Gregor von Rezzori V. S. Pritchett - Essay

V. S. Pritchett

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Those who expect the sensational or a tract from Rezzori's title ["Memoirs of an Anti-Semite"] will find something very different. He might even be described as anti-Semite manqué, coming from a country where anti-Semitism—among other "anti" passions—was endemic by tradition. More accurately, like the arrogant young Jewish pianist whose gifts enchanted him but of whom he was violently jealous for other reasons when he was thirteen, Rezzori is an artist with a demon in him.

The episode with the young pianist occurs in the first of the four half-fictional disquisitional stories in which this vivid to-ing and fro-ing autobiography is enclosed. They are speculative dramatizations of the myths against which he rebelled in a youth that went adrift in the political catastrophes in the Middle Europe of his past. In an epilogue his mind scurries through a kind of reverie about some of the private disasters of his middle years which had not taken story form. This, I think, is a loss. But his conclusion revives a very generalized misanthropy which reminds one of Spengler's Decline of the West: the once confident Western "goys" themselves may, in their turn, become displaced persons, too gifted for a banal proletarian dispensation.

The word "troth" spoken by the most engaging and sisterly of the Jewish women the author has been in love with is at the heart of all his stories of a changing self. For his father, a minor landowner is Bukovina, troth means an inherited loyalty to the Austro-Hungarian Empire….

The father's sense of caste brought boredom into the house, and as a boy the author suffered long spells of what the Russians call skushno, i.e., an ennui, a sense of "a spiritual void that sucks you in like a vague but intensely urgent longing." The longing is strongly influenced by the fact that the boy is the...

(The entire section is 775 words.)