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Prince of Darkness

By: Erika Mitterer, Catherine Hutter (Translator)

Hardcover | 1 June 2024

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The Prince of Darkness', written by Erika Mitterer (1906-2001) in 1939, is a veiled criticism of the contemporary political system. It was meant to show how evil can rise and take hold of people who are not intrinsically bad but let themselves be carried away by indifference. The novel offers an extraordinary panoramic tapestry of early-sixteenth century life in pre-Reformation Germany. It was the time of decline for the nobility, of peasant revolts, of the rise of mercantile capitalism, of free-thinking scholars, artists and scientists and of the Inquisition. Theresa, one of the two protagonists, is suspected of sorcery because of simple acts of everyday kindness and is eventually burned at the stake as a witch. Her sister, Maria Michaela, who had entered the convent and became tots prioress, let herself be manipulated by her father confessor. Readers experience and come to understand how the winds of mass hysteria and frustration can sway a solid citizenry to vicious gossip and acts of madness, of revenge by denunciation, of denunciation for reward, splitting lovers and families, as the one intellectual in the novel stand by helplessly. So striking was this element of the book it its implicit association with the Hitler regime that, after its publication in Norway, a sudden absence of paper prevented it from being republished in Germany.

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