An Ermine in Czernopol by Daniel Kehlmann, Gregor von Rezzori

By Daniel Kehlmann, Gregor von Rezzori

An NYRB Classics Original

Set simply after global warfare I, An Ermine in Czernopol facilities at the tragicomic destiny of Tildy, an erstwhile officer within the military of the now-defunct Austro-Hungarian Empire, decided to shield the advantage of his dishonest sister-in-law at any expense. Rezzori surrounds Tildy with a number of amazing characters, enticing us in a kaleidoscopic adventure of a urban the place not anything is because it appears—a urban of discordant voices, of untamed ugliness and heartbreaking unhappiness, during which, in spite of the fact that, “laughter was once all over the place, a part of the air we breathed, a crackling rigidity within the surroundings, regularly able to erupt in showers of sparks or discharge itself in thunderous peals.”

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Among the real conflicts the narrator evokes in the passage cited above are the ongoing tensions between French Protestants (known as Huguenots) and Catholics. A minority of the French population, the Huguenots were often the victims of religious persecution by the Catholic majority during the period in which Dumas舗s story takes place. Louis XIII舗s father, King Henri IV, had been born into a Protestant family but converted to Catholicism in order to ascend the French throne. The Edict of Nantes Henri promulgated in 1598 sought to provide his former coreligionists freedom of worship and a limited number of (geographical) safe havens but did not always fully afford them the protections it was intended to guarantee.

NOTES TO INTRODUCTION 1. The most recent edition of the play is Alexandre Dumas, 舠La Jeunesse des Mousquetaires舡 suivi de 舠Les Mousquetaires舡 (edited by Jean-Baptiste Goureau; Paris: La Table Ronde, 1994). See, too, Michel Autrand, 舠Les Trois Mousquetaires au thȳȦtre舒La jeunesse des Mousquetaires,舡 in 舠Les Trois Mousquetaires, 舡 舠Le Comte de Monte-Cristo舡: Cent cinquante ans aprȲs (edited by Fernande Bassan and Claude Schopp; Marly-le-Roi, France: Editions Champflour, 1995, pp. 9-20). 2. For more information on the films and literary works based on Dumas舗s novel, see Daniel Compere, D舖Artagnan & Cie: 舠Les Trois Mousquetaires舡 d舗Alexandre Dumas, un roman a suivre (Paris: Encrage, 2002).

1822-1823 Dumas relocates to Paris. With help from his father舗s military colleagues and because of his elegant handwriting, he becomes a copyist for the Duke of Orleans, the future King Louis-Philippe of France, whose palace houses the royal ThȳȦtre-Franȱais. Attending a show one evening, Dumas meets writer Charles Nodier, who will later help advance the young playwright舗s career. Dumas reads the work of Shakespeare, Scott, Byron, Schiller, and others influential in the development of the French Romantic movement.

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