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The Pornographer of Vienna [Paperback]

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Item description for The Pornographer of Vienna by Lewis Crofts...

"Underage whores, opium pipes and absinthe chasers. . . . Thoroughly researched, and well described. The author is bewitched by his subject's decadence and by the period's historical detail."-Financial Times

"[Lewis] Crofts's debut doesn't shrink from depicting the squalor of Schiele's existence and powerfully evokes his uncompromising talent."-Guardian

"Utterly engrossing. I was drawn into Schiele's reeling world with its reek of wet paint and sex."-Jon McGregor, author of If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things

"Lewis Crofts' poignant debut captures the turbulence, the vividness and the tragedy of Egon Schiele's life with rare skill and empathy."-Liz Jensen, author of The Ninth Life of Louis Drax

A Vogue magazine recommended summer read.

A Metro newspaper fiction title of the week.

The Pornographer of Vienna is an acclaimed fictionalized life of Egon Schiele, the great Austrian artist and protg of Gustav Klimt. Publicly shunned by the very same establishment figures that secretly clamor to buy his erotic, explicit work, Schiele lives a short, intense life against the richly evoked backdrop of the absinthe-soaked, decaying last days of the Austro-Hungarian empire.

In a first novel of rare descriptive power and empathy, fuelled by a blend of research and literary imagination, Lewis Crofts succeeds in evoking the man as well as the artist. The result is a masterful, at times heart-breaking, portrayal of Austria's most decadent and most misunderstood painter, and of the city that both inspired and destroyed him.

Thirty-year-old debut novelist Lewis Crofts lives in Belgium.

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Item Specifications...

Pages   312
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 1.25" Width: 5.75" Height: 8.5"
Weight:   0.95 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jun 1, 2008
Publisher   Old Street Publishing
ISBN  1905847122  
ISBN13  9781905847129  

Availability  0 units.

More About Lewis Crofts

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Lewis Crofts was born in 1977 and grew up in Somerset, England. He has lived and worked successively in Germany, France, the Czech Republic and Belgium. His fascination with Egon Schiele was sparked while living in Prague. He is currently working on a second novel.

Lewis Crofts was born in 1977.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > General > Contemporary
2Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > General
3Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > Genre Fiction > Historical

Reviews - What do customers think about The Pornographer of Vienna?

A great artist who was not a great human being  Jun 4, 2008
Egon Schiele was a remarkable painter, but he was not a remarkable human being, though it is understandable that Lewis Crofts, who has been fascinated by Schiele's work for many years, should want to write a novel about him.

There is nothing in this book about Schiele's inner life: we observe him constantly from outside. As he appears here, there was nothing attractive about him other than his genius, though I feel there must have been something about him that attracted, for instance, the daughter of the publisher Kosmack, and led to a child which was aborted. The ghoulishness of the procedure and Schiele's subsequent obsession with foetuses - of course translated into his art - is duly chronicled by Crofts. Schiele's life-style was seedy and grotty, and Crofts describes it graphically in all its sordidness. Schiele's bohemian counterparts in France would have been as defiant of convention and as personally untidy as he was; but there would have been a kind of joyousness and life-affirmation in it which quite escaped poor tortured Egon.

Those who know some of Schiele's portraits - of Kosmack, von Graff, Roessler, Benesch and others - but do not know who these people were or what their relationship to Schiele was will discover that from this novel. It is equally informative about the tension in pre-war Vienna between the conventional but often hypocritical bourgeoisie and the artistic avant-garde. And Schiele's images of the female body (and of his own, though there is little reference to them in this book) were the most avant-garde of all, admired by Klimt and the other artists of Sezession and the Neukunstgruppe, but regarded as pornographic by the establishment. And when he accidentally left a portfolio of his sketches behind in an inn and the villagers of Krumau discovered its content, they were even more violent in their reactions than the bourgeoisie (though I can find no reference in the books I have to the actual and dramatic form of this violence which Crofts describes). Schiele and his mistress Wally were forced to leave Krumau and left for the small town of Neulengbach (August 1911); but they had learnt nothing from their past, and continued to invite the children of the neighbourhood to their rooms on whose walls hung those paintings of Schiele's that had given so much offence. There are sketches of nude pre-pubescent girls dating to that year 1911. They may have been done in Krumau, though Frank Whitford's book on Schiele implies that they were done in Neulengbach (p.110). Crofts, however, specifically says that `this time, Egon did not paint them [the children]' (p.119). In any case, in April 1912 the father of one of these children denounced him as a child molester. That charge was withdrawn for lack of evidence,, but he was sentenced to 28 days in prison for `moral degradation and propagating indecent pictures'. (A point that Crofts did not manage to bring into the story is that Dr Stouel, the magistrate who made a great show of personally setting light to one of the his paintings in the marketplace, himself collected pornographic pictures - a nice example of the hypocrisy to which Crofts had alluded earlier).

After his release from prison, Schiele's life took a new turn. He became more famous, and was invited by wealthy people - a Count, an ambassador - to paint their portraits, naturally in a more conventional manner. He tired of Wally, his uneducated model whom he had made his mistress when she was 17, with whom he has been living for four years and who had shared all his years of penury and tribulation. He first flirted with two bourgeois sisters living opposite them, then married the older one, Edith Harms (1915). According to this novel, the prim and proper Edith entered Schiele's house for the first time only after the wedding and only then saw the erotic pictures which festooned his studio. I find it hard to believe that she had not known of the paintings of her fiancé, which had been the talk of the town for years, and indeed in Whitford's book her parents tried hard to prevent the marriage (p.156), whereas Crofts has the father merely wanting to be satisfied about the state of Egon's finances (p.242). All right, this is a novel, not a historical biography, and the writer can take some liberties with the facts - but it does bother me. The scene with Wally after the wedding, incredible as it appears, is documented (though with reactions from Wally that are somewhat different from those in the book) and shows what a sleazy human being Schiele still was. He may even have had an affaire with his wife's sister. There are some redeeming features in the last few pages before the post-war influenza killed both Edith and him.

In his descriptions Crofts sometimes uses arresting similes, but sometimes his sentences are quite inconsequential. There is a lot of dialogue of very short phrases, which occasionally do not seem to make sense and it is not always clear at first reading who is doing the talking. But as a fictional survey of Schiele's life the book works reasonably well.

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