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This article is taken from PN Review 149, Volume 29 Number 3, January - February 2003.

Brasov Alice Wooledge Salmon

My fascination with Romania sprang from the exotic looks of a New York friend and the dignified allure of her father; telephoning, aged eighteen, I always hoped 'Mr Bratianu' and his warm, European, British-veined voice would answer.

Subsequent chance meetings and a handful of London reviews led me to Gregor von Rezzori's Memoirs of an Anti- Semite. Alarming and arresting title; Hilary Spurling likened reading this to

opening a drawer that has been locked for generations. It gives off a pungent, sharp, spicy smell. Its contents are unfamiliar, disturbing, brilliantly coloured and none the less real for having lain untouched for years.

D.M. Thomas described a 'brilliant novel' for whose narrator the 'Jew... is the otherness of other people', a 'convenient' symbol of 'the simple pain of living, beyond all logic'.

The protean Rezzori's own extraordinary otherness and rich exposition of the human condition unfurls through the Memoirs, The Snows of Yesteryear, The Death of my Brother Abel, Oedipus at Stalingrad, The Hussar, Anecdotage, and titles as rare and recherché as his First World War origins in the now 'almost astronomically remote' city of Czernowitz in the Bukovina, successively - during his lifetime - Austro- Hungarian, Romanian, Soviet, and presently, part of Ukraine. His descent was Sicilian, Swiss, Austrian, Irish, Phanariot Greek from Ottoman centuries percolated into Romanian, probably more; his discordant parents minor aristocrats, his father an architect and art historian overseeing frescoed Byzantine monasteries deep in Carpathian ...


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