Georg Letham: Physician and Murderer

Georg Letham: Physician and Murderer


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First published in 1931 and now appearing for the first time in English, Georg Letham: Physician and Murderer is a disquieting anatomy of a deviant mind in the tradition of Crime and Punishment. Letham, the treacherously unreliable narrator, is a depraved bacteriologist whose murder of his wife is, characteristically, both instinctual and premeditated. Convicted and exiled, he attempts to atone for his crimes through science, conceiving of the book we are reading as an empirical report on himself—whose ultimate purpose may be to substitute for a conscience. Yet Letham can neither understand nor master himself. His crimes are crimes of passion, and his passions remain more or less untouched by his reason—in fact they are constantly intruding on his "report," rigorous as it is intended to be. Both feverish and chilling, Georg Letham explores the limits of reason and the tensions between objectivity and subjectivity. Moving from an unnamed Central European city to arctic ice floes to a tropical island prison, this layered novel—with its often grotesquely comic tone and arresting images—invites us into the darkest chambers of the human psyche.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780980033038
Publisher: Steerforth Press
Publication date: 01/29/2010
Edition description: Translatio
Pages: 560
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 6.80(h) x 1.60(d)

About the Author

Ernst Weiss, born in 1882 in Bruunn, Moravia in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, was a trained physician. His years as a ship’s doctor are apparent in much of the detail in Georg Letham. Weiss’ work emerges from an expressionist background but belongs with the modernist classics.

Joel Rotenberg translated Chess Story and The Post-Office Girl by Stefan Zweig and Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s The Lord Chandos Letter for the New York Review Books Classics series.

Read an Excerpt

How could I, Georg Letham, a physician, a man of scientific training, of certain philosophical aspirations, let myself be so far carried away as to commit an offense of the gravest sort, the murder of my wife? And to commit this crime chiefly for financial reasons? Or so it would appear to the outsider. For money was in fact the one thing I could never get from that woman, who was doglike in her attachment to me. Am I revil- ing her with this word "doglike"? No. I am only attempting to explain, and so far I have not succeeded. There is a gaping internal contradic- tion here, and yet that is how it was.

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