Leo Perutz's episodic novel centers around the illicit love between emperor Rudolf II and Esther, the wife of a Jewish financier, in 16th-century Prague. Though structured as a series of stand-alone stories, it builds momentum as the various plots become increasingly connected in a captivating tale of love, money, greed, and political and religious drama. Simon Brooks performs with a moody distinction, perfectly capturing the atmospheric intrigue of this Austrian tale with his elegant, nuanced voice work. By Night Under the Stone Bridge explores the complicated relationship between Jews and Christians in Europe to craft a bold historical fable.
First published in 1953, this magical historical novel ostensibly describes the series of events which led to Bohemia's defeat by Austria at the Battle of the White Mountain, in the 16th century. But the Czech emigre author was probably inspired by the events of the Holocaust, so expertly does he re-create the uneasy alliances of Prague's Jewish and Catholic communities. While riding in the woods, Emperor Rudolf II, King of Bohemia and Holy Roman Emperor, comes upon two men counting money destined for a member of the "persecuted race", Mordechai Meisl. The Emperor demands a taler for himself, but the coin causes him only misfortune and, by a series of mysterious coincidences, ends up in Meisl's hands. Thus begins the long, secret, and often tragic association between the two. Rudolf II, corrupt, weak and spendthrift, needs Meisl's money-making talents to finance his extravagances, while Meisl can prosper only under Rudolf's protection. By novel's end it's clear they are in reality enemies. Perutz lets his imagination soar, abandoning the excessive caution he often shows elsewhere. The risks pay off in this finest of his works now in translation.
©1988 Paul Zsolnay Verlag G.m.b.H. English translation copyright 1989 by William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. First Skyhorse edition copyright 2013 by William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. (P)2013 Audible, Inc.
Retired CFO, Army wife, Mom of five, Grandma of six, two sons who served in combat, love to read books that reflect my values and faith, love mysteries, historical, military stories, and books that don't waste my time . . . if it doesn't have an ending that was worth the wait, I'm not a happy camper.
Taking place in Prague, at that time part of Austria, By Night Under the Stone Bridge, is a rambling, sometimes disjointed, collection of parables telling the story of Emperor Rudolf II and Mordechai, the Jew . . . the narration is mesmerizing, lulling you in, and for me, the very best part . . . as a traveler to Prague, Germany, Austria, and a lover of the old winding cobblestone roads, I could almost see the horse drawn carriages, and imagine the men and women, dressed in worn and shabby clothes, dickering for the best price for goods in the market place.
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