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28. Katherine Mansfield, "In A German Pension"
el_staplador wrote in queerlit50
This is the first book that Katherine Mansfield published - and I haven't yet read anything else of hers. I can't decide whether this is a help or a hindrance in forming an opinion on this work. Going by the introduction, she didn't think much of it herself - this is why I'm getting confused, because it seems very good to me. (Particularly considering that she was nineteen when she wrote some of it. If I'd written anything like this when I was nineteen - well, I wouldn't be suppressing its reprinting, I can tell you.) Rather misanthropic, perhaps, but of perfectly decent quality.

In A German Pension is a collection of short pieces, most of them narrated by a young English woman who is staying in the titular German guest house, concerned with the everyday exploits of the other guests. She is detached, amused, rather caustic:

"The piano was closed, an arm-chair was placed in the centre of the platform. Fraülein Sonia drifted towards it. A breathless pause... She implored us not to go into the woods in trained dresses, but rather as lightly dressed as possible, and bed with her among the pine needles. Her loud, slightly harsh voice filled the salon. She dropped her hands over the back of the chair, moving her lean hands from the wrists. We were thrilled and silent. The Herr Professor, beside me, abnormally serious, his eyes bulging, pulled at his moustache ends. Frau Godowska adopted that peculiarly detached attitude of the proud parent. The only soul who remained untouched by her appeal was the waiter, who leaned idly against the wall of the salon and cleaned his nails with the edge of a programme. He was 'off duty' and intended to show it."

There are a few that deal with other characters who have, so far as I can tell, nothing to do with the pension stories. On the whole, I felt that these were the weaker (apart from The Child-Who-Was-Tired, which was brilliant, but utterly harrowing).


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