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Book details:
The Maimed

[ excerpt ]

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also by the author:
Boys & Murderers
The Class

Illustrations here

  the maimed

by Hermann Ungar

translated from the German by Kevin Blahut

illustrated by Pavel Růt

Set in Prague, The Maimed relates the story of a highly neurotic, socially inept bank clerk who is eventually impelled by his widowed landlady into servicing her sexual appetites. At the same time he must witness the steady physical and mental deterioration of his lifelong friend who is suffering from an unnamed disease. Part psychological farce, Ungar tells a dark, ironic tale of chaos overtaking one's meticulously ordered life. One of only two novels Ungar wrote, this translation marks the first time his work has appeared in English. His novellas and short stories are collected in Boys & Murderers.


The everyman; the average man; the boring man ... how does one make him seem alive? Well, Hermann Ungar managed it; he gave life to the dead, to Franz Polzer, poor Franz Polzer, and that is ultimately what makes The Maimed a masterpiece.

Books, Yo

Ungar's psychological assessment points to all desire and calls it dirty and mean. Sexuality leads to humiliation, pregnancy, murder, or suicide: four equally tragic fates. Yes, the male dynamic is teased, twisted, and ridiculed, but the real binary is between darkness and light. ... Suggestions of perversion become perversion itself. Ungar establishes an ominous climate of thought, in which the most unassuming of men — a diligent clerk or a man confined to a wheelchair — are actually the most suspect and evil people imaginable. The elaborate design of their thoughts could stain the most banal situation. If this is possible, then everyone has the potential to be evil.

— Mieke Chew, Music & Literature

Originally published in 1923 and accurately described by Thomas Mann as depicting "a sexual hell," The Maimed is also one of the most provocative novels I have ever read.

— Thomas McGonigle, Los Angeles Times

... a sexual hell, full of filth, crime and the deepest melancholy—a monomaniacal digression, if you will, but nevertheless the digression of an inwardly pure artistry, which one might hope will mature into a less one-sided view and representation of life and humanity.

— Thomas Mann

... great and terrible, alluring and repulsive—unforgettable, although one would like to forget it and flee the evil sense of oppression it creates.

— Stefan Zweig

The Maimed is a fascinating novel, rich in symbolism, rife with grievous suffering, and permeated with psychological torture ... Kevin Blahut's translation is exceptional given the many nuances that exist in Prague German.

Slavic and East European Journal

The Maimed by Hermann Ungar wonderfully terrifying descent into paranoia, perversity and the power of abuse. Well-written and captivating from the opening sentence, this novel tells the depressing story of Franz Polzer. Ungar leads us with a perfect narrative through a tale that offers no lasting happiness for the tortured soul of Franz or those around him. Thematically, we are dealing with repression, abuse, madness, homosexuality and sadism.


Ungar's The Maimed captures the suffocatingly claustrophobic life of Franz Polzer, a life haunted by lies, deceit, brutality, blackmail, and physical and moral coruption.

The Education Digest

Ungar leads the reader through a maze of the foul, a catalogue of human failings, then pulls the plug with a rumbling inevitability. It can't really be described as a downward spiral, more a steady progress. Nobody could really drop any further, but they lose any misgivings about being so low. People do not become beasts: they just acknowledge that they are beasts.


The Maimed is a great work. Subtly written, well-constructed. Kudos to Kevin Blahut for an excellent translation.

— Christopher Lord

This is an absolutely riveting tale ... The translation by Kevin Blahut is fine. The design of the books is a gorgeous, subtle work of art all on its own.


... a superlative introduction to an author whose small oeuvre's long absence from translation seems unforgivable.

Hyde Park Review of Books

David Lynch and Patrick McCabe fans will fall right into this marvelously dark and psychotically twisted tale. It is a maniacal blend of sadism mixed with the vivid portrayal of an individual's descent into psychosis and his perceptions of the equally insane world around him: Blue Velvet meets Butcher Boy.

New Pages

Set in Prague with a bank clerk as the main character, The Maimed explores the breakdown of identity and culture in the unsettled, ominous years between the two World Wars. Franz Polzer is a fastidious bank clerk. But his fastidiousness comes to be seen as a desperate means to try to maintain a grip on the world around him and his self in it coming apart from the political, social, and historical pressures of the time. Ungar tracks the stages of the disturbance which ineluctably overcomes Polzer. Many stark, expressionistic woodcuts add to the tone of the novel. Not only the theme and writing style, but also the artistic design of this book from a publisher in Prague will draw readers of serious modern fiction to it.

— Henry Berry, The Small Press Book Review

the novel is exceedingly grim, dwelling on themes of child abuse and sexual molestation, religious fanaticism, flesh-eating disease, whoring, crime, poverty, the slaughtering of animals and finally serial murder; and poor franz polzer is plunged into despair simply by the unfashionableness of his hat.

furious ape!

In Genesis, the patriarch Jacob is lamed at the hands of a man, identified by the prophet Hosea as an angel. Only Jacob's leg is lamed, though the angel undoubtedly possessed the power to kill. And only after this injury is he fit for the name Israel, and its inheritance. Achilles' heel is a greater weakness than Achilles' foot, and for that reason Achilles is fated to myth. Ungar will survive any maiming and will emerge stronger. In Kevin Blahut, he has found a formidable and ruthlessly precise assailant.

The Prague Pill

In The Maimed, Hermann Ungar takes us to a bizarre interwar Prague populated by petty bureaucrats who are all unraveling inside.

The Prague Post

Unusual and unsettling: what a film it would make.

Kirkus Reviews


ISBN 9788086264134
220 pp.
13.5 x 19.5 cm
21 b/w illustrations
softcover with flaps
fiction • novel

cover by Pavel Růt

release date:
April 2002

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