Originally translated as None But the Brave in 1926, Lieutenant Gustl is one of the great Austrian writer Arthur Schnitzler's most acclaimed novels.
Written entirely in the form of an interior monologue, the novel recounts the moment-to-moment experiences of a swaggering Austrian military man. In a cloakroom after a concert, Gustl gets into an argument with a baker who, reacting to Gustl's rudeness, grabs his sword and orders him to have a little patience. Convinced he has been completely dishonored, Gustl ponders suicide and wanders through Vienna wishing for the baker's death. When he learns that the baker has, in fact, died that evening from a stroke, he immediately returns to his aggressive and hateful nature, and relishes a duel he had entered into days before.
A tour-de-force of modernist point-of-view, Lieutenant Gustl is highly critical of Austria's militarism, and resulted in anti-Semitic attacks on Schnitzler when it was first published in 1901. But Schnitzler's influence was enormous; James Joyce is said to have been influenced by this book in the writing of Ulysses.
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Viennese author Schnitzler's brief 1901 novel depicts the Austrian crisis at the turn of the century and the impending collapse of the dream of the empire. Bored at the opera, egocentric young Lieutenant Gustl contemplates which women are flirting with him; the fact that there are too many Jews in the army, which is the reason for "all this anti-Semitism"; and an upcoming duel with a doctor who made an unflattering remark about the military. After the concert, impatient in the coat check queue, Gustl gets into a quarrel with a baker who threatens to break Gustl's sword in two if he doesn't calm down. Convinced he's been dishonored, Gustl decides he must commit suicide and spends the night walking the streets, weighing the repercussions of killing himself. When he arrives at his favorite cafe for a final breakfast, he becomes elated on learning that he can go on living because the baker died of a stroke just after their encounter. This novel is an early embodiment of modern skepticism and despair. And written in interior monologue, it demonstrates a Freudian influence. The historical and literary impact of this work remains its strong point, making it more interesting to think about than to read.
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