PRINCE ISHMAEL: REVIEWS

2015-04-09 08.08.15

Marianne Hauser. Prince Ishmael. New York. Stein & Day. 1963. 316 pages.
Reprinted, Los Angeles: Sun and Moon Classics Series, 1991.

PRINCE ISHMAEL is the work Marianne Hauser spent decades writing, the book that was in her mind before all others. Her uncle, Ludwig Hauser, gave her a two volume dossier on Kaspar Hauser, the legendary German foundling (no relation, but of course there had to be, and she later said that she WAS Kaspar) when she was a young teen. It was the book that was supposed to be her big success, published by Stein and Day, a publisher specializing in literary best sellers. It was shepherded into print by her friend and Harper’s Bazaar editor, Alice S. Morris, who published excerpts. As with all of her books she went through an agonizing process of rejection before placing it. And even more so than her other books she labored over its composition for many, many years, even publishing another novel, started later, first (The Choir Invisible, 1958). In Botteghe Oscuro (the Wikipedia article is here)…(The Sun and the Colonel’s Button. Botteghe Oscure 12, Fall 1953, 255-72.) she published the first chapter, but written in the third person. She writes of having a breakthrough and discovering the voice of Hauser, probably in 1953 or 1954. She worked on the book throughout the decade, abandoning it and returning to it. By the time she moved back to New York City in 1958 it was substantially complete. Here are some reviews, by her friend Harriet Zinnes (whom she taught with at Queens College, a poet), from the Saturday Review, a publication she reviewed for in the early forties,and Guy Davenport in The National Review:

Marianne Hauser. Prince Ishmael. New York. Stein & Day. 1963. 316 pages. $5.95. Although this is on the surface a historical novel about a young man who makes a strange appearance at the Nuremberg gates in the early years of the nineteenth century, the novel in texture and meaning is strikingly contempo­rary. Caspar Hauser, found in the dark, and completely dark about himself, symbolizes that terrible search for identity which becomes in our time and in this novel the search for the spiritual father. The whole mystery of the self and its inevitable confusion, the whole mystery of the acts of the self that turn present into past and leave no future, that make suspect and victim interchangeable and eccentrically iden­tical (“Had the whale swallowed Jonah? Had Jonah swallowed the whale?”)-these are the mysteries that are embodied in that angelic, naive, corrupting and corruptible youth Caspar Hauser. Marianne Hauser describes her narrative of today’s everyman in a style rich in suggestive­ness and poetic in expression-and finally, re­ligious in its assertion of the triumph of suffer­ing man: “You call me what you will, angel or liar, I may yet live forever, mark my word.”

Harriet Zinnes Queens College
Books Abroad, Vol. 39, No. 1 (Winter, 1965), p. 88

2015-04-09 08.11.32

Caspar Hauser was one of the most enigmatic figures of the nineteenth century. A semisavage and inarticulate young man, he first appeared in Nuremberg in 1828, spent five tortured years under the tutelage of various guardians, and then met an end as mysterious as his beginnings. Was he the disinherited scion of a ruling house, a charlatan, a madman, or perhaps all of these? Speculation ran high, and has continued to this day. Writers in Germany, France, and England were fascinated by the dark fate of the foundling, and the interpretations vary from the calme orphelin of Verlaine’s great poem to the saintly scapegoat of slothfulness of heart presented by the German novelist Jakob Wassermann.

In her new novel, Prince Ishmael (Stein & Day, $5.95), part of which appeared in Harper’s Bazaar, Marianne Hauser vividly recreates the brutish ambience of Caspar’s short life. Narrating the boy’s story from his point of view, she displays a keenness of psychological insight whose impact is immediate. However, her sympathetic evocation of the archetypal outcast does not merely present the “facts” of the case, but bestows upon the hero an aura of almost mythical grandeur. Caspar’s emergence from the womb of night, his mirror calligraphy, and his helpless groping in the labyrinth of his own mind symbolize the existential plight of man in a bewildering universe.

Miss Hauser’s probing analysis of character unfortunately is not matched by an equally acute sense of style, and now and then her prose verges on the sentimental, especially in passages of lyrically exalted nature mysticism. More successful is the surrealistic portrayal of the agony of a lost soul, oscillating between reality and appearance. Though Prince Ishmael implicitly criticizes the materialistic goals of a mechanized civilization, it never becomes harsh or aggressively polemic.

To make her plea for the confused and the oppressed of this earth, Miss Hauser prefers the more gracious art of symbolism. She thus recaptures the fervor with which the last century hailed Caspar Hauser, victim of Nuremberg, as “The Child of Europe,” and has erected another   monument to his memory.

Saintly Scapegoat, JOSEPH P. BAUKE.   Saturday Review, September 7, 1963 pp24, 35

macmillan.PI.rejection

The Multiple Man, by Guy Davenport, The National Review, October 8, 1963, Pp. 310-313.:

PI.Davenport.5

PI.Davenport.4

PI.Davenport.3

PI.Davenport.2

PI.Davenport.1

MEMOIR OF A NAZI

Marianne Hauser was born in 1910. Her early life was shaped by the two world wars: her earliest memories are of Strasbourg in the teens, her sister’s death, her father’s working in a German munitions plant, marching off to the bomb shelters singing the song, Allons Enfants, smuggling eggs. In her few autobiographical writings World War 1 is both tragic and a caper, an event that divided the loyalties of her relatives. Her family was German. But they lived as Alsatians, the only identity she embraced her entire life. In the story Allons Enfants her uncle is a member of an underground organization in favor of Alsatian independence. The duality, or tripling of identity informed her work. World War 2 on the other hand, and the Nazis, has no aspect of the caper about it. Hauser loathed the Nazis and was deeply disturbed by her father’s decision to move to Germany in the twenties, and remain until his death in the forties. Her mother died in the forties too. She did not see them after the late thirties, perhaps 1937 or ’38. At some point in those years she skied with her father in Switzerland, and saw her mother in Paris. Her husband, Fred Kirchberger, escaped the Nazis and joined her in America. His brother, Paul, had married Eva Hauser, Marianne’s younger sister. They are listed as holocaust survivors. I have been able to learn very little about them, even from Michael Kirchberger. The fact is Marianne and Fred were not interested in discussing the past. Yet in the 30’s, in New York, Hauser lectured on the threat of Nazism, addressing church and civic groups. Her beat as a reviewer was the war. The vast majority of her NYT book reviews are of books dealing with Fascist Europe. The same is true for her Saturday Review pieces. I haven’t seen the New York Herald Tribune reviews, but I suspect the same is true there. These were written in the early forties.
Her fiction is full of references to Nazis, fascism, the police state, and often, a character who meets a German and calls him a Nazi. Here is a piece Michael Kirchberger sent me. It is about a review she read in the New York times of Leni Riefenstahl’s autobiography. I don’t know if it was ever published.
riefenstahl
riefenstahl.2

ALICE S. MORRIS: A FIERCE CONTEMPT FOR BIGOTRY

2015-04-15 03.04.45

Alice S. Morris was one of Marianne Hauser’s closest personal friends, and she was also a vitally important professional friend. Morris was the literary editor at  Harper’s Bazaar from 1951-1968 and she published many of Hauser’s stories, as well as excerpts from her novel Prince Ishmael. In 1965 she edited The Uncommon Reader, a collection of Harper’s Bazaar stories which includes Hauser’s The Abduction, an hallucinatory journey into exile taken by a Hungarian composer. It is based largely on the life of Erno Dohnanyi, whom she knew in the 1950’s, in Tallahassee,  where he was teaching and where Fred Kirchberger got his PhD. Morris died at age 90 in 1993. Alice S. Morris was one of several adventurous mid-century editors at fashion magazines. These women’s magazines became a market for serious literary fiction. She was preceded by George Davis, who was at Harper’s Bazaar from 1936-1941, who then moved to Mademoiselle until 1949. Betsy Blackwell was the editor and chief of Mademoiselle from 1937-1971. Mademoiselle was a Conde Nast publication, which for a time was a partner of McBride’s, where Coby Gilman worked editing Travel. Carson McCullers, Truman Capote, Jean Stafford, Eudora Welty, Flannery O’Connor, James Baldwin, Jane Bowles, Paul Bowles, and Tennessee Williams are some of the many authors published by these fashion magazines early in their careers. When Hauser published Dark Dominion her friend Marguerite Young reviewed it in Vogue alongside McCullers’ A Member of the Wedding and Capote’s short stories.
Morris was married to Harvey Breit, a novelist and editor who reviewed books for the Times in the 40’s (his Times obit gives different dates than the Wikipedia article for his NYT tenure). When she died, Hauser wrote this about her old friend:

Alice S. Morris Obit
COPYRIGHT ESTATE OF MARIANNE HAUSER COLLECTION OF MICHAEL KIRCHBERGER