(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

This loosely structured, episodic novella relates the last passionate, troubled, exhilarating summer of the middle-age Klingsor, a leading European painter. It begins with a preface, in which the narrator reports that Klingsor died in the fall. No one knows the circumstances of his death; there are rumors that he went mad and that he committed suicide. He was always known for his heavy drinking. The narrative then moves on to vivid, impressionistic snapshots of Klingsor’s life during that last, wild summer.

He is first seen at night, on the balcony of his studio, situated in the lush Italian countryside. He is strained by overwork, lack of sleep, and intense, voluptuous living. Still, he is accustomed to extravagance. He thinks of his girlfriend Gina, a girl half his age, and he studies the work he has accomplished during the day.

In the next episode, Klingsor receives a visit from his old friend, a fellow painter whom he calls Louis the Cruel or Louis the Bird. Together, they argue good-naturedly about the respective callings of work, art, and sensual enjoyment. Louis is a bon viveur, and he and Klingsor spend the day together in a nearby town with Louis’ beautiful woman friend. After some days pass, Louis leaves suddenly, as is his custom. He was always happier when traveling.

With a group of artistic friends, including the writer Hermann, whom Klingsor calls Tu Fu, Klingsor visits the village of Kareno. He walks through mountain paths and lush vegetation, with a view of lakes and forests. There is a philosophical discussion about death and the passage of time, and Klingsor reflects passionately on the need to live in the present. The group reaches a tiny village at the summit of the mountain path, where Klingsor is captivated by the sight of one of the local women. He later meets another sensual young woman whom he calls the Queen of the Mountain; he sees her through his visionary, artistic eyes. Continuing the journey,...

(The entire section is 805 words.)