Wikipedia defines a farce as a "comedy that aims to entertain the audience by means of unlikely, extravagant, and improbable situations, disguise and mistaken identity... and a fast-paced plot whose speed usually increases... and moves at a frantic pace toward a climax in which the initial problem is resolved. ...Generally, there is a happy ending." This definition certainly applies to OLIVER VII, where King Oliver of Alturia is unwilling to sign the unfavorable Coltor Treaty, is overthrown in a subsequent revolution, lives incognito in Vienna as the schlemiel Oscar, and then impersonates himself while participating in a plot to defraud the businessman Coltor of his vast fortune. In doing so, King Oliver... well, I'll say no more.
OLIVER VII is not great literature. Its characters are one-dimensional. There are no unique insights. Szerb evokes no special worlds or worldviews. Fate is playful and comical and not a profound confrontation with conscience or duty. Even so, this novel does share many features with Szerb's superb novel Journey by Moonlight (Pushkin Paper). As Len Rix observes in his terrific afterward, these include protagonists who start as misfits, flee from their responsibilities, and have strange adventures as they quest for their true selves. In JOURNEY, Szerb uses these preoccupations to create outstanding fiction. In OLIVER, the same material produces, well, entertainment.
Rix also observes that OLIVER reveals Szerb's "sly wit, benign good humor, and capacity to surprise us at every turn... and is unswervingly playful."
Recommended as a beach book, provided the amazing JOURNEY is read first. Rounded up to four stars.