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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Late Fame

Arthur Schnitzler

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To purchase Late Fame

Title: Late Fame
Author: Arthur Schnitzler
Genre: Novella
Written: (1895) (Eng. 2015)
Length: 107 pages
Original in: German
Availability: Late Fame - US
Late Fame - UK
Late Fame - Canada
Gloire tardive - France
Später Ruhm - Deutschland
Fama tardiva - Italia
  • German title: Später Ruhm
  • First published posthumously, in 2014
  • Translated by Alexander Starritt
  • With an Afterword by Wilhelm Hemecker and David Österle

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Our Assessment:

B : decent little tale of literary ambitions and realities

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Irish Times . 24/10/2015 Eileen Battersby
NZZ B+ 15/5/2014 Andreas Breitenstein
TLS . 24/6/2014 Ritchie Robertson

  From the Reviews:
  • "Late Fame is unlike anything else by the Viennese writer Arthur Schnitzler (.....) It is ironic and restrained; Saxberger never quite acquires our sympathy, because Schnitzler does not seek it." - Eileen Battersby, Irish Times

  • "Nun wird man Späten Ruhm in der Tat nicht als «Meisterwerk» bezeichnen wollen, doch geht die Novelle trotz ihrer konventionellen Erzählweise in Gehalt und Form über die blosse Fingerübung oder Skizze hinaus. (...) Von hohem satirischem Unterhaltungswert ist das Bestiarium des «Jungen Wien», eine Typologie der Kaffeehausliteraten, mit denen Schnitzler selber seinerzeit freundschaftlich verkehrte." - Andreas Breitenstein, Neue Zürcher Zeitung

  • "It is an accomplished and mildly amusing tale, and a welcome but minor addition to the Schnitzler canon." - Ritchie Robertson, Times Literary Supplement

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The main character in Late Fame is Eduard Saxberger, a staid old bureaucrat without any family who lives a reasonably comfortable life with his comfortable routines. Some three decades earlier he had youthful literary ambitions, and even published a long-forgotten -- by him and the world both -- volume of poetry, Wanderings, and Late Fame opens with his life not quite being upended but certainly rattled a bit, when an aspiring young writer -- "Wolfgang Meier, author", he introduces himself -- comes to visit the old man to express his, and his literary circle's, admiration for the work:

     "People might not read them any more," replied the young man. "But we read them, we admire them and, I think, in time people, too, will again come to read and admire them."
       Meier flatters the old man and pulls him into his orbit of aspiring littérateurs that gather at a Viennese café -- very different from the older crowd that Saxberger currently whiles his evenings away with. It's a blast from and reminder of the past, and Saxberger gets quite caught up in their youthful enthusiasm -- helped by the fact that they look up to him as a grand old master, a man who, with publication and at least a bit of recognition, back in the day, had achieved a goal that so far has eluded them (but also fits in in their circle, his genius under-appreciated and not properly recognized -- just as they think theirs are).
       The reminder of his Wanderings-days does hit him melancholily:
Never had he felt so deeply that he was an old man, that not only the hopes but also the disappointments lay far behind him.
       But in the company of these youths and in their literary circle, some of his youthful hopes are revived. Schnitzler portrays the youngsters and their ambitions -- and opinions and frustrations -- amusingly (clearly also basing many of the characters loosely on the Viennese literary aspirants of the (mid-1890s) day). Saxberger is of course a bit of the odd man out, but they're generous to him -- though also because he serves a purpose, a validation of what they are trying to do. So also when the group -- naming themselves "Enthusiasm" -- plan a showcase, a recital where they will perform their works to introduce themselves to the public, Saxberger is invited to take part, and contribute a new work.
       Not surprisingly, Saxberger finds his poetic talents have grown rusty, but there's always something from Wanderings to fall back on ..... Late Fame describes the build-up to, and then inevitable letdown of the performance, with Saxberger learning the not unsurprising lesson (that has been staring him in the face all along) that he isn't really part of this new generation (even as it echoes every old one, including his) and that the days when he could, or wanted to, style himself a poet have passed. Schnitzler doesn't make it a cruel lesson of disappointment -- though he does add a nice (and again not unsurprising) reveal-twist at the end, suggesting it's more the popular image of the poet than the poetry itself that mattered (as is often the case ...).
       Schnitzler nicely describes how Saxberger acts and reacts in his different environments, and how he fits in the different circles he frequents -- with the youthful literary one a novel one in which he is a fish out of water (but generally a comfortable one), while in his other rounds he fits more readily in. With an actress who takes an interest in him -- female attention of a kind he has long ben unaccustomed to getting -- and the constant flattery from the youngsters, these experiences are, on the whole good for his ego -- but ultimately he realizes and knows his place.
       Late Fame is a fine little work -- and, despite its long-delayed publication, a finished, not rough one. Gentle in its satire of literary aspirations and life -- especially of the Kaffeehausliteraten-types of the Viennese fin de siècle --, Late Fame was originally not published (in the newspaper, Die Zeit) because it was too long, but as is it suffers a bit from its in between-length: slightly fuller treatment probably would have done the story some good. Still, even as is, it's an enjoyable small work of an old man drawn out of what has become his routine and thrust -- but not too far, and for not too long -- back into the over-eager world of young poets and their dreams and frustrations.

- M.A.Orthofer, 30 July 2017

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Late Fame: Reviews: Arthur Schnitzler: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Austrian author Arthur Schnitzler lived 1862 to 1931.

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© 2017-2021 the complete review

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