Glenn Skwerer

The Tristan Chord
  • The Tristan Chord

  • ‘Succeeds brilliantly … a gripping and disturbing portrait of the young Hitler’ – Simon Mawer, author of the Man Booker-shortlisted The Glass House

    Salzburg, 1945: Eugen Reczek, a middle-aged Austrian desk clerk, is interned by the American occupiers. The reason: he is der Hitlerjugendfreund– ‘The Friend of the Fuhrer's Youth’.

    An upholstery apprentice by day and fledgling violist by night, Eugen meets the fifteen-year-old Adolf Hitler at the local opera house in Linz in 1905, and for the next four years they see each other almost daily. Eugen is captivated but also troubled by Hitler: his almost complete isolation; his strange hours and feverish routines; his refusal to work; his unusual and profound attachment to his mother; and his obsession with a young woman to whom he has never said a word.

    They move together to Vienna – Adolf to study art, Eugen to study music – but as Adolf's money runs low, he becomes intensely irritable and increasingly drawn to the racist gutter press of Vienna; he has become a hater of women, of sex, of all things sensual. When Eugen begins a relationship with the Jewish mother of one of his piano students, it is only a matter of time before their suppressed conflict ignites.

    Now, with the Third Reich in ashes, Eugen sits in a barren room in an American internment camp writing his memoir. In a voice by turns intelligent, sceptical, pained, nostalgic and appalled, he tries to come to terms with the course of his own life and with the unfathomable criminality of his boyhood friend.

    Based loosely on August Kubizek’s 1953 memoir The Young Hitler I Knew, The Tristan Chord recasts the story as fiction, in order to explore both the character and mental attitudes of the adolescent Hitler, and the dilemma of its narrator, Eugen Reczek, a man caught between the bonds of a complex friendship and the vast, tragic forces of history.

Glenn Skwerer is a psychiatrist who lives and practices in the Boston area. He was inspired by reading August Kubizek’s memoir, The Young Hitler I Knew, to look more closely at the psychology of the friendship between Kubizek and Hitler, and to recast it entirely as fiction. The Tristan Chord is his first book.

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