Saturday, January 12, 2013

RABT: "The City of Earthly Desire" Guest Post/ Promo

Historical Fiction / General Fiction
Title: The City of Earthly Desire
Author: Francis Berger
Date Published: 9/26/12

A gripping story of ambition, lust, seduction, and betrayal . . . 
After the communists destroy his dream of becoming a recognized painter, Reinhardt Drixler escapes Hungary and moves to America to further his artistic ambitions and provide a better future for his young family. 
Twenty-five years later, his son Béla falls in love with Suzy Kiss, an alluring striptease dancer whose interest in Béla can be summarized in two words: green card. 
When Suzy is mysteriously deported, a devastated Béla must make a decision – should he stay in New York and continue with the noble artistic ambitions his father instilled in him, or should he follow his heart to Hungary and explore the enticing and risqué opportunities blossoming in Budapest after the collapse of communism? 


Once there was or once there was not a hungry, frightened Danube-Swabian woman who gave birth to a boy in a forest.  The woman was hungry because for three days she had eaten nothing but stale crusts of bread; she was frightened because the Russian soldiers who had occupied her village showed no signs of wanting to leave.  The woman feared she would give birth in the small, dilapidated hunting cabin to which she had fled with twenty of her fellow villagers before the soldiers arrived.  The villagers hiding in the cabin with the pregnant young woman prayed the soldiers would be gone before the labor pains began, but their prayers went unanswered – the soldiers were still in the village when the contractions started.  The hungry, frightened Danube-Swabian woman began to moan and wail.  To muffle the noise, the young woman's mother-in-law placed a rolled up handkerchief into her daughter-in-law's mouth.  The men took the children and stepped outside.  It was a cold early morning in November.  A thin layer of sticky snow blanketed the forest.  The Russian soldiers occupying the village of Altfreidorf were barely a kilometer away. 
“What happens when the child comes out?  You can't slip a handkerchief into its mouth and tell it to be quiet!” the blacksmith said as he stood outside with the other villagers.  The men around him nodded, furrowed their brows, and scanned the columns of oak trees for any sign of the soldiers. 
The hours passed slowly.  No sounds came from the cabin.  The villagers outside listened to the constant rumblings of their empty stomachs.  The only other sound that punctured the relative silence of the forest was the cawing of unseen crows.  In the late afternoon, just as the diffused daylight from the overcast sky began to fade, the cabin door creaked open and Anna Drixler, the young woman's mother-in-law, stepped out into the snow wiping the jackknife she had used to cut the umbilical cord. 
“It's a boy,” she said.  “Gertrude has named him Reinhardt.” 
“It's done?  We didn't hear a thing,” the astonished blacksmith whispered. 
“What can I say?  He's an intelligent lad,” Anna Drixler said.  She folded up the jackknife and slipped it into her apron pocket.  “As soon as he came out, we all told him he had to be quiet, and he understood.” 
The blacksmith smiled and withdrew a flask of pálinka from his inner coat pocket.  He offered it to the new grandmother, but Anna Drixler politely refused.  The blacksmith shrugged, raised the flask into the air before him as if proposing a toast, then took a quick drink.  He was about to pass the flask to the priest when the sound of a branch snapping a short distance away made him stop.  Everyone outside the cabin froze and listened.  Far away, an angry crow cawed, then all was quiet again.  The villagers remained as motionless as statues, straining their ears to pinpoint the location of the snapping branch.  

Guest post from the author

Top Ten Books And Why – Francis Berger

The Bible

In these secular times it has become somewhat unfashionable to read “The Good Book.”  Nonetheless, even if someone is a hardened atheist, an understanding of the foundation of Western society, especially in the realm of ethics and morality, would not be a detriment. Having said that, it is still the go-to source for great and often archetypal stories. 

The Greek Myths – Robert Graves

Perhaps the most accessible and careful retelling of the myths that serve as the prototypes for so many later narratives.

Hamlet – William Shakespeare

To be or not to be . . . need anything more be said? 

Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoevsky

All the tension of a whodunit enveloped in the moral labyrinth of a why-did-he-do-it.  More than anyone, Dostoevsky screams to us from the rooftops of the dangers of a world “where everything is permitted.”

War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy

Most people refuse to read this novel for its sheer bulk alone.  Yet, interestingly enough, many of those same people see nothing wrong with reading several thousand pages of the Harry Potter series.  If length alone does not scare most readers off, the complexity of the plot and the many characters who people it do.  In today's age, where all kinds of supplementary material can be found online with a few pushes of some buttons, there is no excuse for anyone to avoid Tolstoy's masterpiece. 

Lost Illusions – Honore de Balzac

Ever know anyone who came from humble beginnings and wanted to make it big in New York City or Hollywood?  Were you ever one of those people yourself?  Perhaps you still are?  Fascinated by American Idol?  Forget all that.  Balzac delves into the lustful furnaces of human ambition to discover what steel society is really tempered from.

Moby Dick – Herman Melville

The greatest metaphysical story ever composed, complete with Shakespearean syntax and the towering figure of Captain Ahab, one of the most compelling characters ever created. 

The Gulag Archipelago – Alexander Solzhenitsyn

In order to create a utopia, one first needs a sewer system.  A damning document of communism and its inherent cruelty.  A warning to all future attempts at creating heaven on earth. 

A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens

The ultimate redemption story.  A timeless classic and, for Dickens, refreshingly brief in its telling. 

The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger

Salinger does such a masterful job capturing the narrative voice of Holden Caulfield the reader cannot help but be swept away in the all the angst and anger.  I also tip my hat to the idea that Salinger steadfastly refused to have anyone make a film adaptation of his novel.  Let's all hope Catcher never makes it to “a theater near you.”

Francis Berger was born in New York City in 1971. Recently, he completed a six year stretch as a high school teacher in the Bronx and Queens in New York City. He has published some short stories, most notably in The Toronto Star. The City of Earthly Desire is his first novel. He currently lives near Toronto, Canada with his wife and young son.

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