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Caution: Strong philosophical language. Not for the faint hearted. Will literarily blow your mind.
A philosophical and art historical novel.
Zurich 1916. Amidst the chaos of WWI a young man from provincial Poland arrives to study art. Good natured and unsophisticated, Anton has an enquiring nature and a strong desire to engage with modern culture. His lodgings are in Spiegelgasse, the same street as the neonatal dada movement’s Cabaret Voltaire. The narrative takes place over about six months during which Anton attends the cabaret performances and meets the artists. He is thus able to observe at first hand the development of dada in Zurich from its beginnings while attempting to understand the underlying forces and impetus. He also encounters Vladimir Lenin and his wife who take a room at the same lodging house. Lenin acquaints Anton with the naked truth about society and reveals his views on art.
Anton forms a friendship with Karl, an art student his own age from an old Zurich family. Anton is impressed with Karl's sophisticated manner and erudition, which Anton attempts to absorb through discussion and voracious reading, immersing himself in avant-garde art and philosophy.
Although Anton had by this time begun to liberate himself from the dogma of his native Catholicism and was inclined towards a scientific and atheistic view, the impact of Friedrich Nietzsche’s philosophy, the Cabaret Voltaire, the war, etc., drove him further into nihilism and he struggled to achieve a positive reconstruction of the world. He both relished and dreaded the ideas he encountered. Anton's avowed aim was to achieve full self-consciousness and a clear understanding of the nature of his being, so intrepid and honest inquiry into reality was essential.
This is a coming of age story processed through Anton’s mind, with all its struggles, naiveté and imperfection. When Anton achieves his goal of self-consciousness through a profound subjective experience he discovers that it’s not what he hoped for.