So What Are You Reading?

Reviews of Books.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Fräulein Else by Arthur Schnitzler

Fräulein Else by Arthur Schnitzler
This novelette written in 1924 and translated into English in 1925 by Francis Hamilton Lyon, a prolific translator of Scandinavian and German books, tells in stream of consciousness style one day in the life of 19 year old Else while she is on holiday at the Hotel Fratazza near Monte Cimone, the highest mountain in the northern Apennines, of Italy. She is traveling with her aunt Emma, cousin Paul, and his girl friend Cissy when an express letter comes to her from her mother in Vienna. The letter states that Else's father, a lawyer, is in a dire financial situation and needs 30,000 Guldens, or he will be arrested for embezzling a trust fund. All other avenues of borrowing the money are exhausted, and her mother asks Else to make a personal request of a loan from Herr von Dorsday, who has loaned her father money in the past, and have him wire the money as soon as possible.
The Austro-Hungarian Gulden was replaced by the Krone in 1892, with 1 Gulden = 2 Kronen. In 1913 one US Dollar was worth approximately 5 Kronen. So the 30,000 Gulden of this story might have had a value of around $12,000.
Dorsday is a rake who was been casting lingering glances at Else, and she is reluctant to put herself in a compromising situation with him. The book follows her thought process as she struggles with the dilemma that her mother's letter has created for her. She cannot ignore her father's plight and yet is in dread of her own situation of being indebted to von Dorsday. How she resolves her inner struggle makes compelling reading.
Some of Schnitzler's works were controversial due to their frank description of sexuality. While Else is not unaware of the sexual implications of her plight, this is not one of his pornographically labeled works. It is one of his notable works, and this edition provides a good readable English translation.

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