Posts Tagged ‘Alexander Lernet-Holenia’

‘Baron Bagge’ by Alexander Lernet-Holenia – War and Love, a Novella written by a Viennese Poet

 

‘Baron Bagge’ by Alexander Lernet-Holenia   (1933) – 64 pages              Translated from the German by Richard and Clara Winston

 

The time of this novella is 1915 during World War I while Russia is still fighting the war and the United States has not yet entered it. It takes place in the Carpathian mountains somewhere around northern Romania and southern Hungary. The Austro-Hungarian patrol of which Lieutenant Bagge is a member is looking for Russian forces in the mountains, going from village to village.

Early on, the patrol encounters three men who have been hanged in a tree. Each has a scrap of paper pinned to his chest saying “This was a traitor!”.

The figures looked like assortments of clothing carelessly stuffed with straw. – like scarecrows. They wore neither shoes nor boots; someone had probably donned their footgear and gone off with it. Foxes had gnawed at their toes.”

The patrol’s mission is only supposed to be reconnaissance, to find the Russians, but the leader of the patrol, Semler, is dead set on engaging and fighting with the Russians. Baron Bagge questions his leader’s authority to the point of insubordination. Semler refuses to listen.

That’s enough!” he bellowed and his face, partly plastered with snowflakes inside his turned-up fur collar, abruptly took on an almost maniacal expression of arrogance and hatred.”

The patrol must fight the Russians for control of the bridge which leads to the Hungarian town of Nagy Mihaly.

Only later do we find out the full results of this battle. Instead we get an account of the patrol arriving in the Nagy Mihaly village where Baron Bagge meets the young woman Charlotte at a formal dance whom he vows to marry after the war is over.

But what is real and what is unreal, especially during the terrible time of war? The author of this novella, Alexander Lernet-Holenia, was also a poet, and it very much shows in this short novella. ‘Baron Bagge’ is written in an elegant lucid style.

 

Grade:    B+

 

 

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