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The Road into the Open Paperback – 1 Jul 1992

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Product details

  • Paperback: 314 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (1 July 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520077741
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520077744
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.8 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,523,509 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"Of [Schnitzler's] many extraordinary novels and novellas, I recommend "The Road into the Open. The reader is struck by the emotional clarity with which Schnitzler treats autobiograhical material, for the callous, philandering Georg is an aristocratic, de-Semiticized version of himself."--"New York Times Book Review

About the Author

Arthur Schnitzler (1862-1931), an Austrian physician, wrote novels, short stories, and plays, one of which, La Ronde, was the basis of a successful film. Roger Byers is an independent scholar and translator in Bradenton, Florida. Russell A. Berman is Professor of German and Comparative Literature at Stanford University.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Ralph Blumenau TOP 500 REVIEWER on 20 Sept. 2011
Format: Paperback
NOTE: THERE ARE A COUPLE OF SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.

The central figure in this novel (1908), set mainly in Vienna, is Georg von Wergenthien, an elegant young baron, a composer and would-be conductor. It depicts the society in which he moves, and in his circle are a number of Jews (as Schnitzler was himself), each representing a different response, ranging from Zionism to assimilationism, to the antisemitism that was rife in Viennese society. They frequently argue about their respective views in Georg's presence, often quite ignoring him (when they do not tell him that as a Gentile he can have no idea of what a problem antisemitism is for them). They evoke from Georg the occasional feeling how different they are from him, and not always pleasantly so. But whatever his feelings, he is always scrupulously polite.

Georg is a man without commitments, and something of a Luftmensch. He dabbles in composition rather than actively pursuing it as a career - he is in fact something of a fainéant, spends an enormous amount of time at soirées and other social gatherings, or going for strolls, either in company or alone. Like the author, Georg loves nature which is described lovingly and in detail. The bulk of the novel consists of conversations - about being Jewish, about music and drama, a little about Austrian politics at that time, about duelling, about fate, love and death - and of what Georg is thinking or remembering (long stream of consciousness passages), with relatively little in the way of action or development.

The main action is Georg's relationship with Anna Rosner, a school piano teacher (who is not Jewish). Here, too, his lack of true commitment is a main theme.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 8 reviews
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Masterly evocation of turn-of-the-century Vienna 13 Sept. 1996
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Ah, Schnitzler. That magnificent chronicler of old Imperial Vienna - the Vienna of sweet young things (usually working- or middle-class), slightly neurotic but charming young men (usually upper-class), and their fleeting love-affairs, terminated so easily once ennui starts to exceed pleasure, the Vienna of walks in the Prater and talks in the cafes (ever so full of interesting artistic types), the Vienna where the nostalgic strains of Johann Strauss provide a suitably bittersweet accompaniment to the beginning (or the ending) of the abovementioned love-affairs ...

All of which occur in The Road into the Open; nevertheless, the Vienna depicted here does not only consist of only the sweetened tableaux so frequently dismissively (and unfairly) attributed to Schnitzler. The easy charm of the Vienna here is extant, but by no means idealised - it masks the artistic impotence that seems to afflict nearly all of its inhabitants, haunted as they are by the sense of being epigonal; grandiose artistic projects are continually being talked about, but never executed, whether because of an aversion to actually setting them down on paper, or simply because of what is commonly called a "lack of inspiration". More sinisterly, it also masks the habitual anti-Semitism of what one of the characters wittily calls those of "indigenous physiognomy"; though written in 1908, there are passages that almost foreshadow the rise of Nazism. Schnitzler subtly intertwines the study of the individual with ruthlessly objective social commentary and evocation of the atmosphere (both artistic and political) of fin de siecle Vienna, to produce a fascinating book highly recommended not only for those with an interest in the period, but also for anyone who fancies a thought-provoking book
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
It recreates beautifully the atmosphere of Imperial Vienna. 1 Jan. 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Anybody interested in Viennese culture before World War I and between the wars ought to read this book. It portrays the atmosphere of a city that was one of the most influential centers of European culture, where contributions by the Jewish community were epoch-making and masterful. A must for anybody wanting to understand the marvel that was Europe.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A Realist Faust 6 Jun. 2009
By William Anderson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I'm not judging the translation, as I don't know that earlier 1922 translation.

I have few notes on this story, but my impression-- It's a realist Faust!

The girl dies, the boy thrives. Well, does he find the road into the open? It's there at least as a possibility. Either way, the Faust angle seems obvious to me.

Schnitzler is a positivist in the spirit of Ernst Mach. [The Vienna Circle of contemporary positivism was originally founded as the Ernst Mach Society.] Schnitlzer was a doctor, an MD. I find his work takes realism one step further, into the sphere of positivism. (What Varese, Babbitt & Boulez did in music.) Many have pointed out (including Freud), that Schnitler brings to bear upon his characters the observational faculties of a trained physician.

Here's another example--

A short story called *Flowers* can be found in translation in The Dedalus Anthology of Austrian Fantasy. A man's lover dies. Before his lover died, she had arranged to have flowers delivered to him regularly. She dies, the flowers keep coming. The flowers come and he thinks she sees her on the street below his window, but knows he is deluded. A realist ghost story.

I find my note in the margin, page 83--Leo is *naive*; Heinrich is *sentimental*. [AS IN SCHILLER'S NOTION OF NAIVE AND SENTIMENTAL POETRY.] I also note in the margin that Heinrich is like Mann's Naphta [in Magic Mountain]; and so Schnitzler's Heinrich must be Mann's Settembrini. Don't know if I got this right or not... Road Into the Opean is from 1908; Magic Mountain is later--1912!! Well, they're both inventing characters inspired by Schiller's dialectic.

Of course, Freud loved Schnitzler. Schnitzler didn't think of himself as a top-notch writer, but I do.

A must read--Schnitzler's *Fraulein Else*. Set in a Tirolian mountain resort, Fraulein Else's father pressures the young, young lady into rushing into a match with an abhorrent old bastard, for his money. She loses it, has a nervous breakdown. At the height of her distress over this situation, and under the influence of some well-intended drugs, she walks into the hotel lobby naked. [Shocking!!] She later dies of an overdose.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Avoiding commitment 20 Sept. 2011
By Ralph Blumenau - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
NOTE: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS A COUPLE OF SPOILERS.

The central figure in this novel (1908), set mainly in Vienna, is Georg von Wergenthien, an elegant young baron, a composer and would-be conductor. It depicts the society in which he moves, and in his circle are a number of Jews (as Schnitzler was himself), each representing a different response, ranging from Zionism to assimilationism, to the antisemitism that was rife in Viennese society. They frequently argue about their respective views in Georg's presence, often quite ignoring him (when they do not tell him that as a Gentile he can have no idea of what a problem antisemitism is for them). They evoke from Georg the occasional feeling how different they are from him, and not always pleasantly so. But whatever his feelings, he is always scrupulously polite.

Georg is a man without commitments, and something of a Luftmensch. He dabbles in composition rather than actively pursuing it as a career - he is in fact something of a fainéant, spends an enormous amount of time at soirées and other social gatherings, or going for strolls, either in company or alone. Like the author, Georg loves nature which is described lovingly and in detail. The bulk of the novel consists of conversations - about being Jewish, about music and drama, a little about Austrian politics at that time, about duelling, about fate, love and death - and of what Georg is thinking or remembering (long stream of consciousness passages), with relatively little in the way of action or development.

The main action is Georg's relationship with Anna Rosner, a school piano teacher (who is not Jewish). Here, too, his lack of true commitment is a main theme. He has made her pregnant; is really fond of her; travels with her to Italy when her pregnancy becomes visible; instals her in a village outside Vienna when the time for her confinement draws near; intends to make sure that she and their child will be provided for; but he shies away from marrying her: he feels he is too young to make such a commitment; and in fact he is not faithful to her. He is not alone in this kind of behaviour: other characters in the novel also have relationships with young women which they regard as temporary until other attractive women come within their ken. Members of the older generation disapprove ineffectually.)

Anna is a remarkable young woman. She does not seem to worry whether Georg will marry her or not. Her pregnancy makes her happy; she looks forward to being a mother - but then the child is still-born. The episode is the only one in the book that I found really compelling. Georg's emotions are for the first time profound; he is deeply distressed and feels he really needs to be with Anna. At this very moment he receives an urgent invitation from Detmold, a small town in Germany, to take on the position of stand-in conductor, which might lead to a long-term contract. He does not feel he can leave Anna; but she urges him not miss this chance, and so he accepts. She knows that Georg will never commit himself, and she is too proud bring any pressure on him. In the end they both know that their relationship has no future. Georg struggles a while with feelings of guilt, as anyone with the slightest amount of conscience would; and he engages in philosophical talk about guilt with a friend who has broken off a relationship with a girl who subsequently committed suicide. I have read somewhere that there are autobiographical elements in Schnitzler's portrayal of Georg; if so, he reproduces his own struggles as if on an analyst's couch - at the length, with the repetitiveness, and with the sort of self-centredness we have here. (Georg is the only character portrayed from within. All the others we get to know only through what they say to Georg or how he sees them.) Freud thought highly of Schnitzler's insights. In the end, Georg takes the way into "das Freie" of the German title, badly translated as "the Open". He wants to be free of responsibility, free of commitment, free to "do his own thing", whatever the impact of this is on someone for whom he after all feels affection - and it is extremely likely that, had the child lived, shattered though he was by its death, he would have behaved no differently.

I suppose the convincing portrayal of such a man would merit five stars; but I did not like the book enough for that, and also found it much too long and rambling. Zweig would have made a brilliant novella out of such a subject.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
THE novel of fin-de-siecle Vienna 30 Sept. 2007
By Yaakov Ben Shalom - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
It is too bad that Arthur Schnitzler doesn't have the same reputation in America and Britain that he enjoys in Germany and Austria. There, he is considered one of the great authors of the 20th century, and "The Road to the Open" is his great novel.

It depicts many aspects of life in fin-de-siecle Vienna. The world described by historians Carl Schorske, Allan Janik, and William M. Johnston is brought to life in this novel. Anti-Semitism, nationality conflict, the politics of friendship, gender and sexual relations, and music and art are major themes. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in the late Habsburg empire, whether the interest be politics, society, or culture.

Two aspects of Viennese society are particularly showcased in "The Road to the Open":
1) the world of music and musical patronage
2) the Jewish bourgeoisie

The professional ambitions of an aspiring composer provide the framework for the novel, which is suffused with references to the music of the era. The backdrop for the novel is the lives and struggles of Vienna's Jewish bourgeoisie. They encounter with increasing antisemitism. (This is the era of Karl Lueger.) And they clash with each other over Zionism, assimilationism, and socialism. (This is the era of Theodor Herzl.) Considering how central the Jewish bourgeoisie was to urban life in Central Europe from 1867 to 1918, it is surprising that "The Road to the Open" is practically the only prominent novel that places that group in its focus, making the novel all the more important.

The only reason why I am giving the novel 4 stars instead of 5 is the translation. The Northwestern University Press edition (copyright 1991) is merely a reprint of the 1922 translation. Though many readers like Horace Samuel's translation from 1922, I find that parts of it are too rough. In some instances, his literal renderings would make no sense to someone unfamiliar with the German original. Maybe, someday, there will be a fresh, more modern translation.
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