The Last Bell by Johannes Urzidil
Book Review: 4 out of 5 stars
Johannes Urzidil belonged to the literary circle in Prague that included both Franz Kafka, Franz Werfel and Max Brod. When Czechoslovakia was occupied by Nazi Germany in 1939, he came to the United States. He was living in the US in the 50’s and 60’s when these short stories were written. He was awarded quite a few literary prizes during his career. The asteroid 70679 Urzidil was named after him. Although his books were published in many other countries, his work has been overlooked here. This is the first publication of The Last Bell in the United States so it’s quite a literary event. The stories are mostly about the outcome of ordinary events when something unexpected happens.
“The Last Bell”
Marska is a fortunate maid. Her Jewish master and mistress have fled the Nazis and have left all of their belongings and money to her. However, her fortune takes a turn when she invites her sister Joska to live with her and her fortune becomes a hinderance. This tale is the saddest in the book, although it’s written in a light manner and humorous manner. The author’s humor makes the horror of this story all that more real.
“The Duchess of Albanera”
This is a fantastical story of the theft of a painting and the precarious slip of his sanity as the thief falls in love with the painting.
This is a moralistic tale of a travel agent who has never traveled himself but can spin a complicated web of lies that he gets tangled in.
Ottilie is a gifted young girl who finds it difficult to conform to ordinary life. She witnesses an event that plunges her into despair. This magical tale is my favorite in the book.
“Where the Valley Ends”
A tale of how discord among neighbors over a stolen cheesecake can lead to war. Such a small incident grows completely out of proportion.
This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.