May 23, 2014 7:03 pm

‘Married Life’, by David Vogel

Married Life, by David Vogel, Scribe, RRP£16.99, 512 pages

 

David Vogel led a restless life. He was born in the Russian Pale, and flitted between Vienna, Paris, Tel Aviv and Palestine, before being fatally imprisoned by the Nazi regime in 1944.

Married Life, published for the 70th anniversary of his death, is Vogel’s masterwork. Set in 1920s Vienna, it depicts the marriage of down-and-out Jewish writer Rudolf Gurdweill to Baroness Thea von Takow, a cruel and unfaithful wife. On one level, the novel is an allegory for the treatment of European Jews; on another, a well-crafted study of “oppressive boredom”, as Gurdweill and his friends drift around Vienna’s coffeehouses.

The city is beautiful but threatening. In the shadow of the first world war, its inhabitants search for new heroes and radical ideologies. These efforts are sabotaged by Vogel’s deft comic touch and dark sense of irony. This combination of levity and serious insight makes for an outstanding novel.

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