Author(s): Vogel David
Michael Rost, an 18-year-old Jewish youth hungry for experience, comes to Vienna and forms passing relationships with everyone who crosses his path: whores, revolutionaries, paupers, army officers, and rich men who frequent cabarets and gambling dens. When Peter Dean, a shady businessman, takes the penniless Rost under his wing, he rents a room in the home of an affluent bourgeois family. He is seduced by the lady of the house, Gertrude, while her husband is away on business, and shortly after starts an affair with her 16-year-old daughter as well. This love triangle threatens to destroy the entire family, and when the master of the house returns home, Rost is forced to move out. In his new lodgings, his loneliness, his nocturnal wanderings, and his casual romantic encounters become second nature. Some twenty years later, he moves to Paris, drifts around between prostitutes and occasional love affairs, impoverished by gambling and yet unable to find a home. As in the work of Vogel's contemporaries, the mesmerising figure of Michael Rost reflects the tortured relationship between cosmopolitan Jewish intellectuals and early-20th-century Europe.
Literary Israel was abuzz when the untitled manuscript of this previously unknown novel was discovered in 2010 in the Vogel archives in Tel Aviv. Experts have since come to believe that David Vogel began working on it between 1912 and 1925 in Vienna, and continued later in Paris. Although Vogel wrote in Hebrew, he lived most of his adult life in Vienna and Paris; he was essentially a central European author, belonging to the group that included Stefan Zweig, Arthur Schnitzler, Franz Werfel, and Joseph Roth. Like Married Life, which established Vogel as a major writer, Viennese Romance reflects the obsessive-destructive loves and the pervasive decadence of the time.