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The Emperor Waltz (2014)

de Philip Hensher

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A novel with three narrative strands: 4th century Rome, Weimar Germany, and late 20th century London. In each place, a small coterie is closely connected and separated from the larger world. In each story, the larger world regards the small coterie and its passionately held beliefs and secrets with suspicion and hostility. It is the story of eccentricity, its struggle and its triumph.… (més)
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The Emperor Waltz is a post-modern novel consisting of five narratives, divided over ten sections. Two main narratives each consist of three sections, supplemented by three minor narratives and one concluding, dual narrative. The main narrative relates the fictional history of a gay bookshop in London. The novel itself seems to be an overturned book case, each narrative seemingly a pastiche of other gay novelists, the Twenties and Thirties for Stephen Spender or Christopher Isherwood, the Eighties and Nineties for Alan Hollinghurst, while the smaller fragments are not as easy to characterize, perhaps the Christian era episode as in the novels of Mary Renault, while the contemporary like Michael Cunningham, etc. What all these writers have in common, and what perhaps binds the five narratives is the theme of oppressions, persecution and phobia.

Unfortunately, each narrative is extremely superficial, while extremely wordy. The Emperor Waltz is a real door stopper. The Bauhaus episodes consist of a quasi historical novel set in the Weimar Republic, but the style does not quite emulate that of its historical predecessors, neither German-speaking nor English-speaking authors. The London Bookstore episodes are too obviously inspired by Hollinghurst to whom several very obvious references are made. Since this narrative is more or less contemporary, there is no particular stylistic challenge. The other fragments are very short.

Together with the decline of general bookstores, so-called gay bookstores have lost reasons for existence. The main narrative, namely that of the gay bookstore, is perhaps still of some interest as it documents this historical phenomenon of specialized bookstores which existed in large cities in western countries from about the mid-Eighties till about the beginning of this century, with some still surviving. However, their surmise is not succumbing to homophobic repression but rather a decline in interest to shop with specialized retailers, as likewise general acceptance has apparently led to the decline or disappearance of gay bars in many places, while shopping and dating have migrated to the Internet or blended in with general sites.

The Emperor Waltz or in German the Kaiser-Walzer (opus 437) is a waltz composed by Johann Strauss. It was originally titled "Hand in Hand" symbolic as a 'toast of friendship' between the two emperors of Germany and Austria-Hungary. ( )
1 vota edwinbcn | Feb 8, 2019 |
This is a portmanteau book, in which parallel and contrasting narratives are designed to fit together to produce a wider story of change, rebellion and revolution - from the start of Christianity to the acceptance of gay rights. Along the way we see gestures - intentional and accidental - we see how rebellion can become stifled or turn into the norm. And we see ghosts and echos across time - some more subtle than others. The title is appropriate to the style of the narrative - themes with variations, dominants and sub-dominants; some themes that develop and reverberate, others that exist only for a brief moment, or go nowhere. As ever, Hensher mixes rebarbative with lyrical; modern teenage slang with the domesticity of love; rough sex with abstract creativity; the absurd comedy of Weimar hyper inflation with the looming shadow of the Nazis. Hensher is always vivid, interesting and readable.
1 vota otterley | Oct 27, 2014 |
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Philip Hensherautor primaritotes les edicionscalculat
Bentinck, AnnaNarradorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
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'You will have brought your own towels and bedlinen,' Frau Scherbatsky said, in her lowered, attractive, half-humming voice, 'as I instructed, as I suggested, Herr Vogt, in my telegram.
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A novel with three narrative strands: 4th century Rome, Weimar Germany, and late 20th century London. In each place, a small coterie is closely connected and separated from the larger world. In each story, the larger world regards the small coterie and its passionately held beliefs and secrets with suspicion and hostility. It is the story of eccentricity, its struggle and its triumph.

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