Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Perutz, Leo

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(1884-1957) Austrian novelist and playwright; he left Austria for Israel after the 1938 Anschluss. Although he is not by instinct an sf writer, Der Meister des juengsten Tages (1923; trans Hedwig Singer as The Master of the Day of Judgment 1929 UK) can be understood as sf through the specificity of its premise that an ancient hallucinogen, when breathed by men of ambition, makes them see themselves so nakedly that they are forced to commit suicide; the eponymous wheat fungus featured in Sanct Petri-Schnee (1933; trans E B G Stamper and F M Hodson as The Virgin's Brand 1934 UK; new trans Eric Mosbacher as Saint Peter's Snow 1990 UK) has the opposite effect on its human victims: it gives them faith.

Most of LP's work is distinctly fantasy or Supernatural Fiction, ironic, well crafted, engendering something of the same hectic doom-laden civility that so marks the work of, say, Karel Čapek. Zwischen Neun und Neun (1918; trans Lily Lore as From Nine to Nine 1926 US) is a Posthumous Fantasy in which – as in Ambrose Bierce's "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" (1891) – the protagonist's long, complicated flight from a terrible event takes place, in reality, in an instant, at the point of death. In Der Marques de Bolibar (1920; trans Graham Rawson as The Marquis de Bolibar 1926 UK; new trans John Brownjohn as The Marquis of Bolivar 1989 UK), the Wandering Jew and the spirit of the eponymous marquis – which has taken Possession of the narrator – narrowly defeat a German regiment fighting for Napoleon. Other fantasies include: Die Geburt des Antichrist ["The Birth of the Antichrist"] (1921); Das Mangobaumwunder ["The Miraculous Mango Tree"] (1923) with Paul Frank, in which a Wizard has magically linked the fate of the Baron, his employer, to the eponymous tree; and Nachts unter der steinernen Brücke (1953; trans Eric Mosbacher as By Night Under the Stone Bridge 1989 UK), an atmospheric evocation of the medieval Prague of Rabbi Loëw, creator of the first Golem. [JC]

Leo Perutz


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.