Alan Isler Critical Essays


(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Alan Isler The Prince of West End Avenue

Isler is an English-born American novelist and educator.

A production of Hamlet in a retirement home in New York City provides the setting in which Isler, in the voice of his narrator Otto Korner—a once-promising poet and survivor of the Auschwitz death camp—explores memory, old age, and twentieth-century history. Korner becomes the play's leading man and director upon the death of Adolphe Sinsheimer, another resident at the home. When a cherished letter, in which the poet Rainer Maria Rilke praised his writing, disappears, and when a new physical therapist arrives at the home who looks like his first love, Korner is stirred to recall his experiences before and during World War II and the Holocaust, and thereafter in America. Critics note that Isler treats this potentially somber material with gentle wit and insight. As Anita Brookner commented: "[The Prince of West End Avenue] is an excellent novel, not merely because every sentence is alive but because the reader might be persuaded that what is on offer is a mere comedy of manners. In fact Isler is several steps ahead of that reader on all counts, and it is his craft that one finally salutes."