“Lost Books” is a weekly series highlighting forgotten books through the prism of Tablet Magazine’s and Nextbook.org’s archives. So blow the dust off the cover, and begin!
In 1908, Viennese playwright Arthur Schnitzler published The Road into the Open. The novel featured Schnitzler’s favored plotline—an affair between a male aristocrat and a lower class woman—but also vividly addressed contemporary anti-Semitism in the city over which Hitler’s hero, Karl Lueger, had presided as mayor.
Wesley Yang revisited the novel in 2008, writing that turn-of-the-century readers were simply not prepared for the realities Schnitzler unloaded, and most ignored the book entirely. The Road into the Open, Yang argues, remains Schnitzler’s least understood work:
In the novel, Schnitzler the former doctor lays out a clinical anatomy of the psychic scars imposed on the Jews by their liminal position as privileged outsiders in Austrian society. His characters can neither fully embrace nor wholly reject their equivocal role in an unjust and disintegrating society. They twist themselves into a fantastic array of personal and political contortions in an effort to break out of the impasse, and into the open.
Read Beginning of the End, by Wesley Yang
Stephanie Butnick is deputy editor of Tablet Magazine and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.