1. Philip Boehm Is Awarded the Wolff Translators Prize for An Ermine in Czernopol

    We are thrilled for translator Philip Boehm, who was awarded last night with the Helen and Kurt Wolff Translators Prize from the Goethe-Institut Chicago for his translation of An Ermine in Czernopol, by Gregor von Rezzori. In celebration, here’s an example of what the judges deemed a translation “rich in alliteration, assonance, elaborate sentence structure, and changing rhythms.” We couldn’t agree more…

    The prefect dyed his mustache and his bushy eyebrows coal black, and, in contrast to the gray, close-shorn stubble on his head, they looked as if they had been pasted on, which gave him the implausible appearance of a stage magician. His pearly, perfectly regular teeth seemed so obviously false we were always afraid he might lose them, or, even worse, that they would declare themselves independent and start snapping of their own malicious accord while he was kissing some lady’s hand, which he did freely and with great frequency.

    —from the chapter, “The Landscape of Tescovina; Herr Tarangolian the Prefect,” in von Rezzori’s An Ermine of Czernopol

  2. "For Gregor von Rezzori the past was not another country, it was several."

    In Gregor von Rezzori’s fiction, the end of childhood inevitably turns encounters with surroundings that are rich and strange into ‘routine interaction with the all-too-familiar.’ But the numinous experiences of childhood can be stored like treasures in the foundation of the soul as motifs or images that resurface with a sensation of secret recognition, of ‘déjà vu mingled with nostalgia’ when we come across pale reflections of them later in life. Mourning his lost ability to perceive the world with the rapture of his childhood, the Ermine’s narrator speculates that ‘[p]erhaps our soul is capable of little more than tracing the secret essence of these basic motifs through everything it encounters.’ Even if true, all is not inevitably lost as long as there are books like An Ermine in Czernopol and The Snows of Yesteryear to reverse, or at least suspend, the fossilization of adulthood by opening our eyes, like treasure maps to the glories of a lost era, to the mysterious core of the mundane.

    —Tess Lewis wrote a wonderful essay about Gregor von Rezzori’s world, both real and fictional, in the Spring 2012 issue of The Hudson Review. If you’re a Proust fan, definitely check out An Ermine in Czernopol.

  3. As part of the PEN World Voices Festival back in May, Deborah Eisenberg, Michael Cunningham, Daniel Kehlmann, and Edmund White came down to the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York to talk about Gregor von Rezzori and his Bukovina trilogy (An Ermine in Czernopol, Memoirs of an Anti-Semite, and The Snows of Yesteryear). It was a really great talk, with dissenting opinions but overall admiration for Rezzori’s work. Also, at around the 1:04 mark (though the video gets a bit spotty), a woman who grew up in Bukovina (a region split between Romania and Ukrania now, but with a very mixed cultural history over the last century), and whose parents were in Rezzori’s generation makes a very interesting point about anti-semitism at the time, and how it relates to Rezzori’s treatment of their shared homeland.

  4. vintageanchor:

“Dealing with people, my friends, is really nothing more than a question of the price that one is willing to pay. The better you understand life, the more capital you build.”  ― Gregor von Rezzori, An Ermine in Czernopol

    vintageanchor:

    “Dealing with people, my friends, is really nothing more than a question of the price that one is willing to pay. The better you understand life, the more capital you build.”
    ― Gregor von Rezzori, An Ermine in Czernopol

  5. A Place Out of Time - Gregor von Rezzori’s Bukovina Trilogy

    As part of the annual PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature, Michael Cunningham, Deborah Eisenberg, Daniel Kehlmann (who wrote the introduction to the recently published An Ermine in Czernopol) and Edmund White will discuss Gregor von Rezzori and his Bukovina Trilogy: Memoirs of an Anti-Semite, The Snows of Yesteryear, and An Ermine in Czernopol, at the Museum of Jewish Heritage on Sunday, May 6th at 1 pm.

    The talk will be moderated by our editor Edwin Frank, and will be of special interest to those fascinated both by foreign literature (particularly Central Europe) and the story of an area (Bukovina) increasingly split between the Romanian, Ukrainian, German, Russian, Polish, and Jewish inhabitants after the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Hanging over all the events and characters in the novels is the specter of the rise of the Nazis and the horrors to follow. If you book your tickets through our site as NYRB readers, you will get a $5 discount for the event!

    "I treasure lovely images of my past in that part of the world. I will never find them elsewhere again. I have been back to the now-Russian part of the Bukovina twice. In both cases, I saw myself as a stranger looking backwards at a young man whom I distantly knew but who had very little to do with me." - Gregor von Rezzori, in conversation with Andre Aciman in Salamagundi. For more on Rezzori check out BOMB Magazine, Issue 24, Summer 1988

  6. John Wray reviews An Ermine in Czernopol

    Ermine has been likened by the novelist John Banville to both The Tin Drum and One Hundred Years of Solitude, although a more instructive comparison might be to the European novels of Vladimir Nabokov. Like Nabokov, Rezzori was a refugee from the Soviet transfiguration of his homeland, and as such the chronicler of a world lost twice over: in mourning their respective childhoods, both authors’ narrators are mourning an entire way of life. But whereas Nabokov saw the Bolshevik Revolution as the criminal triumph of vulgarity over refinement, vulgarity is a defining element of the culture that Rezzori celebrates. His Czernopol is a coarse, grotesque place, as self-serving as the police state that will soon come to replace it; its saving grace is its ability to make light of its own wickedness. If Rezzori had sat in judgment over the Old Testament cities of the plain, one suspects they would have come away with a fine and a few dozen hours of community service.

        -   John Wray reviewing Gregor von Rezzori’s An Ermine in Czernopol in this week’s The New York Times Book Review. There are some big fans of Lowboy at the office, and so were thrilled to read such an enthusiastic, as well as insightful, article from its author.

  7. 
Gregor von Rezzori: What is reality?
Bruce Wolmer: What is reality and what is fiction and what are the transformations and negotiations between them? You plainly dislike the society of information, the society of media, where people think they’re getting reality from newspapers, television, and magazines. Instead, you’ve said that Anna Karenina—now there’s reality!
Gregor von Rezzori: Do you remember in Abel there is a long, long, perhaps much too long passage on the narrator’s having an affair with a girl who lives in one of those postwar high-rises. He visits her and thinks about the fictitious reality forced on us by the media and how you lose your identity because you don’t know who you are to cope with all these things which are much beyond your reach, beyond your personal sphere. I mean everything in our time is done, is given, to lose your identity. Then, of course, you have to go look for it, to put it primitively.
—BOMB 24, 1988

    Gregor von Rezzori: What is reality?

    Bruce Wolmer: What is reality and what is fiction and what are the transformations and negotiations between them? You plainly dislike the society of information, the society of media, where people think they’re getting reality from newspapers, television, and magazines. Instead, you’ve said that Anna Karenina—now there’s reality!

    Gregor von Rezzori: Do you remember in Abel there is a long, long, perhaps much too long passage on the narrator’s having an affair with a girl who lives in one of those postwar high-rises. He visits her and thinks about the fictitious reality forced on us by the media and how you lose your identity because you don’t know who you are to cope with all these things which are much beyond your reach, beyond your personal sphere. I mean everything in our time is done, is given, to lose your identity. Then, of course, you have to go look for it, to put it primitively.

  8. An Ermine in Czernopol

    You may have noticed that we’ve been talking a lot recently about Gregor von Rezzori’s An Ermine in Czernopol. It’s because it’s a bit of a staff favorite, and it has been getting a lot of reviews and attention, and next week Wallace Shawn and Deborah Eisenberg will be reading from it next week.

    Reviews:

    The Nation
    The Rumpus
    waggish
    The Spectator
    Bookforum (sorry, article is behind a paywall)
    The Quarterley Conversation
    The Three Percent

    Event:

    It’s next Wednesday (2/22) at 7pm at The Center for Fiction. Again, Deborah Eisenberg and Wallace Shawn will be reading.

    Staff Favorite:

    Just personal taste. Plus our edition translated by Philip Boehm is a new and vastly improved.

  9. The Glory of the Sunken

    Rezzori’s novel is enjoyable for the sly elegance of his language and for the lively rogue’s gallery he peoples his Czernopol with. It’s valuable for the baroque, nostalgic, ironic yet clear-eyed recreation of a world now long gone, stamped to death beneath the Nazi jackboot. But literature of the first rank must speak to us of our own time as well, must in some way convict or console us in our humanness, and this Rezzori’s novel does; for our world, like the profane and achingly beautiful one he depicts, is a world of uncertain values, a world of upheaval, ‘a world that has too many claims to validity, too many equivalences, too many relativities.’ To revive this novel for a wide readership, there’s no time like the present.

    - from Brian Patrick Eha’s review of Gregor von Rezzori’s An Ermine in Czernopol in The Rumpus

  10. Gregor von Rezzori

    I’m coming to believe that Gregor von Rezzori (1914-1998) was one of the greatest postwar German-language writers. His work has a sensitivity and more significantly an intelligence stronger than so many of his contemporaries. His socio-intellectual analysis, in particular, stands respectively close to that of his avowed hero Robert Musil, even though Rezzori implicitly acknowledges that he can’t match him. (Rezzori even wrote a long unfinished two-part novel, The Death of My Brother Abel/Cain, just as Musil did. I have yet to read it)

         — David Auerbach, in a review of An Ermine of Czernopol from his blog Waggish.

  11. An Ermine in Czernopol by Gregor von Rezzori

    Gregor von Rezzori’s An Ermine in Czernopol got a great review in the British magazine The Spectator's “Book Club”. It’s a bit of a staff favorite here as well :

    The novel is a sensuous celebration of the variety and detail of life, and of the distinctive perceptions of childhood, which readers will be inclined to compare with Proust. It is a profound reflection on a period that generated the anti-Semitic pogroms which culminated in the Nazis, though it does not in any way feel dated.

  12. An Ermine in Czernopol

    This past week we released An Ermine in Czernopol by Gregor von Rezzori in an original translation by Philip Boehm. Reminiscent of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, the story is about the childhood of a brother and sister growing up in a declining aristocratic family in Czernopol, a town with a breathtaking melange of ethnicities (Jewish, Germany, Romanian, Russian, etc.), no longer part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire after WWI, part of Romania at the time of the novel, and now in the Ukraine. It is difficult to describe all the eccentric characters that fascinate and form the children, but we thought these two paragraphs might give a good sense:

    The images from those days seem as far-removed as the untold fairy tales and legends that filled it with such wonders. Just like these stories, our childhood may be told and may even come to life in the telling, although the unmistakeable quality of its reality cannot be reproduced. And even if this reality is awakened inside us for a few moments, in all its layered complexity, and speaks to us so directly and urgently that it causes us to shudder, what we then hear doesn’t seem entirely our own, but rather the voice of the past itself, lamenting that which is lost, and which continues to dwindle into oblivion, with us and around us, with every passing hour.

    'We are like housing of an hourglass,' Herr Tarangonlian used to say, when he felt obliged to admit that his memory was beginning to deteriorate with age. 'Our consciousness is its narrow waist, unable to hold on to what passes through. Only the distant filling spaces cast back a vague reflection. To perceive something in a way it won't be forgotten we have to become aware of its presence without looking at it. You have to look past something in order to see it in full.'

  13. "It was as if the world’s breath had stopped, and this rigidity struck us as a foretaste of eternity."

    Chernivtsi University in early January. Photo by Snow Rabbit.

    "We loved winter in the city, especially in the gardens that skirted our street. And particularly the heart of winter, January, which brought Christmas, according to the reckoning of the Orthodox Church. We loved its dryness and severity, its veiled light in the frost, when the snow that had blanketed the entire landscape and erased all shapes finally subsided, and the contours emerged crisp and clear out of the immaculate white—no longer tinged with gray or yellow like on the days weighted with snow clouds—and were finally covered with a brittle, icy down like a tender mildew, lending a fragility to the hard surfaces and muting the colors that still shone through here and there—such as the dark brick red of the neighboring home, which we could now see, as if through a filter that simultaneously softened shapes and heightened them. Things then spoke to us with a more serious purpose, they gained deeper meaning, acquired a timeless symbolism. Nothing captured winter’s adamantine quality better than the beautiful Christmas carol that Miss Rappaport taught us: “… earth stood hard as iron, / water like a stone.” It was as if the world’s breath had stopped, and this rigidity struck us as a foretaste of eternity, when nothing would move or breathe anymore—only frightening at first glance, and festive as death at the second. We were completely taken by the white splendor, so full of promise, so powerful that it could turn any drop of water into a frozen star, that we asked ourselves whether a Christian who had never known winter would be capable of understanding why the Lord was born at this time of year and not in spring. Because in winter the world clearly became wider and freer; the horizons burst open. Bushes, trees, and shrubs that when in leaf merely simulated the depth of the landscape, like a forest backdrop on a stage, now turned transparent, while the gossamer branches and twigs, as spare as those inked on a Japanese brush-drawing, preserved the intact forms—just like the delicate spiderweb ribs of the maple leaf—and indeed it was this bareness that first brought the forms to light, by opening a view to the distance, from where, tinted orange as if in an eternal dawn, the heavens ascended."

    From An Ermine in Czernopol by Gregor von Rezzori, out January 10, 2012.

    [A note on the name: Rezzori was born in Czernowitz, then part of Austro-Hungarian Empire. The city is now known by its Ukranian name, Chernivtsi. He set many of his books in his hometown, which he fictionalized as Czernopol.]