By Peter Weiss
Translated by Christopher Levenson
Introduction by Sven Birkerts
Though he is best known for his plays such as Marat/Sade, Peter Weiss, one of the twentieth century's great artistic polymaths, also wrote fiction throughout his prolific and wide-ranging career. First published in 1966 and long out of print, Leavetaking is the story of an upper-middle-class childhood and adolescence in Berlin between the wars. At its heart are two struggles: the child's attempt to break free from its parents, and the young artist's to find the will and means to create.
Written in a single incantatory paragraph, Weiss summons up the atmosphere of youth in all its headiness, intensity, and confusion. Leavetaking's narrator, who is largely oblivious to the tide of world events that forces his family to move again and again, is focused instead on becoming a painter, an ambition frustrated generally by his milieu and specifically by his mother, herself a former actress.
He turns in the end to an older mentor, Harry Haller, a fictionalized portrait of Hermann Hesse - Weiss's real-life mentor - and with Haller's example before him, the narrator takes his first steps towards a "life of my own."
Melville House Publishing
5 x 0.4 x 8 inches