Born in Romania between the wars, raised in poverty and washed up in Austria by the turmoil of war, Mrs Berta’s life was one of humiliation, pain and misery. Now in an old people’s home, she describes these violent events to the narrator. He in turn lives in the Pension Adler, with various tattooed, one-armed guests, as well as kindly Swedish women. In the home, with its shifty inmates and carers, he begins to feel comfortable, and takes detailed notes of Mrs Berta’s story.
Max Blaeulich’s novel illuminates every shade of despair there is. Yet existential loneliness has seldom been described with such assured language and unsparing precision since Kafka.
Hitler is in power, but not yet in his homeland. There, people are waiting to “come home” to the empire, some full of hope, some full of fear. Stackler is nobody who likes to wait, and above all he doesn’t know fear. The “illegal” Nazi gets prepared for his time of glory: Stackler, in the position of the head of the institute for racial research, wants to create the new man, wants to care for pure blood at university, to wipe out. The fact that “Miss March”, who doesn’t only assist him in scientific concerns, makes him a father of an illegitimate child is thereby very inconvenient. But what for does somebody like Stackler know the value of life...
“May I introduce myself, Professor Stackler, physiologist.” A person who introduces himself in such a dynamic and snappy way knows before all the others what’s happening, and he goose-steps ahead: up the job ladder, from one empire to the next, from one republic to the next and always sticking at nothing.
In the heart of the heart of the darkness: Max Blaeulich completes his trilogy about the wild Europe – an opus that can’t be compared to anything in German literature: pitiless, keen, radical.
Carried off to Europe as a slave, a souvenir of an Africa expedition Gatterbauertwo is second footman to his master Alois Gatterbauer and looking for his home Uganda. After a time of meandering and after many detours he ends up in Hungary, goes to the dogs, and at the home of Count Pallavicini he is to be turned into a cultivated, converted catholic butler. He learns quickly: manners, waiting, German – but most of all he learns to hate.
When heir apparent Franz Ferdinand is killed in Serbia and World War I breaks loose he is well prepared for his new role: He goes to war – for a strange emperor, a strange god, and a country that is not his.
How can you survive Europe, the wild continent, the permanent war in the heart of darkness? And what does humanity mean, when man is nothing more than a cue ball of foreign powers – slave, soldier, object to look on, object of lust, a commodity?
Based on meticulously researched historic material Max Blaeulich draws the picture of a society degenerated to the core: Europe, a culture where moral values have been perverted by racist arrogance and greed; Europe, gloriously stumbling across dead bodies from one catastrophe into the next.
The quote from Dostoevsky tunes in for a grotesque pitch. Blaeulich is a master of this field, and he is in good company: Gogol, Canetti, Gombrowicz, Carlo Emilio Gadda, Sergio Pitol, just to name a few. The genre of the grotesque itself is a blossom of baroque art. Blaeulich is a baroque author not only because of his characterisations, but also because of his roaming, straying, slope-searching way of storytelling. LEOPOLD FÖDERMAIER, NZZ
The Austro-Hungarian Empire on the eve of World War I: four white men set off for Uganda, each with a different purpose. Stackler, for instance, the physiologist, concerned with charting Africa by the body parts of its native inhabitants, is going in search of monstrosities. He finds one such in his bearer – two metres eight tall – whom he promptly names Kilimanjaro, and takes back to Vienna with him for research in racial studies.
As with Stackler, the research interests of all the others soon evince private madness which shows no respect and is marked by racism, colonialist arrogance and the overweening superiority of civilised people.
In this enterprising novel based on historical material, Max Blaeulich portrays a deeply decadent society which, through the perversion of its values, is itself responsible for the catastrophes which are to be its downfall.
In his novel Blaeulich virtuously combines historical facts and literary invention. (Paul Jandl, Neue Zürcher Zeitung)
A book that pares back our self-importance. Great reading it is in any case. (Anton Thuswaldner, Salzburger Nachrichten)
Max Blaeulich is a secret institution in this country... (Raoul Schrott)