The Whole Difference: Selected Writings of Hugo Von Hofmannsthal

The Whole Difference: Selected Writings of Hugo Von Hofmannsthal

The Whole Difference: Selected Writings of Hugo Von Hofmannsthal

The Whole Difference: Selected Writings of Hugo Von Hofmannsthal

Synopsis

Hugo von Hofmannsthal is one of the modern era's most important writers, but his fame as Richard Strauss's pioneering collaborator on such operas as Der Rosenkavalier and Die Frau ohne Schatten has obscured his other remarkable writings: his precocious lyric poetry, inventive short fiction, keen essays, and visionary plays. The Whole Difference, which includes new translations as well as classic ones long out of print, is a fresh introduction to the enormous range of this extraordinary artist, and the most comprehensive collection of Hofmannsthal's writings in English.


Selected and edited by the poet and librettist J. D. McClatchy, this collection includes early lyric poems; short prose works, including "The Tale of Night Six Hundred and Seventy-Two," "A Tale of the Cavalry," and the famous "Letter of Lord Chandos"; two full-length plays, The Difficult Man and The Tower; as well as the first act of The Cavalier of the Rose. From the glittering salons of imperial Vienna to the bloodied ruins of Europe after the Great War, the landscape of Hofmannsthal's world stretches across the extremes of experience. This collection reflects those extremes, including both the sparkling social comedy of "the difficult man" Hans Karl, so sensitive that he cannot choose between the two women he loves, and the haunting fictional letter to Francis Bacon in which Lord Chandos explains why he can no longer write. Complete with an introduction by McClatchy, this collection reveals an artist whose unusual subtlety and depth will enthrall readers.

Excerpt

No novelist has better described the dissolution of the Hapsburg empire than Joseph Roth. of course it did not collapse with a shudder at the death of the emperor and the end of the Great War, but had been rotting away for years, and the rot created its own luster, which Roth captured with an uncanny accuracy. He caught the rustling silks and sword hilts, the gutted nostalgia, the unwritten and impenetrable rules, the aimlessness and hollow laughter, the Prater and masquerades, the military maneuvers and opera boxes. He described it all as a dying candle, flickering, golden, consumed by the very liquid it had created.

I lived in the cheerful, carefree company of young aristo
crats whose company, second only to that of artists, I loved
best under the old Empire. With them I shared a skeptical
frivolity, a melancholy curiosity, a wicked insouciance,
and the pride of the doomed, all signs of the disintegration
which at that time we still did not see coming. Above the
ebullient glasses from which we drank, invisible Death
was already crossing his bony hands. We swore without
malice and blasphemed without thought. Alone and old,
distant and at the same time turning into stone, but still
close to us all and omnipresent in the great and brilliant
pattern of the Empire, lived and ruled the old Emperor . . .

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