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A grand hotel in the center of 1920s Berlin serves as a microcosm of the modern world in Vicki Baum's celebrated novel, a Weimar-era best seller that retains all its verve and luster today. Among the guests of the hotel is Doctor Otternschlag, a World War I veteran whose face has been sliced in half by a shell. Day after day he emerges to read the paper in the lobby, discreetly inquiring at the desk if the letter he's been awaiting for years has arrived. Then there is Grusinskaya, a great ballerina now fighting a losing battle not so much against age as against her fear of it, who may or may not be made for Gaigern, a sleek professional thief. Herr Preysing also checks in, the director of a family firm that isn t as flourishing as it appears, who would never imagine that Kringelein, his underling, a timorous petty clerk he's bullied for years, has also come to Berlin, determined to live at last now that he's received a medical death sentence. All these characters and more, with all their secrets and aspirations, come together and come alive in the pages of Baum's delicious anddisturbing masterpiece.
About the Author
Vicki Baum (1888 1960) was born into an affluent Jewish family in Vienna. Her childhood was dominated by a depressed mother and an authoritarian, hypochondriac father, who discouraged her early forays into literature. She studied harp at the Vienna Academy for Music and the Performing Arts and left home at eighteen to marry Max Prels, a journalist under whose name her first short stories were published. In 1916, after the dissolution of her first marriage, she married the conductor Richard Lert and launched her literary career, eventually writing nearly a book a year while working as an editor at the German publishing house Ullstein. Her first major success came in 1920 with the publication of her second novel, Once in Vienna. She spent several months in New York and Hollywood during the making of the film adaptation of Grand Hotel which starred Greta Garbo and Joan Crawford and went on to win the 1933 Oscar for Best Film and, before Hitler s rise to power, resettled in Los Angeles, where she continued to publish novels while also working as a screenwriter for Paramount and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Her memoir, It Was All Quite Different, was published posthumously. Basil Creighton (1886 1989) translated many notable works of German literature, including Hermann Hesse s Steppenwolf, B. Traven s The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, and Alma Mahler s Gustav Mahler: Memories and Letters. Margot Bettauer Dembo has translated works by Judith Hermann, Robert Gernhardt, Joachim Fest, Odon von Horvath, and Feridun Zaimoglu, among others. She was awarded the Goethe-Institut/Berlin Translator s Prize in 1994 and the Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator s Prize in 2003. Dembo has also worked as a translator for two feature documentary films: The Restless Conscience, which was nominated for an Academy Award, and The Burning Wall. Her translation of Transit by Anna Seghers was published by NYRB Classics in 2013. Noah Isenberg is a professor of culture and media at the New School, where he also serves as the director of screen studies. He is the author of several books on film, a regular contributor to Bookforum, The Nation, and the Times Literary Supplement, and the book review editor of Film Quarterly. Isenberg is a fellow at the New York Institute for the Humanities and the recipient of a 2015 NEH Public Scholar award."