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This article is taken from PN Review 84, Volume 18 Number 4, March - April 1992.

Out of the Zeitgeist: Gregor Von Rezzori John Pilling

Gregor von Rezzori, The Snows of Yesteryear: portraits for an autobiography, translated by H.F. Broch de Rothermann (Chatto and Windus) £16.99

IN THE MORE THAN four hundred pages of Claudio Magris's Danube there are just three indexed references to Gregor von Rezzori, one of which teasingly reduces a formidable and in some respects forbidding cluster of names to the familiar 'Grischa'. We could be forgiven for supposing that Magris is content to leave his friend Grischa the marginal figure that Rezzori has always jealously, and sometimes almost spitefully, insisted on being. Not even Danube, with its host of little-known destinies, can situate Rezzori in a central or mainstream position of the kind he himself for the most part roundly despises, albeit with an intermittently recidivist nostalgia. Yet The Snows of Yesteryear is much too good a book to be marginalized by default. And in addition to its own intrinsic virtues it prompts one to an excavation and reconstitution of Rezzori's development as a writer, an assessment of the dynamic relationship operative in his case between history, the determinants of place and the idiosyncrasies of a given psychology.

Rezzori's homeland - if the word can be meaningfully applied to him - is the Bukovina: a crown land of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy until 1919, subsequently a province of Romania, and since 1940 incorporated into the Soviet republic of the Ukraine. Though he left it long ago, Rezzori has seen his native city of Czernowitz transformed (the ...

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