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An Ermine in Czernopol (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – 8 Mar 2012

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Product details

  • Paperback: 376 pages
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics; 1 edition (8 Mar. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590173414
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590173411
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 2 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 574,329 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


Any reader of European literature who has not read Gregor von Rezzori has commited the unthinkable. This is the rare writer who writes with unmatched beauty and skill while celebrating the joys of life.

(Gary Shteyngart)

This wonderful book--literally, a book full of wonders--which lived for too long in shadow, has been brought fully to light by Philip Boehm's lustrous new translation. An Ermine of Czernopol may at last take its place on the shelf alongside The Tin Drum and One Hundred Years of Solitude.

(John Banville)

It is time that it now took its rightful place among the classics of 20th-century literature.


Demonstrates how great writing can emerge from a mishmash of nationalities, relitions, cultures, political philosophies and sexual habits

(Jewish Chronicle)

Rezzori has a distinctively individual voice, and readers fascinated by Eastern Europe between Habsburg and Hitler will be well served by Philip Boehm's spirited translation of his rich, often lush prose.


About the Author

Gregor von Rezzori (1914-1998) studied at the University of Vienna and for a time lived in Bucharest. Von Rezzori's books include Tales from Maghrebinia, Oedipus Triumphs at Stalingrad, The Hussar, The Death of My Brother Abel, and Anecdotage. He lived with his wife in a village near Florence, Italy, until his death. His Memoirs of an Anti-Semite was reissued by NYRB Classics in 2007.

Philip Boehm is the author of numerous translations from Polish and German, including works by Franz Kafka, Ida Fink, and Christoph Hein.

Daniel Kehlmann's Measuring the World was translated into more than forty languages. Awards his work has received include the Candide Prize, the Literature Prize of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, the Heimito von Doderer Literature Award, the Kleist Prize, the WELT Literature Prize, and the Thomas Mann Prize. Kehlmann divides his time between Vienna and Berlin. His most recent book to be translated into English is Fame.

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This is a curate's egg of a novel, good in parts. The best parts are very good indeed. The chapter in which the daughter of a psychiatrist at the Czernopol lunatic asylum produces some poems composed or otherwise recalled by an inmate is absolutely first rate. So is the chapter describing a riot following an inter-community football match. By contrast, some less-inspired but over-extended descriptive sections are tedious. A passage about the wild birds of Czernopol that reveals no real familiarity with the species described is one such, though by no means the longest.

The answer to the question, 'What is this book about?' is, nominally, an army officer by the name of Tildy. Tildy's rigid discipline, especially self-discipline, dating from his time in the Austro-Hungarian army - swept away, along with so much else, by the First World War - gets him into deep trouble. The model for Tildy is to some extent Don Quixote, but he lacks a Sancho Panza to mitigate the consequences of his 'madness'. Tildy's actions have ramifications for a host of other people, and that leads us to the second and perhaps better answer to what the book is about; it's about Czernopol (modern day Chernivtsi, Ukraine) in the interwar years.

Tildy's story, and that of Czernopol, is as seen through the eyes of a child. For von Rezzori it is, therefore, to some extent autobiographical. His narrator is a young boy. He has siblings; they do most things together but, curiously, we never discover how many brothers or sisters, or anything more about any of them other than Tanya, the eldest.

In the novel, as in reality, the largest of the many racial/language/cultural groups in Czernopol in those years was Jewish.
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