Scarred Hearts by Max Blecher
Translated by Henry Howard
Introduction by Paul Bailey
Old Street Publishing, Paperback, 240 pages ISBN: 9781905847181
“Scarred Hearts is a masterpiece, and all the more poignant for being so beadily accurate about human behaviour in extremis. It is a book to live with, to read again and again, as only great literature demands us to.” Paul Bailey
Scarred Hearts, set and written in the 1930s, tells the story of 21-year-old Emanuel, a Romanian student of chemistry in Paris, who becomes ill with Pott’s disease (tuberculosis of the spine) and spends a year in a sanatorium, his body wrapped in a plaster body cast. In spite of their failing bodies, the patients continue to fall in love and have sex, experiencing life with heightened intensity. Blecher captures brilliantly the process of physical decay and erosion, a ‘scarring’ both of the body and the soul.
Hailed by Ionesco as a master, Blecher’s writing combines the stark lucidity of Kafka’s prose with the literary sensibility of Proust and the atmosphere and setting of Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain.
This is a rediscovered classic of modern European literature translated into English for the first time, and an important addition to the canon of twentieth century Jewish writing.
Marcel ‘Max’ Blecher was born in 1909 into a Jewish family in Botosani, Romania. At the age of 19 he contracted tuberculosis of the spine and spent the rest of his life in hospitals and sanatoria. He published his first book of poetry in 1934, and his first novel in 1936. Scarred Hearts, his second and last novel, appeared in 1937, a year before his death at the age of 29. In spite of his limited output, Blecher had already become a member of the French and Romanian literary avant-garde. His work was forgotten for many decades, and rediscovered in the West only in recent years. The German edition has led to rave reviews and a number one position among “Notable books” in the leading weekly Die Zeit.