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The Sufferings of Prince Sternenhoch: A Grotesque Tale of Horror Paperback – Apr 1 2008

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From Publishers Weekly

Despite the subtitle, this first English-language publication by Klima (1878-1928), a noted Czech philosopher, has little to offer readers of Stephen King. It is more screed than story, ostensibly the tale of a mad German prince who marries a completely appalling woman, who murders her father and infant before trysting with a filthy peasant who flogs her bloody while enduring her windy rants about her own abused, abusive and completely anti-social upbringing. Thus stimulated, the prince's "romance" continues well after his wife's apparent death. There's much of the whip in all this, a great fascination with all things perverse, but nothing that makes any of the characters more than bizarre caricatures. Much scabrous wit and the hallucinatory nature of events leave the reader uncertain about taking anything seriously. Appended is the author's autobiography, in which he turns out to be as pathological as any of his characters, a genuine transgressive in the manner of de Sade. Either our legs are being pulled, or this a fine example of the Ambrose Bierce dictum that the philosopher specializes in giving advice to people who are happier than he is.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3 reviews
Poe meets De Sade Oct. 9 2012
By Stingo - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition
I picked up a copy of this book in Prague and could not put it down. At places grotesque, at others funny and yet at others preachy. Yet never boring. You always want to know where poor Sternenhoch is going to end up in his gradually increasing degradation. Great book.
Satirical story of degeneration March 1 2011
By Steven Davis - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The Sufferings of Prince Sternenhoch is a gothic tale of horror used as a vehicle for the author's philosophical views along with a bit of satire.

The story is narrated, mostly in diary form, by Prince Helmut Sternenhoch, a wealthy German nobleman who is both friend and advisor to Kaiser Wilhelm II. Sternenhoch is timid, insipid and stodgy. His only flash of spontaneity is to ask for the hand in marriage of 17-year-old Helga on the basis of a single glance from her at a social gathering. "Take the bitch!," Helga's father later tells Sternenhoch, "...who knows how she'll turn out; perhaps she'll be a mythical dragon, or a walking corpse..." Initially more of the latter, Helga soon undergoes a remarkable internal transformation. She begins to live in Dionysian excess, sporting naked with wild carnivores, indulging wild destructive whims, and heaping contempt upon poor Sternenhoch.

At this point, as the conflict between the Prince and his wife becomes too bitter for him to bear, Sternenhoch begins a descent into madness. He begins to doubt the reality of what he sees and does, and Helga becomes, in his mind, a spectre turning up to torment him at the most unlikely places and times. As he is the one telling the tale, we are likewise unsure what is real and what is hallucination. Perhaps Helga never existed at all!

Ladislav Klima was heavily influenced by the writings of George Berkeley, Arthur Schopenhauer, and Friedrich Nietzsche. Based on his autobiographical sketch at the end of the volume, it is apparent that Helga was Klima's mirror image. She is dismissive of physical suffering, detests conventionality, and eventually seeks to make a god of herself through a sheer act of will. She is part philosopher, part wild animal, mercurial in temperament, and, like Klima himself, comes to subsist largely on alcohol and tobacco.

Sternenhoch's degeneration becomes increasingly debasing, with occasional comic interludes that bring out the author's contempt for Prussian aristocracy. At one point the Kaiser himself even comes onto the scene and is made to look almost as ridiculous a figure as Sternenhoch himself. The two of them spend hours together, for example, looking at the Kaiser's collection of photographs of rats.

The Sufferings of Prince Sternenhoch is an entertaining, thoughtful and unique underground novel. The English translation by Carleton Bulkin is marvelous, and in the edition by Twisted Spoon Press there are excellent supporting notes and essays.
5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
well executed Dec 4 2006
By ginsu - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Yes the plot is very poe, and theres some nietzsche preachiness, but the novel is hilarious absurdist romp: like maldorer, and the ubu plays mixed with diary of my nervous illness and nervals more schizo musings. highly recommended.

skip Moravagine and read this instead.