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Peter Rosei has written – in a highly condensed form – a Viennese social novel which has only marginally to do with the finance industry, but which nevertheless focuses on money. This is because, though most of the characters do not talk about money, they do however have it and would like to get more of it. This group is faced by another which is made up of social climbers who, finding themselves alongside those who already have money, want in their turn to acquire money at all costs.
There is, for example, the wealthy sixty-year-old advertising man Georg Asamer, who lives alone with his ‘stale’ housekeeper in a villa and finds it difficult to enjoy what he has achieved in life, while death is already grinning at him out of the mirror. He takes on the brazen Andy Sykora as his successor, even though this man does not show him any affection by way of thanks. Another wealthy man is the heir to a group of Swiss companies, who at some time fled from the the burden of his father’s inheritance – and after a wedding had been called off at the last minute – to the South Seas. There he runs the hotel where Sykora and his wife, a secretary in Asamer’s advertising agency, spend their honeymoon. Later, back in Europe, Sykora’s young wife is undramatically transferred to the ‘property’ of the Swiss man. At the same time the novel follows the trail of that lady from a rich family who had once left the Swiss heir standing at the altar. This woman, who likes to romp about in the company of artists, in turn strikes up a relationship with a young broker, who as a child had been nastily beaten and grew up with foster parents.
In one way or another – sex, striving for profit, or chance – the characters are thus connected with one another in strange symbiotic relationships. Towards the end of the novel there are more and more signs that the speculation in which they are all participating is developing into a bubble which will burst. In line with the thought that money always has something to do with absence (of something more important), the novel suddenly ends before the expected catastrophe.
Much of the novel is borne on wonderful language which has an effect on the reader which is almost physically beneficial, and Peter Rosei has succeeded in producing a psychologically perspicacious novel about a milieu which gives the impression of being typically Austrian. One result of this is that the substance of his story is diametrically opposed to the lack of substance of its characters.
Abridged from a review by Judith Leister, September 2011. English translation by Leigh H. Bailey.
Full German text: http://www.literaturhaus.at/index.php?id=9134
[ book info ] Rosei, Peter: Geld!.
(Book language: Deutsch)
Salzburg/St. Pölten, 2011
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