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“The city lies somewhere in the godforsaken southeastern part of Europe and is named Czernopol,” Gregor von Rezzori writes in the prelude to this major early novel, the first part of a trilogy based on the author’s childhood that would grow to include some of his finest work: the scintillating memoir The Snows of Yesteryear and the trickily titled novel Memoirs of an Anti-Semite. In The Ermine of Czernopol, Rezzori summons the disorderly and unpredictable energies of a town where everything in the world is seemingly mixed up together, a multicultural society that existed long before the idea of multiculturalism. The novel, ostensibly centered on the curious tragicomic fate of an Austrian officer of supreme ineffectuality, gathers a host of unlikely characters and their unlikelier stories by way of engaging the reader in a kaleidoscopic experience of a city where nothing is as it appears–a city of discordant voices, of wild ugliness and sometimes heartbreaking disappointment, but in which, for all that, “laughter was everywhere, part of the air we breathed, a crackling tension in the atmosphere, always ready to erupt in showers of sparks or discharge itself in thunderous peals.”
This first complete English translation of The Ermine of Czernopol makes a masterpiece of postwar literature available to American readers.
“The last great remembrancer of a region that has vanished from the map and mind of Europe.” -Michael Ignatieff, The New York Review of Books
“The novelist and memoirist Gregor von Rezzori was one of the last and most redoubtable links with a Mid-to-Eastern European world, rich in history and character, complex in nationality and ethnic allegiance, that has gone forever, devoured or dispersed through successive waves of rapaciously competitive nationalism…von Rezzori’s flair for language which he cultivated almost like a collector, with the occasional, carefully planted esoteric word that matched John Updike’s love for the look and the sound of rare words.” —The Independent (London)
“A philosophical novel on the nature of reality…nearly always intellectual exciting. Author von Rezzori writes with aphoristic flair and a hint of childlike wonder. He has produced a flashing novel of ideas, a species that ranks in rarity with the Tasmanian wolf and the Komodo dragon.” —TIME magazine
“To his admirers the silver-haired citizen of the world is a superb hewer of mocking phrases, a master of erudite allegory that springs from this quasi-aristo youth in the defunct Austro-Hungarian empire.” —The Toronto Star