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The Last Summer

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Ricarda Huch, The Last Summer [Berlin; 1910]

Among the many names this project has introduced me to for the first time, Ricarda Huch stands out prominently, and I can only conclude I hadn't heard of her before due to sexism. She was a peer of Thomas Mann, Gerhart Hauptmann, and Arthur Schnitzler, a scholar, historian, and novelist with a broad and penetrating understanding of the forces which shaped the modern world.

This epistolary novella, one of her lighter and more frivolous works -- on the surface a taut thriller told through the inconsequent chatter of a family on holiday -- still takes time to think deeply, if briefly, about the loyalty owed to unjust systems, about the demands which ideology carves out of a person, about the arrested development which the protection of class and power require. Although it's set in Russia for the convenience it lends the plot, the social dynamics, and Huch's gimlet eye for self-deception, are thoroughly German. English writers of the period would catalogue the individual idiosyncracies of character with softer tones, but because of their woolly sympathy would be unable to actually commit that last page, where Huch is ruthless, and deeply funny because of it.

This is the second time in a week I've been reminded of the method and manner of Alfred Hitchcock: although it's a novel of ideas from 1910, Huch is practically as hard-boiled as the 30s.

October 24, 2017