Vienna Mysteries, Not Cozy: Frank Tallis Quotes

Pastries and Perversion: To whet your appetite for my upcoming review of one of Frank Tallis’s great mysteries, here are some quotations from his work.  He has in less than a decade written six striking psychological thrillers, set in turn-of-the-last-century Vienna. I am going to write in this blog about the fifth novel–fully out in the U.S., i.e. on Kindle as well as in book form–with the U.S. title, ViennaTwilight (UK, the more appropriate title, “Deadly Communion”).  Perhaps you’ll also read one of his novels in the meantime, if you haven’t already.

 From the Daily Telegraph (London), about ViennaBlood:

 The layers of Viennese society are peeled away as delicately as the layers of each mouth-watering Viennese pastry that the portly Rheinhardt makes it his business to devour.

From ViennaTwilight:

 . . . Rheinhardt looked troubled: “Sometimes I wonder whether some minds are so deranged that nothing useful can come out of their study: Krafft-Ebbing’s Psychopathia Sexualis has sold thousands of copies and because it is a scientific work, respectable gentlemen read it without scruple. Yet do they really read those cases—page after page of horror, sickness, and moral degeneracy—to improve their understanding of mental illness? I think not. They read the Psychopathia Sexualis because it is sensational and it arouses in them a dubious prurient excitement  (p. 266).

. . .When the cake arrived, a baroque creation festooned with complex embellishments, he [Rheinhardt] was grateful that the cook had not succombed to the culinary equivalent of modernity. The pressure of his fork forced generous applications of chocolate cream to bulge out between the layers of sponge, and when he took the first mouthful of the dobostorte, the sweetness and intensity of the flavor produced in him a feeling of deep satisfaction (p. 114).

Sigmund Freud is a character who appears in all these novels, and in an essay appended to ADeathinVienna , Tallis quotes from Freud’s paper, “Psychoanalysis and the Ascertaining of Truth in Courts of Law:”

In both [psychoanalysis and law) we are concerned with a secret, with something hidden . . . .In the case of the criminal it is a secret which he knows he hides from you, but in the case of the hysteric, it is a secret hidden from himself . . . . The task of the therapeutist, is, however the same as the task of the judge: he must discover the hidden psychic material (p.469).

I hope you will be back to join in the discussion of  “Vienna Twilight”

About dorothyjames

Welsh-American writer, German scholar, translator, traveller.
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2 Responses to Vienna Mysteries, Not Cozy: Frank Tallis Quotes

  1. Philip Davies says:

    Liebermann is the ideal character, with his pioneering adherence to the then new and revolutionary psychological therapy developed by Freud, to free the author’s creativity from the increasingly suffocating strictures of our current obsession with political correctness. The culture of luxury and the increasing sexual frankness of Tallis’s chosen time and place as viewed through the critical method of Freud is often revealed to be decadent, but Tallis’s alter ego can allow him to illuminate the character of the great city, Vienna, in it’s own terms: Life is not here put at an arid distance by the censorious strictures of our own very sick culture. Tallis’s concentration on the strange psychological reality of his characters lets us escape from the shallow political assumptions of today’s constricting views, that would prevent any honest presentation of human behaviour.

    So it is that the very politically-correct BBC, by eliminating from it’s disastrous recent TV adaption almost all of those human frailties and excesses that so fascinate us in the novels, fails utterly to grasp the nature of the history upon which the Liebermann canon is based, and from which it derives it’s intriguing vraisemblance. For there, in BBC-Land, even Inspector Oscar Rheinhart is shorn of his cigar, his moustache, his over-indulgence in fattening sweets, his comfortable paunch – and even the exercise of a fine baritone in concert with his intellectual friend Max – amongst whose many accomplishments the ability to play piano is also no doubt considered unsuitable for a modern television audience. Oscar must even be deprived of his happy bourgeoise marriage: in short, this lamentable p.c. dramatisation systematically disinfects the entire character of the world in which the novels seek to immerse us. Not even the murders nor any frank presentation of these forensic outrages make it onto the screen. And the art and architecture of fin-de-siecle Vienna is reduced to mere decor.

    Not even the BBC has dared to excise the anti-semitism that so crucially permeates the novel’s evocation of the Vienna of the time, But it nevertheless fails to impart a sense of how casual and pervasive it was at the time – an accepted, normal attitude in Imperial Vienna, that expressed it’s profoundly racist sensibility towards all of the different peoples of Austria-Hungary. This absence of the cultural context allows the anti-Semitism to be trivialised as a mere aberration, shorn of it’s historical significance. Anything else would have been considered unduly ‘judgemental’ I suppose – and no doubt too upsetting for the modern amti-Zionists of the Left to tolerate. The trivialising effect of the BBC’s intrusive political correctness is relentless. It is a relief to return to the well-researched novels of Frank Tallis!

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