Andreas by Olivier Berggruen
This novel from the great Austrian poet, dramatist, essayist and librettist, Hugo von Hoffmansthal Andreas is a fascinating insight into the work of this renowned author. Andreas is an unfinished and posthumously-published novel of violence and naivety, pathos and melancholy. Set in the eighteenth century, it tells the story of a young Viennese aristocrat who intends to travel alone to Venice as the first stage of his 'Grand Tour';. On his journey, he acquires an unsavoury servant who unleashes a trail of destruction and violence, which taints and corrupts Andreas' first experience of love. Andreas' loss of innocence takes place in the misty alleyways and gloomy palaces of La Serenissima, whose masked inhabitants confuse and entice him, the women either madonnas or whores indistinguishable behind their masks. Hugo von Hoffmansthal (1874-1929) was a writer of poems and plays from a young age. As a teenager, he met Stefan George, and had several poems published in his journal Blatter fur die Kunst. He went on to study in Vienna, and along with Peter Altenberg and Arthur Schnitzler, was a member of the avant-garde group Young Vienna (Jung Wien). He went on to write the libretti for several operas composed by Richard Strauss, including Elektra and Der Rosenkavalier. During the First World War, the conservative Hoffmansthal wrote speeches and articles praising the war effort. He was devastated by the post-war dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but continued with his work, founding the Salzburg Festival in 1925, along with Max Reinhardt. In 1939 his son committed suicide, and two days later Hoffmansthal died of a stroke.