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The Resource The empire of the senses : a novel, Alexis Landau

The empire of the senses : a novel, Alexis Landau

Label
The empire of the senses : a novel
Title
The empire of the senses
Title remainder
a novel
Statement of responsibility
Alexis Landau
Creator
Subject
Genre
Language
eng
Summary
"The sweeping story of the Perlmutter family opens with the moment when Lev, the assimilated, cultured German Jewish father at the center of this saga, enlists to fight in World War I, leaving behind his beautiful gentile wife Josephine and their children Franz and Vicki. Moving between Lev's and Josephine's viewpoints, Part I focuses on Lev's life-changing experiences on the Eastern Front, where he becomes involved with a local Jewish woman in the poor village where he is stationed. It is the kind of love which renders the privileged life at home, when he returns, a pale aftermath by comparison with the depths of sensuality which he experienced during the war. Part II, which takes place in 1927-1928, picks up in Berlin when the Perlmutter children are young adults grappling with their own set of questions - Franz is drawn into the charismatic brown shirt movement, and is struggling with his unexpressed homosexuality; Vicki is drawn to the arts, jazz, the everything new; this wonderfully fetching character bobs her hair and falls in love with a young man who wants to take her to Palestine. Unlike most historical novels of this kind, The Empire of the Senses is not about the Holocaust but rather about the brew that leads to it; we see how the Perlmutters are pulled in different directions by the poles of their identities in this complex period (is Lev German or Jewish? What about his children?); and how such a catastrophe was unimaginable to ordinary people like Lev and his wife. Plotted with meticulous precision and populated by characters who feel and dream to the fullest, Empire carries us far from where it begins as the tides of cultural loss and ethnic hatred coexist, as they must, with those of love, passion, and the power of the human spirit"--
Storyline
Writing style
Character
Review
  • /* Starred Review */ A top-notch literary saga with a gripping plotline, Landau’s debut explores the complex questions of loyalty and ethnic identity in its depiction of a mixed-faith family living through social change during WWI and late 1920s Berlin. Lev Pearlmutter and his gentile wife, Josephine, have a strained relationship even before he enlists. When he returns, having been emotionally transformed by his service in a close-knit Russian village, he has more reason to regret his marriage, but he loves his two children, Franz and Vicki. Lev always considers himself more German than Jewish, and by 1927, they are a family of affluence that mixes well in society, or so it seems. However, disconnection from their heritage affects each of the Pearlmutters differently. Even as anti-Semitic sentiment increases, ebullient Vicki is romantically drawn to a Jewish man. For Franz, a repressed gay man desperate for belonging, generational rebellion manifests itself in a particularly insidious way. Each perfectly crafted individual is fully involved in the surrounding world. In Landau’s hands, even a simple trip to the barber, in which Lev muses on his own and the country’s problems, becomes meaningful and illustrative of the novel’s themes. The characters’ actions and thoughts are so three-dimensionally human that readers may forget they’re reading fiction and not experiencing their real lives alongside them. -- Johnson, Sarah (Reviewed 01-01-2015) (Booklist, vol 111, number 9, p52)
  • The clashing forces of nationalism and romantic love wage war in Landau’s vivid but uneven debut novel. Lev Perlmutter, successful businessman, German citizen, and assimilated Jew, volunteers to fight for Germany in the first World War, mainly to earn the respect of his gentile wife, Josephine, and her elitist family. Stationed near Riga, his experiences of war’s horror and deprivation are tempered by a passionate affair with a local Jewish woman, Leah, whose earthiness and humor are a beguiling contrast to Josephine’s icy perfection. Yet inevitably Lev must return to Berlin, where the Nazi Party’s gradual rise to power forms the backdrop for the Perlmutters’ own family drama: Josephine’s obsession with psychoanalysis, son Franz’s fearful overcompensation for his homosexuality, and daughter Vicki, stylish and rebellious, who stumbles into an unlikely connection with her father’s wartime affair with Leah. Landau evokes the Weimar Republic era with spellbinding detail and nuance, deftly capturing the zeitgeist in the characters’ colorful pursuits—jazz clubs, a nudist colony, a séance. Lev’s struggle with his Jewish identity is also fascinating, as his nationalist countrymen and Old World friends each challenge his loyalty to the faith. Yet when Lev’s past catches up with him at last, the pieces fall into place much too perfectly, dulling the novel’s shine. The dream fades and the mechanics are revealed—an allegory for the era, but one the reader could do without. Agent: Alice Tasman, Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency. (Mar.) --Staff (Reviewed January 12, 2015) (Publishers Weekly, vol 262, issue 02, p)
  • This highly ambitious first novel by an author currently working on a PhD in English literature and creative writing sweeps us from a village on the Eastern Front during World War I to postwar Jewish settlements in Palestine and Buenos Aires, while the main story unfolds in Berlin, with World War II on the horizon. Though in one respect a historical saga, the work is especially an intimate look at the four members of the Pearlmutter family. Lev, a successful Jewish merchant, longs for Leah, whom he met at the front, while his marriage seems to have lost all appeal for his aristocratic, gentile wife, Josephine. Son Franz is both politically and sexually confused and makes bad choices that lead to disaster. Rebellious yet fashionable daughter Vicki falls in love with a young Jew from Aunt Leah's village who miraculously materializes in Berlin with news of his aunt. VERDICT Told with a wealth of detail, the novel seems to transpire in real time; the pace here is stately but engaging. Recommended for those who enjoy stories of this time period and, more broadly, those that deal with age-old human emotions and dilemmas against a foreign backdrop.— Edward B. Cone, New York --Edward B. Cone (Reviewed February 15, 2015) (Library Journal, vol 140, issue 3, p89)
  • This first novel follows one family through two wars, four romances and one death with enough thought and craft to remain several shelves above the potboiler section. Lev Pearlmutter, a Jew with Eastern European roots who lives a financially comfortable life in Berlin with a German gentile wife, wants to escape "the shadowy presence of another past, another history"—i.e., his Jewishness. Yet after he joins up at the war's outbreak in 1914 and leaves for the Eastern front, he soon falls in love with Leah, a poor, beautiful Jewish Russian peasant. She haunts him when he's back in Berlin after a relatively easy war, but it's only when her nephew arrives in the city and falls in love with Lev's daughter, Vicki, that the possibility of a reunion arises. Meanwhile, Lev's son, Franz, has grown interested in the clothing-optional men's nature camps that foster the Brown Shirts and make it difficult for the young man to conceal his homosexuality. Lev's wife, Josephine, risks tilting the book into bodice-ripping territory in the hot and heavy moments she spends with her therapist. The rising Nazism has a fair number of targets in this one family, and Landau derives much of the novel's meager tension from the reader's certainty about what the characters only suspect: That it's not a good time or place to be Jewish, gay or ambivalent. The author's sense of history is strong in scenes of well-chosen detail, whether in village or city. At the same time, her World War I is largely bloodless, and WWII passes by in a few mentions and pages—a shadowy presence indeed. Landau's talents suggest she might do well with a more directly historical novel, but she has produced some strong characters in this highly readable, oddly sanitized look at assimilation and its discontents.(Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 2015)
Assigning source
Provided by publisher
http://library.link/vocab/ext/novelist/bookUI
10399804
Cataloging source
DLC
http://library.link/vocab/creatorName
Landau, Alexis
Dewey number
813/.6
Index
no index present
Literary form
novels
http://library.link/vocab/resourcePreferred
True
http://library.link/vocab/subjectName
  • Jews
  • Interfaith marriage
  • World War, 1914-1918
  • Life change events
  • Identity (Psychology)
  • FICTION / Literary
  • FICTION / War & Military
  • FICTION / Jewish
  • Germany
Label
The empire of the senses : a novel, Alexis Landau
Instantiates
Publication
Carrier category
volume
Carrier category code
  • nc
Carrier MARC source
rdacarrier
Content category
text
Content type code
  • txt
Content type MARC source
rdacontent
Control code
1067918
Extent
1 volume
Isbn
9781101870075
Isbn Type
(Hardcover)
Lccn
2014023895
Media category
unmediated
Media MARC source
rdamedia
Media type code
  • n
System control number
  • (Sirsi) i9781101870075
  • (OCoLC)881859074
Label
The empire of the senses : a novel, Alexis Landau
Publication
Carrier category
volume
Carrier category code
  • nc
Carrier MARC source
rdacarrier
Content category
text
Content type code
  • txt
Content type MARC source
rdacontent
Control code
1067918
Extent
1 volume
Isbn
9781101870075
Isbn Type
(Hardcover)
Lccn
2014023895
Media category
unmediated
Media MARC source
rdamedia
Media type code
  • n
System control number
  • (Sirsi) i9781101870075
  • (OCoLC)881859074

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