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Tarr

Übermensch

bertha anastasya novel revised

a novel by Wyndham Lewis, published in 1918, revised in 1928. Set in Paris in the early 1900s, the novel describes the relationships within a group of ‘bourgeois-bohemians’ in the café society of Montmartre. The opening conversation between Frederick Tarr, a talented young English painter, and Alan Hobson (a satirical portrait of Roger Fry), about Tarr's intentions towards his fiancée Bertha Lunken, a German art student, results in Tarr's decision to break off his engagement. Finding himself unable to carry out his resolution, and in order to cure himself of his sentimental attachment to Bertha, he resolves to practise a Nietzschean code of ‘indifference’, but his cynical resolution is shaken when he encounters the beautiful Anastasya Vasek whose sexual and intellectual appetites match his own. Anastasya already has an admirer, Otto Kreisler, a failed painter and fervent believer in the Nietzschean concept of the ‘Übermensch’, who represents the nihilistic centre of the book. Through a series of bizarre accidents, Kreisler becomes involved in a duel over Anastasya with another of her admirers, Louis Soltyk, whom he kills; he rapes Bertha, who becomes pregnant, and finally hangs himself. Tarr, who no longer loves Bertha, agrees to marry her, but true to his contempt for the bourgeois institution of marriage, continues his affair with Anastasya and with other women. The novel in its original form was intended as an expression of Lewis's ‘Vorticist’ principles of art; in its revised form, the hard-edged Modernism of its style was somewhat modified, although the main elements of the story remained the same. See also Vorticism.

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