The unlit auditorium of the huge theatre was a constant presence of authority and grandeur, containing in its looming interior the promise and threat of the evening lights and chatter, of the public who were its loving judges.
She had not yet seen this scar and wondered vaguely whether she would carry a visible mark; but she was too exhausted to get up and trail back into the bedroom where there was a looking-glass that would show her what she looked like.
This extraordinary and controversial novel is about Vienna; it centres on the fate of a classical actress, from the Anschluss of 1938 to the Russian invasion of Austria in 1945.
Julia Homburg's husband is a socialist politician, scholar and philosopher; he is also a Jew. The moment the advance agents of the Nazi Terror reach Vienna, the ancient crucible of an ordered and cultured society, the whole framework of his life is smashed: he must flee or hide, change suddenly from a man of position among friends into an outlaw; if caught he will be tortured and killed.
Julia succeeds in hiding him for all of the war years in their Vienna home.
This is the central thread of a story that holds many others; that embraces the destinies of a great cast of characters throughout the long rape of Viennese civilisation and culture. These charters are brilliantly imagined and developed, from Kerenyi, the man of independent mind always close to arrest, to Ruth, the helpless victim of the black madness that overtook Europe.
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This is an intense tale of love and betrayal set in wartime Vienna. Vienna, 1938: a place of high culture, gilded opera houses and intellectual salons. Beautiful actress Julia Homburg and her politician husband Franz Wedeker embody all the enlightened brilliance of their native city. But Wedeker is Jewish and just across the border the tanks of the Nazi Reich are primed for the Anschluss. When the SS invade, lists are drawn up and disappearances become routine, Franz must be concealed. With daring ingenuity, Julia conjures a hiding place. In the shadow of oppression the old certainties evaporate; the streets are full of spies and collaborators, allegiances shift and ancient hatreds resurface. A clear conscience is a luxury few can afford and Julia finds she must strike a series of hateful bargains with the new order if she and her husband are to survive.… (more)