Leo Perutz Criticism

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The Times Literary Supplement (essay date 1926)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of The Marquis de Bolibar, in The Times Literary Supplement, No. 1284, September 9, 1926, p. 594.

[In the following excerpt, the critic questions Perutz's handling of magic in The Marquis de Bolibar while offering a generally favorable review of the novel.]

The Marquis De Bolibar by Leo Perutz has considerable distinction; at its weakest one is conscious that there is a superior and original mind behind it. The plot is good enough, the characterization excellent, the air of a memoir well simulated. Where it fails is in the treatment of the magical events upon which the story mainly hinges. These are sometimes trivial and sometimes clumsy, and the fashion in which the tone changes from the ironical to the rhetorical when they are dealt with is unsatisfactory. It is, nevertheless, a novel quite out of the ordinary.

Its theme is an imaginary episode of the Peninsular War, the destruction by Spanish irregulars of two regiments of the Rhenish Confederation in the French service; and it is supposed to be an abridgment of the papers of Edward von Jochberg, the sole survivor. Jochberg tells us how the officers of one of these regiments, the Nassau Dragoons, brought the disaster upon themselves, almost of set purpose, in the grip of fate and of two guilty secrets shared by them: that they had all been lovers of the Colonel's dead wife, the beautiful Françoise-Marie, and that they had killed the Marquis de Bolibar because he had discovered the fact. As Bolibar was a spy, whom they would in any case have executed, as they were all soldiers of fortune far from squeamish in moral affairs, it does not appear why the second should have troubled them. Here the magic makes its appearance, in a form which it would be unfair—to readers as well as writer—to reveal. It is also represented in the figure of Captain de Salignac, the Wandering Jew in person, who is quite unnecessary to the plot save in so far as he brings ill-luck on those with whom he is associated. These blemishes apart, it is an excellent romance, high-coloured and swift in action, but at the same time intelligent.…

L. P. Hartley (essay date 1926)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of The Marquis de Bolibar, in The Saturday Review, London, Vol. 142, No. 3698, September 11, 1926, pp. 292-93.

[In the following excerpt, Hartley offers a generally enthusiastic appraisal of The Marquis de Bolivar.]

Romantic, heroic, symbolic, fantastic, obscure, occult—epithets that fit some aspect of The Marquis de Bolibar, suggest themselves readily enough. But it is much less easy to catch the author's whole intention and condense it in a word. Here is what purports to be an incident in the Peninsular War. The preface, a monument of Teutonic thoroughness, short but solid, introduces us to the memoirs of Edward von Jochberg who was, at the time of the capture of La Bisbal, a lieutenant in a Hessian regiment serving under Napoleon. Our interest, we must own, slumbered through Mr. Leo Perutz's well-worn device to awaken it: we learned that neither Dr. Hermann Schwartze, nor F. Krause, nor H. Leistikow, nor Fischer of Tülbingen, could offer an explanation of the mysterious destruction of the two regiments, but we were not impressed. We did not feel curious to know the gallant von Jochberg's secret.

But after reading a few pages we were consumed with curiosity, avid to learn. It is true, perhaps, that the best part of the book comes first; it never quite recaptures the excitement of the scene by the camp-fire when the Marquis de Bolibar hears of his nephew's perfidy:

"Is he dead?" asked the Marquis. He stood erect without moving, but his shadow danced madly as the flames leapt up, so that it looked as if it were not the old man, but his shadow, that was waiting with such anxiety for the Tanner's news.

"Many nations fight in the French Armies," said the Tanner, shrugging his shoulders, "Germans and Dutchmen, Neapolitans and Poles. So why, I ask you, shouldn't a Spaniard occasionally take service with the French?"

"Is he dead?" cried the Marquis.…


(The entire section is 4,531 words.)