far as they are ascertainable") and "as he appeared to his contemporaries, especially the younger ones." This examination of a dark, begrudging and sensational individual makes a for a supremely entertaining biography. Photos.
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