Jarmilla by Ernst Weiss

Jarmilla A Love Story From Bohemia by Ernst Weiss

German Fiction

Translated by Rebecca Morrison and Petra Howard-wuerz

Ernst Weiss was a German  jewish writer that was good friends with both Franz Kafka who edit some of his earlier works and Stefan Zweig This book Zweig considered Weiss best writing  .Jarmilla is set in the 1930’s in a small rural Bohemian village The title character Jarmilla is a pretty young women described as the village beauty  that married her sugar daddy a local feather merchant a rich man who keeps her in the way she has grown accustom too .But then a younger man a watch  maker appears creating a love  triangle ,Jarmilla is offer a new life by this man in America away from the feather merchant but also away from the money .we see the love affair blossom between the watch maker and Jarmilla he at one point compares her breasts to bohemian apples full of scent and skin like down .But as much as the is love in this affair Jarmilla is always held back by the life she has living with the rich feather merchant and in  That is the crux of the book that decision it is about what is important in people’s lives love or money ,safety or danger .  The book is very short only 80 odd pages long .It  was also lost for a long time until a copy was found in Prague university in 1990 and published in 1998 and this translation published in 2004 by Pushkin press .

It was around the time that my mother died ,she wasn’t old but in a lot of pain .The funeral left me devastated Jarmilla slipped away to see me .This time her silvery hand didn’t hold any wretched watch which had been broken Deliberately ” I noticed how cautiously he pronounced the word silvery as though trespassing .

Jarmilla gets closer to the watch maker

I can see why Zweig  so loved this story from his friend Weiss ,there are echos of his work in it that thing about crossing lines from rich to poor ,from old world europe to new world America .Similar feeling to the post office girl except in this one Jarmilla has control of what happens unlike Christine in the post office girl .As for Weiss his own story is very sad he fled Germany when Hitler rose to power to Paris and eventually killed himself as the german troops rolled into Paris in 1940 .

Have you read Weiss books ?

November 2011


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