August Reading Group Selection: Count Luna

The Book Beat reading group selection for August is Count Luna by Alexander Lernet-Holenia, translated from the German by Jane B. Greene. This will be a virtual Zoom meeting held on Wednesday, August 25th at 7 PM. Books are available in the store now and are discounted 15%. If you would like to attend, and are not on our reading group list, please RSVP to us with your name, phone number and email and we will add you to our virtual reading group list. Reminders and login links will be sent on the morning or day of the meeting. Please try and login 10 minutes before the meeting so we can begin on time. 

At the start of WWII, Alexander Jessiersky, an Austrian aristocrat, heads a great Viennese shipping company. He detests the Nazis, and when his board of directors asks him to go along with confiscating a neighbor’s large parcel of land for their thriving wartime business, Jessiersky refuses. Yet, without his knowledge, the board succeeds in sending the owner of the land, a certain Count Luna, to a Nazi concentration camp on a trumped-up charge.

Years later the war is over, but after a series of mysterious events, Jessiersky, deeply paranoid, becomes convinced that Count Luna has survived and seeks vengeance; driven to kill the source of his dread, he decides to hunt down Luna—and his years-long chase after the spectral count finally takes him deep into the catacombs of Rome …”

“No one could predict the trajectory of phases—from illumination to horror—of Lernet-Holenia’s Count Luna. I hyperventilated as it ended and remain astounded. What cinematic poetry!” – Patti Smith

“Daunting panache, fast-moving, cleverly convoluted, terrific.” – Eileen Battersby, Irish Times

“Moves with the elegance of a rat in a black tie, poised to burgle a grand hotel.” – Gottfried Benn

Alexander Lernet-Holenia (1895-1977) was born in Vienna, into the Austo-Hungarian aristocracy. He served in the First World War and became a protégé of Rainer Maria Rilke, who championed his poetry. He participated in the invasion of Poland, an experience on which he based his 1941 novel Die Blaue Stunde (The Blue Hour) which has been called “the only Austrian resistance novel” and was banned by the Nazi government. His uneasy relationship with the National Socialist Party resulted in his removal from prominence in 1944. He escaped service on the Eastern combat theatre through contrived illness and the help of the resistance network. After the end of the Second World War, he again became a vital figure in Austrian cultural life. Throughout his life he produced a heterogeneous literary opus that included poetry, plays, screenplays, and psychological novels describing the intrusion of otherworldly or unreal experiences into reality. He died in 1976.


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