Kunstlers in Paradise
Künstler, in German, is an artist and also the last name of a refugee family from Vienna, settled in the “paradise” of Hollywood during the second world war. In this compelling novel, the current day pandemic has forced twenty-something Julian out of his Brooklyn apartment and into his 93-year-old grandmother’s guest house in Venice, California. There, he idles away the strange months of isolation and confinement while Mamie tells him stories.
Although young Mamie adjusted to her new life and language, others in her family struggled, unable to reconcile themselves to never being able to return to a vanished home. Emigres can be lost souls, and Julian’s response to lockdown echoes theirs: “terrified, pissed off, and bored…He always felt sorry these days. For being safe…for being passive and indecisive and solipstistic and boring.”
Julian must google the names Mamie drops from the diaspora of intellectuals and artists she met: Schoenberg and Mann, Chaplin and Isherwood. Her tales become a lifeline for him: a decidedly not boring education in empathy and atonal music as the two of them form a new, lopsided, family, along with Mamie’s faithful St. Bernard and “dogsbody” helper, Agatha.
A richly told tale with characters you will want to keep by your side. Would that we all had grandmothers like Mamie!
|Page Count||272 pages|
|Publisher||Henry Holt and Co.|
|Bookshop.org||Buy this Book|