It is a ritual
Set in the course of 24 hours, the narrator, an Austrian living on inherited wealth, plans and prepares a dinner party for his three friends: Cruise, a famous Yugoslav poet and communist who works as waiter, Leppard, a romantic anarchist and art critic from London, and Axel, a Dane. They eat and drink, arguing into the small hours; after two of Cruise's dodgy friends arrive they four friends go out on the town and drink and eat and enjoy themselves till dawn. Then comes the reckoning.
- "I will sit by the windows overlooking the street and watch the shoppers go by ... as they fulfil their weekly duties, exploited as consumers just as they are exploited as workers the rest of the week."
- "To appreciate sensual things fully, one has to be very quiet."
- "It takes only the smallest iota of imagination to create a fiction substantial enough to draw the world into itself."
Breakfast was simple
Another multicultural group of friends: Medar, a Turk, Reid, an Englishman, Christa, his one-time-only Austrian girlfriend, host new arrival Feargal, an Irishman one of whose hands is a hook. They spring Franz, an old Jewish Austrian, from his care home by setting off the fire alarm and they take him to the zoo. There is a lot of discussion about violence and its links to romantic or classical culture: this dialogue seems staged. Reid is aware that the arrival of Feargal, who is to stay with Christa, will change the dynamic of their friendship: there is some jealousy but also some relief.
- "Franz should have been squeezing his life dry, not allowing it to evaporate away."
- "If the violence is too overt the romance is lost."
- "The romantic is inextricably bound up with the violent."
There were rules
Reid reappears, and Franz, although this is a story from before Franz goes into the home. Reid is hunting for a painting by Schiele. Adele has secret rendezvous with bar-owner George where she and he get naked and she paints him. She is trying to recapture the Schiele painting which she owns; it hangs on her wall. Adele is Monika in the bar where she knows Reid. She needs to finish the painting before Reid finds the original.
This is a tale of art obsession in the same formal prose as the previous stories.
- "Leopold had been born a victim, had lived and died a victim of the circumstances under which he came into the world. But he had killed for his art."
- "You have to be so careful with words. Slippery things and they get slipperier the more you drink."
February 2020; 162 pages