My First Wife

My First Wife

By (author) Jakob Wassermann

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"My First Wife" is Jakob Wassermann's intense, powerful account of a marriage - and its ruinous collapse - translated by the award-winning translator of "Alone in Berlin", Michael Hofmann. It is the story of Alexander Herzog, a young writer, who goes to Vienna to escape his debts and a failed love affair. There he is pursued by book-loving Ganna: giddy, girlish, clumsy, eccentric and wild. Dazzled and unnerved by her devotion to him, and attracted to the large dowry offered by her wealthy father, he thinks he can mould Ganna into what he wants. But no-one can control her troubling passions. As their marriage starts to self-destruct, Herzog will discover that Ganna has resources and determination of which he had no idea - and that he can never escape her. Posthumously published in 1934 and based on the author Jakob Wassermann's own ruinous marriage, "My First Wife" bears the unmistakable aura of true and bitter experience. It is a tragic masterpiece that unfolds in shocking detail. Now this story of rare intensity and drama is brought to English readers in a powerful new translation by Michael Hofmann. Reviews: "The candour and extremity and intelligence of "My First Wife" are profoundly affecting...This is a literary masterwork of a vanished kind, but through the remarkable Hofmann it is born again as a story for our age. Hogmann has the rare ability to refresh the very heart of a text in translating it, to increase its connections to life". (Rachel Cusk, "Guardian"). "Like something out of Chekhov - it's all there, the ennui, the preening etiquette, the intellectual posturing ...painfully heartfelt..."My First Wife" is a devastating indictment of the choices we make out of convenience against our hearts and instincts, and the tragedies that ensue". ("Independent"). "You won't find a more agonising, fascinating literary account of a marriage hitting the rocks". ("Mail Online").

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  • Hardback | 288 pages
  • 138 x 204 x 32mm | 399.16g
  • 30 Aug 2012
  • Penguin Books Ltd
  • PENGUIN CLASSICS
  • London
  • English
  • 0141389354
  • 9780141389356
  • 411,626

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Author Information

Jakob Wassermann (1873-1934) was a prominent - and towards the end of his life bestselling - German-Jewish wrtier who lived mostly in Vienna after 1906. Wassermann was most renknowed for his fiction but also wrote plays, biographies and a memoir My Path as a German and a Jew. He was friends with Rainer Maria Rilke, Thomas Mann and many other prominent writers of the time. His books were burned and forbidden by the Nazis starting in 1933. My First Wife is undoubtedly based in part on Wassermann's own troubled marriage to Julie Speyer.

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Review quote

The candour and extremity and intelligence of My First Wife are profoundly affecting ... This is a literary masterwork of a vanished kind, but through the remarkable Hofmann it is born again as a story for our age. Hofmann has the rare ability to refresh the very heart of a text in translating it, to increase its connections to life -- Rachel Cusk Guardian The opening pages of this novel are ike something out of Chekhov - it's all there, the ennui, the preening etiquette, the intellectual posturing ... painfully heartfelt ... My First Wife is a devastating indictment of the choices we make out of convenience against our hearts and instincts, and the tragedies that ensue Independent You won't find a more agonising, fascinating literary account of a marriage hitting the rocks Mail Online [Wassermann's] most elegant and focused work London Review of Books

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