Married Life, which was first published in 1929, is David Vogel's magnum opus—a sweeping portrait of a doomed marriage and a doomed city. Set in Vienna, the novel tells of the relationship between the penniless writer Rudolf Gurdweill and Baroness Thea von Takow, who treats her husband with cruelty and disdain. In spite of this, Gurdweill struggles to find the will to leave his wife, even when the devoted Lotte Bondheim offers him the prospect of true happiness. Yet this is no mere story of a love triangle. In astonishingly vivid detail, Vogel evokes the atmosphere of 1920s Vienna, taking readers from fashionable cafés and aristocratic estates to the shoemaker's workshop and the almshouse. With decadence and poverty existing side by side, Vienna is depicted as a city on the brink of collapse—a haunting prefigurement of the horrors to come. With its rich, vital prose, and its profound insight into the human condition, Married Life is truly a modern classic.
Written in Hebrew and published in Palestine in 1929, this is the single novel by this author, a poet who is presumed to have died at Auschwitz in 1944. Set in Vienna in the 1920s, the novel is a portrait of the disastrous marriage of one Rudolph Gurdweill, a poor Jewish intellectual, to a sadistic and anti-Semitic baroness. Her unfaithfulness and cruelty to the well-meaning but helpless and masochistic writer clearly represent the relationship between Vienna and its Jews. The complex atmosphere of Viennese culture between the wars is conveyed marvelously in highly detailed descriptions of the daily lives of these characters. Countless cigarettes and cups of coffee, and endless rendezvous in cafes, seem to be central to their existence as these doomed characters play out their extraordinarily neurotic roles. Vogel's eye for the telling ironic nuance misses nothing. When Gurdwell notices two policemen standing in a boat in the middle of the canal, stirring the water with a long pole, he thinks to himself, ``They're looking for someone who's going to drown himself tomorrow or next month . . . although it hasn't even entered that person's head yet to put an end to his life.'' This is an important novel, not only as the historic document that it is, but as a work of literature that echoes both Kafka and Mann.