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Aunts and Uncles

Michael Hofmann, 19 November 1992

A Feast in the Garden 
by George Konrad, translated by Imre Goldstein.
Faber, 394 pp., £14.99, October 1992, 0 571 16623 7
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Wartime Lies 
by Louis Begley.
Picador, 198 pp., £5.99, August 1992, 0 330 32099 8
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by Carmelo Samona, translated by Linda Lappin.
Carcanet, 131 pp., £13.95, August 1992, 0 85635 990 4
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by Thomas Healy.
Polygon, 161 pp., £7.95, July 1992, 0 7486 6121 2
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... After a lost war, Hofmannsthal said, one should write comedies, and in the Twenties, within his limitations and against his genius, he did just that. I wonder what he would prescribe for the countries of Eastern Europe – many of them former Habsburg territories – after what is infinitely worse than a lost war: regional entropy; systemic collapse; an abrupt close brackets on an experiment that failed; a largely bloodless and painfully incomplete reversion to the status quo ante of forty, fifty, even ninety years ago; future generations exposed to the deleterious half-lives of political, industrial and human debris; the discrediting of one set of political ideas in favour of another, older, just as discredited and probably far more violent – the belief in race and nation ...

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