Comic and fantastic, gruesome and grotesque, Walpurgisnacht uses Prague as the setting for a clash between German officialdom immured in the ancient castle above the Moldau, and a Czech revolution seething in the city below. History, myth and political reality merge in an apocalyptic climax as the rebels, urged on by a drum covered in human skin, storm the castle to crown a poor violinist 'Emperor of the World' in St Vitus' Cathedral.
Written in 1917 Walpurgisnacht continues the message of The Green Face of a decadent society on the brink of collapse and of a Europe past salvation. In it we see Meyrink's exceptional narrative powers at their height.
"It is 1917. Europe is torn apart by war, Russia in the grip of revolution, the Austro-Hungarian Empire on the brink of collapse. It is Walpurgisnacht, springtime pagan festival of unbridled desire. In this volcanic atmosphere, in a Prague of splendour and decay, the rabble prepare to storm the hilltop castle, and Dr Thaddaeus Halberd, once the court physician, mourns his lost youth. Phantasmagorical prose, energetically translated, marvellously evokes past and present, personal and political, a devastated world."
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May 31, 2011
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