A Legacy (New York Review Books Classics)
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A Legacy is the tale of two very different families, the Merzes and the Feldens. The Jewish Merzes are longstanding members of Berlin’s haute bourgeoisie who count a friend of Goethe among their distinguished ancestors. Not that this proud legacy means much of anything to them anymore. Secure in their huge town house, they devote themselves to little more than enjoying their comforts and ensuring their wealth. The Feldens are landed aristocracy, well off but not rich, from Germany’s Catholic south. After Julius von Felden marries Melanie Merz the fortunes of the two families will be strangely, indeed fatally, entwined.
Set during the run-up to World War I, a time of weirdly mingled complacency and angst, A Legacy is captivating, magnificently funny, and profound, an unforgettable image of a doomed way of life.
say something,” said Gabriel. But Johannes only shook. “Speak to us,” said the old Baron. Clara stepped forward. “Poor little boy,” she said and tried to touch him. Johannes shrank back and bared his teeth at her. “Oh, do behave yourself, you little fool,” said Gustavus and seized him by the collar. Johannes wheeled and bit his hand. “Jean—” said his father. “Jean!” said Julius. “Jean please—” said Gabriel and burst into tears. The bull stood unmoved, licking his own muzzle. “My dear,
realize, don’t you, about twenty years older than you.” Melanie fluffed out her skirts. “I must get ready,” she said. “It is time. It isn’t good for mules to stand when they are warm.” “Preposterous,” said Sarah. “Well I don’t know,” said Edu. “Utterly preposterous.” “There is the difference of religion.” “Oh that,” said Sarah. “High time some of us were baptized.” “Not while my mother is alive,” said Edu. “What can a man like Jules have in common with a girl like her.” “He seems keen
days, whereas Melanie had everything she wanted and had wanted nothing very much. Now her need was entire, and it was everything. She had not heard of the relativity of love, and perhaps what animated her was not relative; her future, or the lack of one, proved it to have been the one directed longing of her body, will and pliant heart. This soft creature was discovering the necessity of courage, and found courage—she pressed aside the immediate claims of her anxiety and turned to Julius with a
them for their granddaughter. Nobody’s said anything so far, but don’t you think it would be a good idea to have them put in a safe? Incidentally where are they?” “The maid would know,” said Julius. “I meant to ask you about the ring. Wouldn’t you like to keep that? The one you gave her? The topaze.” “My father’s ring. Yes, I would.” “Jules did you ever buy that house?” “What house?” “Your house. The one in France.” “Oh no, it was quite the wrong house.” “Then you could buy one now? You
deceiving you. This is most serious; I cannot come over now as I’m detained, but I hope to be at Landen this evening and deal with everything. Meanwhile let Julius keep an eye on his brother. In great haste, yours ever, B When she had finished, Clara spoke first. “Our father wrote this, Conrad,” she said. Her lips moved. “I have never heard of it,” Julius said. He was trembling. “You were not there, Jules,” Clara said. “It was after you went off that we were told about the note;