Additional Book Information
Series: NYRB Classics
Publication Date: July 9, 2019
by Kurt Tucholsky, translated from the German by Michael Hofmann
Kurt Tucholsky was a journalist, satirist, feuilletonist, polemicist, and poet, all in all one of the most versatile, provocative, and winning writers of the Weimar Republic; Castle Gripsholm, a short novel about an enchanted summer, which came out in 1931, is the best and most beloved of his works. The book begins with correspondence: Tucholsky’s publisher wants a short novel, light, funny, otherwise about whatever Tucholsky wants; Tucholsky is perfectly happy to oblige, presuming the money is right. A deal is eventually struck and the story is off: about Peter, a writer, and his girlfriend Lydia (aka the Princess), and a summer vacation from the hurly-burly of Berlin. Peter and the Princess have three weeks at their disposal, and they have rented a small house attached to a historic castle in Sweden, with its long days and white nights, three weeks for swimming and walking and sex and talking and visits with Peter’s buddy Karlchen and with Billy, who is the Princess’s best friend. It is perfect, until they meet a weeping girl fleeing the cruel headmistress of a home for children. The vacationers decide they must free the girl and send her back to her mother in Switzerland, which brings about an encounter with authority that casts a worrying shadow over their radiant summer idyll. Soon they must go back to Germany. What kind of fairy tale are they living in?
[A] monument to the loss of faith in language and the depredations upon creativity brought about by large-scale political evil...the formal disjointedness which terror and despair evidently incited now reads as more truthful—it’s certainly far more moving—than ever a more finished fiction, a more polished satire would have been.
The first writers that come to mind when reading Tucholsky are Nabokov and Ford...[Tucholsky is] a master of the studied nonchalance of the tidily perverse.
—The Times (London)
One of the most brilliant writers of republican Germany...Tucholsky was known and feared for his sharp wit by all his enemies in Germany. More than anyone else, he foresaw what was coming there. What his readers enjoyed as capricious fantasies of a clever satirist [were] enacted in bitter reality.
—The New York Times
The author, a polemical journalist during the last days of the Weimar Republic, chose in this, his only novel, to write about the pleasures of wine and women and the gratifications of friendship, and to do so in prose so luminous and exuberant that the bitterness of real life in the children’s home seems an intrusion. He has given us characters of wit and charm, who, even though they rescue one forlorn child, are powerless against the rising tide of horror.