The King of Jerusalem

23 Aug

Jakobowicz, Hans Georg, King of Jerusalem.
Prater Publications, Washington, D.C., 2014, 148 pp., pbk
ISBN: 13-9780692025406
ISBM: 10-0692025406

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a website for Prater Publications, but I assume that Amazon.com can satisfy the curious regarding this new, brief novel with its elements of fantasy around one of the titles of the late Otto von Hapsburg, one-time Crown Prince of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire.

This label also serves as title to this fascinating little novel with its literate exchanges between Joshua, the central figure, his uncle Otto, and a parade of characters in New York City, Vienna, Salonika and Jerusalem.

At the novel’s commencement, Joshua is a translator for the UN, also writing dance notes and reviews. He was born to a Jewish mother who died when he was an infant and a Hapsburg father who was in the guerrilla forces in Greece during World War II and killed by the Nazis. Raised by a countess in the US, she informs him that his parents were married legally and also in a Greek Orthodox ceremony; he is a legitimate heir to the Hapsburg circle and to a fortune from his mother’s banking family. She also informs him that Otto von Hapsburg wants to meet him.

Covering the late 70’s, gay sexuality in New York City is given graphic coverage with the same precision that buildings, rooms and dressing habits are afforded. It’s informative and easy to picture.

A ballet premiere is reported in the early pages, Vienna Waltzes, also memorialized by Costas’ beautiful photograph on the cover, with an acute view of the ballet reception following. For some reason George Balanchine, its creator, is not mentioned by name. There also is a performance in a loft, created by a young German choreographer with whom Joshua has several sexual encounters and adversarial conversations. Through him, Joshua encounters pro-Palestinian advocates, rabid variety.

At a lavish farewell party before Joshua flies to Vienna to meet his royal uncle, nothing seems left to chance or bereft of momentary physical comfort; for the program, noted dancers Mimi Paul and John Prinz appear. It’s reminiscent of, an update of one of the Marquis de Cuevas’ extravagant ball.

The encounter with Otto von Hapsburg allows for exposition of viewpoints, dovetailing exactly with Hapsburg’s post-World War II advocacy for a united Europe, and the principal reason that he wants Joshua to assume the title. The author takes care to convey Joshua’s assessment of the Hapsburg appraisal, and later, as Joshua negotiates with various factions in Jerusalem.

Landscapes are described with unusual care and felicity, principally Vienna and its outlying country and Jerusalem, its layers and ambiance. Having attended a Jerusalem wedding in 2007, I found myself remembering much he described.

Hard to say what I liked best. Gay or straight, Jew, Gentile, Palestinian, it’s accurate, quite a worthwhile read.

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