Price  £11.99
Format  Paperback
Published  1998
Length  488 pages
ISBN  9781870015707


Married Life
David Vogel

Translated by Dalya Bilu

Set in Vienna in the 1920’s, Married Life is an urban novel (in a rich tradition of such novels), in which the city that had witnessed defeat in the First World War and the collapse of the Habsburg Empire, plays a central role. The social decay and presentiments of an ominous future mirror the pathological relationship between Gurdweill, a poor Jewish intellectual and Thea, an Austrian baroness who takes pleasure in humiliating him at every turn. The relationship is portrayed in telling detail as the couple descends to the nightmarish depths of cruelty and masochism.

About David Vogel

David Vogel was ill-fated: three times in the wrong place at the wrong time, the last time proved fatal. Little is known of his early life: he was born Satanov, Russia, in May 1891 and after his father’s death led a nomadic life until 1912, when he settled in Vienna where he began to write poems in Hebrew, the language of his education. Being a Russian citizen, he was imprisoned as an enemy alien during the First World War but on his release he continued to live in Vienna, leading a solitary life and keeping a diary, in Yiddish. His poems were published from 1918 onwards and his first volume, Before the Dark Gate, appeared in Vienna in 1923.

In June 1919 Vogel married but soon afterwards his wife contracted tuberculosis, as did himself a while later. They both spent time in convalescent homes in the mountains but the marriage disintegrated and they divorced few years later. In 1924, Vogel received permission for permanent residence in Vienna but in 1925 moved to Paris and immediately fell in love with the city. He learnt French with great enthusiasm and continued to write poems Hebrew which were published in literary journals in Europe, Palestine and the United States, as well as writing a novella, In the Sanatorium.

He married for the second time in 1927/8 and with his wife left for Palestine in February 1929. Their daughter was born in Tel Aviv later that year and his only novel Married Life was published there, in Hebrew, in 1929/30. His diary entries from the early 1920s express great longings for Palestine but, despite the strength of these feelings and the warm reception he received from the writers’ union, he and his family stayed there only a year, unable to bear the harsh pioneering life. Married Life was immediately recognized as breaking new ground in Hebrew literature, belonging essentially to a strong European tradition.

Vogel returned to Europe with his family in 1930 and, a year later, to Paris saying, “This is the only air I can breathe”. He continued to write, and another novella Facing the Sea was published in 1932/4. He also prepared a second volume of poetry which, however, was not to see th light of day during his lifetime due to lack of support from Hebrew literary critics. In 1932 Vogel’s wife contracted tuberculosis and, in the words of their daughter, “We were all separated from then on, my mother in a sanatorium in Hauteville, my father in a furnished room in Paris and I in various nurseries and children’s homes in the suburbs. My fater came to visit me regularly but I saw my mother much less often, for health reasons. On 2 September 1939, my father, worried about my safety, took me to Hauteville and placed me in a foster home, near my mother.”  Vogel was interned by the French, as an Austrian enemy alien, until France was occupied and he was the released, in 1941. He moved to Hauteville, to be near his wife and to look after their daughter in the school holidays. She write “I have no doubt that had I been there when the Gestapo arrested him (he was denounced in February 1944 by a French collaborator) I would have suffered the same fate. As soon as my mother learned of his arrest, she went to the Gestapo and begged them to take her too. The Germans, however, were particularly afraid of TB and sent her back to the sanatorium.” It is now known that David Vogel was deported on 7 March 1944 and it is assumed that he died in a concentration camp.

Before his arrest, Vogel had buried his writings in his landlady’s garden; a close friend dug these up after the war.


“A gut-wrenching study that combines a Kafkaesque sense of humiliation with precisely-rendered realistic detail – and successfully creates an atmosphere of feverish decay that is as much cultural as personal”

Kirkus Reviews


“A deeply disturbing novel … To read this novel today, with full awareness of what happened to European Jewry and to Vogel himself, is a wrenching, sobering experience. It deserves a place on the small shelf of cautionary literature about the involuted relationship between torturers and their victims.”

Present Tense


“We are reminded of Kafka: dreamlike conversations, introspection of a disturbed soul, an orgy of a nervous breakdown. Married Life is a masterpiece, a find.”

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