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Severin's Journey into the Dark

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Paul Leppin, Severin's Journey into the Dark [Munich; 1914]

A Jewish writer of German based in Prague, Leppin inevitably begs comparison with his junior, Kafka, and the name of his protagonist inevitably recalls his senior, Sacher-Masoch. Severin's Journey into the Dark dwells uneasily in the space between Venus in Furs and The Castle, as a man descends into a psychological abyss through the twin engines of sexual domination and abnegation, and the rather more overpowering sensation of alienation under capitalism.

Nothing much, apart from some sexual encounters, actually happens in the book to merit its subtitle, but Leppin's evocation of dissociation, the degeneracy he diagnoses at the heart of the Hapsburg Empire, and the love-hate relationship Severin, a born flâneur, has with the city of Prague (the book could be traced on a city map as easily as Ulysses in Dublin) is worth spending time with. The last page feels more like the kick of a long-deferred comic-strip punchline than the climax of a novel, but in another way that's just more alienation. I really like Twisted Spoon's (the publisher) aesthetic, and I'm going to be seeking out more of their output.

April 5, 2017