Exiles Return by Elisabeth De Waal

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Restrained yet incisive, this finely observed novel lacks a resounding conclusion but nevertheless offers European mood music of a particular and beguiling resonance.
-Kirkus

Synopsis

WITH A FOREWORD BY EDMUND DE WAAL, AUTHOR OF THE HARE WITH AMBER EYES

SET IN THE ASHES OF POST–SECOND WORLD WAR VIENNA, A POWERFUL, SUBTLE NOVEL OF EXILES RETURNING HOME FIFTEEN YEARS AFTER FLEEING HITLER'S DEADLY REIGN

Vienna is demolished by war, the city an alien landscape of ruined castles, a fractured ruling class, and people picking up the pieces. Elisabeth de Waal's mesmerizing The Exiles Return is a stunningly vivid postwar story of Austria's fallen aristocrats, unrepentant Nazis, and a culture degraded by violence.

The novel follows a number of exiles, each returning under very different circumstances, who must come to terms with a city in painful recovery. There is Kuno Adler, a Jewish research scientist, who is tired of his unfulfilling existence in America; Theophil Kanakis, a wealthy Greek businessman, seeking to plunder some of the spoils of war; Marie-Theres, a brooding teenager, sent by her parents in hopes that the change of scene will shake her out of her funk; and Prince "Bimbo" Grein, a handsome young man with a title divested of all its social currency.

With immaculate precision and sensitivity, de Waal, an exile herself, captures a city rebuilding and relearning its identity, and the people who have to do the same. Mesmerizing and tragic, de Waal has written a masterpiece of European literature, an artifact revealing a moment in our history, clear as a snapshot, but timeless as well.

 

About Elisabeth De Waal

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ELISABETH DE WAAL was born in Vienna in 1899. She studied philosophy, law, and economics at the University of Vienna, and completed her doctorate in 1923. She also wrote poems (often corresponding with Rilke), and was a Rockefeller Foundation fellow at Columbia. She wrote five unpublished novels, two in German and three in English, including The Exiles Return in the late 1950s. She died in 1991.
 
Published January 7, 2014 by Picador. 336 pages
Genres: Education & Reference, Arts & Photography, History, Literature & Fiction. Fiction
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Critic reviews for Exiles Return
All: 3 | Positive: 2 | Negative: 1

Kirkus

Above average
on Oct 05 2013

Restrained yet incisive, this finely observed novel lacks a resounding conclusion but nevertheless offers European mood music of a particular and beguiling resonance.

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NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Andrew Ervin on Jan 10 2014

In many such novels, an all-too-real tragedy functions something like the static backdrop to an old cartoon, and the fictional characters never engage with it in any meaningful way. For the most part, “The Exiles Return” manages to sidestep that problem.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by James Smart on Mar 29 2013

It might be dated and mannered, but this is a rewarding study of loss, and a fine snapshot of a city and society standing ravaged at the crossroads.

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