Selected Short Fiction
Translated from the German by J. M. Q. Davies
Arthur Schnitzler is best known for his plays, such as La Ronde and The Game of Love, but his short fiction, in which the pulse of early twentieth-century Vienna can be felt as in no other writer, is no less masterly. Characteristic of this observer of the late Habsburg world of balls, adultery and duels is an ironic, bitter-sweet tone reminiscent of another doctor-turned-writer, Anton Chekhov. Schnitzler’s intuitive understanding of the human psyche was much admired by his contemporary Sigmund Freud, and the primary focus of his stories is on the volatile, turbulent inner lives of his characters as revealed in dreams, unconscious sexual impulses, and psychopathic states. This volume containing thirteen stories provides the balanced selection of Schnitzler’s short fiction that has long been needed. It ranges from short comic tales to dense novellas such as Lieutenant Gustl, Fräulein Else, and the superbly atmospheric late, dramatic tale of love and sudden death The Duellist’s Second. Some narratives – as told, for instance, by a deluded bank clerk, or the jealous admirer of another man’s wife – are distinctly ambivalent in implication; others feature characters in threshold situations which force them to reappraise their entire lives.
These stories, a number of them translated into English for the first time, brilliantly display the social and psychological awareness of their author, whom today’s reader is likely to find distinctly modern.
‘… masterly psychological observation, characteristically Viennese wit and a vigorously amoral attitude towards erotic situations.’ – Charles Osborne, Sunday Telegraph
‘Stiff-backed duellists, hysterical adulterers, sinister mesmerists and lecherous dwarves haunt the Freudian Vienna of this mixed collection. Formally adventurous monologues link individual neuroses with a wider social pathology.’ – Guardian
‘Schnitzler was a considerable short-story-writer, as well as a skilled practitioner of the Novelle … collectively these stories show the fingerprints of a master hand.’ – Brian Fallon, Irish Times
ARTHUR SCHNITZLER (1862–1931), son of an eminent laryngologist, spent his life in Vienna, where he practised as a doctor but was soon to live by his pen. He first became prominent in the l890s as a dramatist, with the Anatol cycle, The Game of Love and, in 1900, La Ronde. His greatest achievement, however, lies in his more introspective novellas and short tales, which contain acute analysis of human motives and sexual behaviour along with social problems of the day such as those relating to class, marriage and antisemitism.