The Coward Heart


By Anna Reiner


THIS second novel of the German writer who for reasons of safety uses the pen name Anna Reiner is in the main a description of the sorrowful condition of German and Russian refugees in Paris before the war. It is the story of Nadia Schumacher and her husband Peter, their friends, and a multitude of strange uprooted creatures who haunt the cafés. ‘The refugee,’ says one of these, ‘ lives in no man’s land, outside the realm of nature, where nothing fresh grows, where nothing is renewed of itself, where there is no youth to leap into the breach.’ It is no wonder, then, if the expatriate colony is largely made up of eccentrics and fanatics. Nadia herself is almost the only completely sane person among them; and even she does not find it easy to keep her balance amid the dreams, hatreds, suspicions, and desperations of the others, and in the face of her husband’s - ery. The most terrible aspect of the life depicted is that nobody knows whom to believe or trust. And yet the conclusion of the novel, which is both compassionate and wise, is that ‘the highest form of fidelity does not consist in letting oneself atrophy, in looking hack perpetually . . . but in going forward and facing life as it is.’
R. M. G.