"One of those rare biographical novels that bring a whole world to life in a way that lingers in memory."
—Jay Parini, author of Borges and Me
This absorbing, sensitive novel portrays a famed author in a moment of crisis: an aging Hugo von Hofmannsthal returns to a summer resort outside of Salzburg that he visited as a child. But in the spa town where he once thrilled to the joys of youth, he now feels unproductive and uninspired, adrift in the modern world born after World War One. Over ten days in 1924 in a ramshackle inn that has been renamed the Grand Hotel, Hofmannsthal fruitlessly attempts to complete a play he’s long been wrestling with. The writer is plagued by feelings of loneliness and failure that echo in a buzz of inner monologues, imaginary conversations and nostalgic memories of relationships with glittering cultural figures. Palace of Flies conjures up an individual state of distress and disruption at a time of fundamental societal transformation that speaks eloquently to our own age.
"The elegant English-language debut from Austrian writer Kappacher explores mortality, change, and the creative life via an impressionistic depiction of real-life author and librettist Hugo von Hofmannsthal ... Kappacher captures the protagonist’s fear that his capacity to create, like the world he loved, is lost. It’s a moving portrait."
"Palace of Flies is one of those rare biographical novels that bring a whole world to life in a way that lingers in memory. This is an important book in which Walter Kappacher holds a peculiarly sharp mirror to the past and shows us, as all good historical novels do, an eerily astute glimpse at our present."
—Jay Parini, author of Borges and Me
"Walter Kappacher’s novel triumphs in portraying a middle-aged writer who balances the most intimate behavior—insomnia, indigestion—with the grandest of artistic ambitions. He achieves a special pathos by deliberately not underlining what we know—that the fifty-year-old protagonist is a few years from a tragic death and that everything he represents will be burned alive. Kappacher captures a now almost unimaginable sensibility with absolute coherence one hundred years later."
—Anthony Heilbut, author of Thomas Mann: Eros and Literature and Exiled in Paradise
"Neatly wrought ... Palace of Flies is an impressive character-portrait, steeped in the culture and conditions of the time ... The translation certainly does justice to Kappacher's original."
—The Complete Review
"Kappacher’s sensitive channeling of Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s voice and sensibility illuminates the difficulties of a creative mind to come to terms with a radically changing world. Michael P. Steinberg’s brilliantly concise introduction anchors the kaleidoscopic glimmer of the author’s memories in the turmoil of the first quarter of the twentieth century."
—Gitta Honegger, author of Thomas Bernhard: The Making of an Austrian and translator of Nobel laureate Elfriede Jelinek
"In this melancholy, atmospheric novella, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, the former darling of fin de siècle Vienna, returns to a spa near Salzburg to revive his flagging genius ... Hofmannsthal's love of the humanities and his ambition to promote the arts as a panacea against political violence are bound to speak eloquently to modern readers."
—Historical Novels Review
"In this elaborate, intellectual portrait of the collapsed Austro-Hungarian empire, Hugo von Hofmannsthal emerges as a man whose accomplishments and eloquence have left him utterly unprepared for the desolation of history. A meditation on the artist’s struggle to bring to life one’s own age, even as that age dissolves, and to make use of time as time makes use of us. A beautiful book."
—Adam Klein, author of The Medicine Burns and Tiny Ladies
"A masterpiece of contemporary story-telling."
— Der Standard
"You don’t have to be a Hofmannsthal connoisseur or even a lover to fall under the spell.”
—ORF Austrian Radio
"Walter Kappacher … is the most serious author I know. And at the same time there’s the paradox that it’s a seriousness that’s lightly worn.”
—Peter Handke, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature
“A magically beautiful book about an artist, a gentle reflection upon the melancholy of aging and the unsettling sensation that the world must gradually disappear.”
—Frankfurter Neue Presse
“Written in such an exquisite, unpretentious style—with every note correct—so that it is a joy.”
— Der Spiegel