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In search of Baron Kurtz in Bucharest

In the summer of 1990, I found myself sitting on the platform of Wien Sudbahnhof waiting for a train to Bucharest and dreaming of waltzing down the River Danube. In the dream, my partner and I spiralled through rooms that had hosted the secessionist salons of Mitteleuropa. We landed on the couch of Freud’s 20th century, before spilling onto the streets and the opening scenes of The Third Man.

This is where my imagination takes me: Holly Martins has arrived in a burnt-out city. There are traps and ambiguities for a visitor from the New World; there are harsh and shifting choices forced on refugees. The lush romance of the Danube waltz lingers in the background, but my appetite for suspense has me gripped. In Vienna at the end of the 20th century, I searched in vain for the slippery labyrinths containing an enigma in the shape of a moon-faced man. I never found him, so I took the train to Bucharest.
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July 14, 2022 - Lilian Pizzichini - History and MemoryIssue 4 2022Magazine

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