Richard Wollheim grew up lonely and sad in London’s wealthy suburbs during the 1920s and 1930s, yet his was a childhood more interesting than most. He had an impresario father and a “Gaiety Girl” mother; together they attracted important guests (Diaghilev, Kurt Weill, Serge Lifar) to the grand houses and hotels that punctuated the landscape of Wollheim’s early years. Germs is his account of that time, of the years he spent adoring his charming but distant father; of his regret for loathing his beautiful, mindless mother. Told in prose that with hypnotic ease moves from deadpan comedy to poignant loneliness, Germs is already a classic work of memoir.
A Memoir of Childhood
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"Wollheim is tireless at finding fresh aspects to an experience he is describing. Just when you think he has shown you every last facet of some childhood episode, up he comes with more." —Los Angeles Times
RICHARD WOLLHEIM was born in London in 1923 and educated at Balliol College, Oxford. He fought in France and Germany during World War II and taught philosophy at numerous colleges, most notably the University College London from 1963 to 1982. He has written and edited over a dozen books, including On the Emotions, The Mind and Its Depths, and The Thread of Life. He died in 2003.
“Wollheim is tireless at finding fresh aspects to an experience he is describing. Just when you think he has shown you every last facet of some childhood episode, up he comes with more.” —Los Angeles Times
“Wollheim’s powers of description astound. Topographically or architecturally, no one has ever depicted London’s more prosperous suburbs with such exactitude. His prose is the verbal equivalent to Pre-Raphaelite painting, crowded with lovingly observed and richly colored detail… I doubt anyone who has read it will forget it.” —Literary Review
“[An] exquisitely written investigation of an inner landscape…[T]here is a Proustian feel to the memoir, although W.G. Sebald is probably the nearest in style and unremitting excavation of every detail in this testament of alienated youth.” —The Observer
“The intensity, delicacy and precision of the act of memory in Germs have provoked comparisons with Proust. Just comparison perhaps, but this is a Proust who can also make you laugh out loud…In this fine memoir, Richard Wollheim has transmuted his childhood hurt and loneliness into an artful, precise, self-deprecating detachment.” —Irish Times
“A masterpiece—an unclassifiable work of startling originality in which the acutely sensual and confusedly cerebral experience of infancy, boyhood and adolescence is brilliantly recreated.” —Spectator