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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The End of the World in Breslau

Marek Krajewski

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To purchase The End of the World in Breslau

Title: The End of the World in Breslau
Author: Marek Krajewski
Genre: Novel
Written: 2003 (Eng. 2009)
Length: 294 pages
Original in: Polish
Availability: The End of the World in Breslau - US
The End of the World in Breslau - UK
The End of the World in Breslau - Canada
The End of the World in Breslau - India
Fin du monde à Breslau - France
Der Kalenderblattmörder - Deutschland
La fine del mondo a Breslavia - Italia
Fin del mundo en Breslau - España
  • The second Eberhard Mock novel
  • Polish title Koniec świata w Breslau
  • Translated by Danusia Stok

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Our Assessment:

B : solid though very busy crime thriller set in 1920s Breslau (present-day Wrocław)

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Independent . 1/4/2009 Barry Forshaw
Publishers Weekly . 4/2/2013 .

  From the Reviews:
  • "This ferocious odyssey into a lost world of decadence, class and deception is not a comfortable journey. But Krajewski's lacerating narrative, as before, performs the key function of the skilful novelist: providing an entrée into a world far from our own." - Barry Forshaw, The Independent

  • "Fans of Simenon’s stand-alone noirs will find much to like." - Publishers Weekly

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 End of the World in Breslau begins and ends in 1960s New York city, as a Herbert Anwaldt arrives at the deathbed of Eberhard Mock, who wants to get something off his chest before receiving the last rites. It's about his first wife, Sophie, he tells Anwaldt, before launching into his account of what happened in late 1927 back in what was then still German Breslau (the city that is now Polish Wrocław).
       Then in his mid-forties, police Counsellor Mock was married to: "a beautiful and capricious woman twenty years his junior, whose changeable emotions frequently encouraged her husband to pay a visit to the jewellers". They've been trying to conceive, but heavy-drinking Mock's approach -- which involves relying on astrologically auspicious dates, forcing himself on his wife, and drink-related performance issues -- have heightened tensions between the couple. Mock also begins to get suspicious of young Sophie, and assigns one of his policemen-underlings to keep an eye on her; Sophie has, indeed, taken up new interests -- but it's a while before her husband learns exactly what she's up to. Meanwhile, he has another policeman keeping an eye on another troubled family member, his nephew.
       Both his wife and his nephew wind up being bit-players in the larger criminal investigation that he gets involved in too, a series of horrific murders whose only common element appears to be a calendar-page left on the victim, indicating the date he was killed. Mock is certain that the murder-dates have a special significance -- but it takes him a while to figure out what that might be.
       As the title of the novel suggests, there's a bit of an end-of-world feel going around in Breslau -- fostered, in part, by a would-be prophet who knows how to sell the apocalypse. The slow rise of Nazism in the background -- not particularly significant in the Breslau of the time yet, but a shadow that is clearly looming -- helps with the end-of-world atmosphere. But this is also the tail-end of the decadent 1920s, and there's a good dose of decadence to be found -- in particular when Sophie decides she's had enough of Mock and hightails it out of there, heading to Wiesbaden where she meets up with an old lover who has his own set of problems (some of which become hers).
       Hard-drinking Mock, who is not unwilling to go beyond the call and letter of the law (and who puts on a rubber apron when conducting some of his interrogations ...) and is even willing to threaten to reveal unsavory facts about the boss's son to save his job, is not the most sympathetic of protagonists, but he is a fairly compelling one. He is passionate about his wife -- even if he has difficulty consistently showing that -- and cares about his nephew, but this world of loose morals and violent crazies makes it difficult to always do the right thing, and Mock certainly doesn't.
       Choppily divided into short chapters, each headed by a description of time, date, and locale ('Breslau, that same December 13th, 1927 eleven o'clock in the evening') the narrative moves along a bit jerkily. The framing device also proves a bit awkward (and/or superfluous): the narrative remains a third-person account, rather than Mock's own, and there are parts of the story to which Mock can not have been privy; a final little twist, when the novel returns to 1960 after Mock has told his story, also feels a bit forced.
       As to the crime investigation story itself, it's all a bit busy, with Mock distracted by various personal issues (leading, among other things, even to a not-half-bad suicide attempt). Still, it eventually comes together quite nicely, and there's certainly enough action and intrigue to hold the attention of the reader. Krajewski's presentation often feels a bit coarse -- he's trying (rather than always managing ...) to keep track of a lot of pieces on his chessboard -- but with so much going on there's always enough to keep the reader interested.

- M.A.Orthofer, 12 March 2013

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The End of the World in Breslau: Reviews: Marek Krajewski: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Polish author Marek Krajewski was born in 1966.

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© 2013-2021 the complete review

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