Gregor von Rezzori Robert C. Healey - Essay

Robert C. Healey

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

In his childish innocence the nameless young narrator of this affectionate Old-World chronicle ["The Hussar"] had worshipped [a] colorful hussar as a quixotic white knight….

[Gregor von Rezzori] uses the hussar as a wonderful excuse to explore the local folkways and to remember lovingly the wonder of growing up in … a heady and volatile atmosphere. As he doggedly follows the tenuous thread of Major Tildy's misfortunes, he introduces half the inhabitants of Tchernopol, where half a dozen nationalities and religions jostle for attention. Except for an ugly current of anti-Semitism, life is thoroughly relaxed and good-humored.

The leisurely and episodic narrative is dexterously held together by an engaging point of view that neatly blends the wide-eyed wonder of a child with the disenchantment of a remembering adult. The initial tone of gentle irony and satire melts into a mood of elegiac sadness for a city that could debase a proud hussar and allow a soccer match to explode into a short vicious pogrom. Though obviously autobiographical in inspiration, "The Hussar" is far more than a collection of scrappy memories. It is an extremely artful and frequently witty evocation of all the charms and contradictions of a bustling Central European city.

Robert C. Healey, "Sad, Witty and Charming," in New York Herald Tribune Book Review (© I.H.T. Corporation; reprinted by permission), May 29, 1960, p. 8.