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My first wife by Jakob Wassermann
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My first wife

by Jakob Wassermann

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I usually love everything I read from NYRB Classics, but this one was a chore to finish with few rewards. In this book, a disguised memoir (and actually an excerpt from a trilogy), the author, against his better judgment, marries an unstable woman and pays for it for the rest of his life (literally).

Unfortunately, Wasserman shows very little awareness of his role in his wife's behavior, and just as little interest in considering her motivations. Instead, we get an endless litany of injustices and indignities inflicted on him and no resolution. It's a relief when the book arbitrarily comes to an end. ( )
  giovannigf | Jan 15, 2016 |
The candour and extremity and intelligence of My First Wife are profoundly affecting, for they serve and honour their subject: Wassermann does it justice, the catastrophe that is the separation of one human being from another, the breaking of what "even now, even now" he half-believes to be "mystical union". This is a literary masterwork of a vanished kind, but through the remarkable Hofmann it is born again as a story for our age. Hofmann has the rare ability to refresh the very heart of a text in translating it, to increase its connections to life. And this is a text whose moment has come, because it wins by the route of art so many of the arguments in which the memoir form is bogged down, whereby personal truth is invariably demeaned as "dirty laundry".
added by peterbrown | editThe Guardian, Rachel Cusk (Dec 6, 2012)
 
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0141389354, Hardcover)

"My First Wife" is Jakob Wassermann's intense, powerful account of a marriage - and its ruinous collapse - translated by the award-winning translator of "Alone in Berlin", Michael Hofmann. It is the story of Alexander Herzog, a young writer, who goes to Vienna to escape his debts and a failed love affair. There he is pursued by book-loving Ganna: giddy, girlish, clumsy, eccentric and wild. Dazzled and unnerved by her devotion to him, and attracted to the large dowry offered by her wealthy father, he thinks he can mould Ganna into what he wants. But no-one can control her troubling passions. As their marriage starts to self-destruct, Herzog will discover that Ganna has resources and determination of which he had no idea - and that he can never escape her. Posthumously published in 1934 and based on the author Jakob Wassermann's own ruinous marriage, "My First Wife" bears the unmistakable aura of true and bitter experience. It is a tragic masterpiece that unfolds in shocking detail. Now this story of rare intensity and drama is brought to English readers in a powerful new translation by Michael Hofmann. Reviews: "The candour and extremity and intelligence of "My First Wife" are profoundly affecting...This is a literary masterwork of a vanished kind, but through the remarkable Hofmann it is born again as a story for our age. Hogmann has the rare ability to refresh the very heart of a text in translating it, to increase its connections to life". (Rachel Cusk, "Guardian"). "Like something out of Chekhov - it's all there, the ennui, the preening etiquette, the intellectual posturing ...painfully heartfelt..."My First Wife" is a devastating indictment of the choices we make out of convenience against our hearts and instincts, and the tragedies that ensue". ("Independent"). "You won't find a more agonising, fascinating literary account of a marriage hitting the rocks". ("Mail Online").

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:07 -0400)

Alexander Herzog, a young writer, goes to Vienna to escape his debts and a failed love affair. There he is pursued by book-loving Ganna: giddy, girlish, clumsy, eccentric and wild. Dazzled and unnerved by her devotion to him, and attracted to the large dowry offered by her wealthy father, he thinks he can mould Ganna into what he wants. But no-one can control her troubling passions. As their marriage starts to self-destruct, Herzog will discover that Ganna has resources and determination of which he had no idea - and that he can never escape her.… (more)

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