“SKUSHNO” AS A KIND OF SPIRITUAL VOID: GREGOR VON REZZORI

April 10, 2011 on 9:39 pm | In Art, Books, Germany, History, Literary, Philosophy | Comments Off

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Gregor von Rezzori (May 13, 1914 – April 23, 1998)

“The Russian word skushno is introduced in his writings. It appears in Gregor von Rezzori’s novel Memoirs of an Anti-Semite. That novel begins in Czernowitz, close to the scene of the action in Nine Lives.

Rezzori admits that skushno is a difficult word to translate but suggests ‘a spiritual void that sucks you in like a vague but intensely urgent longing’.”

Gregor von Rezzori (born Gregor Arnulph Hilarius d’Arezzo; May 13, 1914 – April 23, 1998) was an Austrian-born German-language novelist, memoirist, screenwriter and author of radio plays, as well as an actor, journalist, visual artist, art critic and art collector. He was fluent in German, Romanian, Italian, Polish, Ukrainian, Yiddish, French, and English; during his life, von Rezzori was successively a citizen of Austria-Hungary, Romania, and the Soviet Union, before becoming a stateless person and spending his final years as a citizen of Austria. He married Beatrice Monti della Corte.

Biography

He was born in Czernowitz, Bukovina, part of Austria-Hungary at the time. He originated in a Sicilian aristocratic family from the Province of Ragusa, who had settled in Vienna by the mid-18th century. His father was an Austrian civil servant based in Czernowitz. The family remained in the region after it became part of the Romanian Kingdom, and Gregor von Rezzori obtained Romanian citizenship.

After World War I, von Rezzori studied in colleges in Braşov, Fürstenfeld and Vienna. He began studying mining at the University of Leoben, then architecture and medicine at the University of Vienna, where he eventually graduated in arts.

In mid-1930 he moved to Bucharest, took up military service in the Romanian Army, and made a living as an artist. In 1938 he moved to Berlin, where he became active as a novelist, journalist, writer in radio broadcasting, and film production. Given his Romanian citizenship, von Rezzori was not drafted by Nazi authorities during World War II.

Until the mid-1950s, he worked as an author at the broadcast company Nordwestdeutscher Rundfunk. He regularly published novels and stories, as well as being engaged in film production as a screenplay author and actor (starring alongside actors such as Brigitte Bardot, Jeanne Moreau, Anna Karina, Marcello Mastroianni or Charles Aznavour). Beginning in the early 1960s, Rezzori lived between Rome and Paris, with sojourns in the United States, eventually settling in Tuscany.

Besides authoring and performing, he and his spouse Beatrice Monti della Corte were significant art collectors, and together founded the Santa Maddalena Retreat for Writers. He died in Santa Maddalena, part of Florence‘s Donnini frazione.

Literary works

Rezzori began his career as a writer of light novels, but he first encountered success in 1953 with the Maghrebinian Tales, a suite of droll stories and anecdotes from an imaginary land called “Maghrebinia”, which reunited in a grotesque and parodic key traits of his multicultural Bukovinian birthplace, of extinct Austria-Hungary and of Bucharest of his youth. Over the years, Rezzori published further Maghrebinian Tales, which increased his reputation of language virtuosity and free spirit, writing with wit, insight and elegance.[1]

Other books, such as The Death of My Brother Abel, Oedipus at Stalingrad, or The Snows of Yesteryear, recording the fading world at the time of the World Wars, have been celebrated for their powerful descriptive prose, nuance and style.[2]

Von Rezzori first came to the attention of English-speaking readers with the 1969 publication of the story “Memoirs of an Anti-Semite,” in The New Yorker. On this occasion, Elie Wiesel, who was born in Bukovina’s neighboring Maramureş, wrote:

“Rezzori addresses the major problems of our time, and his voice echoes with the disturbing and wonderful magic of a true storyteller.”[3]

In his Guide for Idiots through the German Society, von Rezzori also used his noted taste for satire. Although he was not unanimously perceived as a major author in the German-speaking area, his posthumous reception has arguably confirmed him among the most important modern German-language authors.[2]

Published titles

  • Flamme, die sich verzehrt (“Self-extinguishing Flame”, novel, 1940)
  • Rombachs einsame Jahre, (“Rombach’s Lonely Years”, novel, 1942)
  • Rose Manzani (novel, 1944)
  • Maghrebinische Geschichten (“Tales of Maghrebinia”, 1953)
  • Ödipus siegt bei Stalingrad (“Oedipus at Stalingrad”, 1954)
  • Männerfibel, 1955
  • Ein Hermelin in Tschernopol. Ein maghrebinischer Roman (“The Hussar”, 1958)
  • Bogdan im Knoblauchwald. Ein maghrebinisches Märchen (“Bogdan in the Garlic Forest. A Maghrebinian Tale”, 1962)
  • Die Toten auf ihre Plätze. Tagebuch des Films Viva Maria (“The Dead on their Places. Journal of the Movie ‘Viva Maria’”, 1966)
  • 1001 Jahr Maghrebinien. Eine Festschrift (1967)
  • Der Tod meines Bruders Abel (“The Death of My Brother Abel”, novel, 1976)
  • Greif zur Geige, Frau Vergangenheit (novel, 1978)
  • Denkwürdigkeiten eines Antisemiten (“The Memoirs of an Anti-Semite”, 1979)
  • Der arbeitslose König. Maghrebinisches Märchen (“The Jobless King. A Maghrebinian Tale”, 1981)
  • A Stranger in Lolitaland. An Essay, first published in English by Vanity Fair
  • Blumen im Schnee – Portraitstudien zu einer Autobiographie, die ich nie schreiben werde. Auch: Versuch der Erzählweise eines gleicherweise nie geschriebenen Bildungsromans (“The Snows Of Yesteryear”, autobiographical essays, 1989)
  • Über dem Kliff (“Beyond the Cliff”, stories, 1991)
  • Idiotenführer durch die Deutsche Gesellschaft. Hochadel, Adel, Schickeria, Prominenz (“Guide for Idiots through the German Society. Aristocracy, Swells, Notables”, 1992)
  • Begegnungen (“Encounters”, 1992)
  • Greisengemurmel. Ein Rechenschaftsbericht (1994)
  • Italien, Vaterland der Legenden, Mutterland der Mythen. Reisen durch die europäischen Vaterländer oder wie althergebrachte Gemeinplätze durch neue zu ersetzen sind (1996)
  • Frankreich. Gottesland der Frauen und der Phrasen. Reisen durch die europäischen Vaterländer oder wie althergebrachte Gemeinplätze durch neue zu ersetzen sind (1997)
  • Mir auf der Spur (“On My Own Traces”, 1997)
  • Kain. Das letzte Manuskript (posthumous novel, 2001)

Awards

Filmography

Screenwriter

  • Kopfjäger von Borneo, 1936
  • Unter den Sternen von Capri, 1953
  • Labyrinth, 1959
  • The Dear Augustin, 1959
  • Sturm im Wasserglas, 1960
  • Man nennt es Amore , 1961
  • Geliebte Hochstaplerin, 1961
  • Die Herren, 1965
  • Mord und Totschlag, 1967

Actor

Further reading

  • Valentina Glajar: After Empire: ‘Postcolonial’ Bukovina in Gregor von Rezzori’s ‘Blumen im Schnee’ (1989) . In: The German Legacy in East Central Europe as Recorded in Recent German-Language Literature. Columbia, SC: Camden House. 2004. ISBN 1-57113-256-2
  • Katarzyna Jaśtal, Erzählte Zeiträume. Kindheitserinnerungen aus den Randgebieten der Habsburgermonarchie von Manès Sperber, Elias Canetti und Gregor von Rezzori, Aureus, Kraków, 1998
  • Gerhard Köpf, Vor-Bilder. Tübinger Poetik-Vorlesung, Konkursbuchverlag, Tübingen, 1999
  • Jacques Lajarrige, Gregor von Rezzori. Etudes réunies, Université de Rouen, Centre d’Études et de Recherches Autrichiennes, Mont-Saint-Aignan, 2003
  • Gilbert Ravy, “Rezzori et la France”, in Austriaca, No. 54 (2002), p. 41-58
  • Tetyana Basnyak. The mythologeme of East European culture in Gregor von Rezzori’s creative work. – Manuscript. Thesis for а scientific degree of Candidate of Philology. Speciality 10.01.04 – Literature of Foreign Countries. – T. H. Shevchenko Institute of Literature of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. – Kiev, 2010.

Notes

  1. 1. Killy, p. 410
  2. 2. a b Kraft, p.1027–1029
  3. 3. Wiesel, in MIT Tech Talk

References

Skushno

The Russian word skushno is introduced in his writings. It appears in Gregor von Rezzori’s novel Memoirs of an Anti-Semite. That novel begins in Czernowitz, close to the scene of the action in Nine Lives.

Rezzori admits that skushno is a difficult word to translate but suggests ‘a spiritual void that sucks you in like a vague but intensely urgent longing’.

Gregor von Rezzori (born Gregor Arnulph Hilarius d’Arezzo; May 13, 1914 – April 23, 1998)

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