Tuesday, September 25, 2007

December 1, 2001

Another Viennese who ended up in California was Alfred Polgar. The sixty-seven-year-old essayist who spoke only broken English was lucky enough to get hired as a writer my Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. He had, however, great difficulties in adapting to Hollywood and was homesick for Europe. “My life is 99 percent memories,” he confided to a friend. “I’m not very interested in the hundredth part.” His dejection brought forth a bitter short story, “His Last Mistake”: an American editor is telling an emigre writer that what is done and said in his fiction is not done and said in the United States; the writer’s characters live, love, laugh, and cry in ways that are not American ways. The emigre jumps out of the window of the thirty-second-floor office, and the editor, now really angry, shouts after him, “In America one doesn’t jump out of the window!” — Paul Hofmann, The Viennese

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