Alexis Landau is a graduate of Vassar College. She received her MFA from Emerson College and her PhD in English Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Southern California. This is her first novel. Alexis lives with her husband and her two children in Santa Monica, California.
is an enthralling tale of love and war, duty and self-discovery. It begins in 1914 when Lev Perlmutter, an assimilated German Jew fighting in World War I, finds unexpected companionship on the Eastern Front; back at home, his wife Josephine embarks on a clandestine affair of her own. A decade later, during the heady, politically charged interwar years in Berlin, their children—one, a nascent Fascist struggling with his sexuality, the other a young woman entranced by the glitz and glamour of the Jazz Age—experience their own romantic awakenings. With a painter’s sensibility for the layered images that comprise our lives, this exquisite novel by Alexis Landau marks the emergence of a writer uniquely talented in bringing the past to the present.
After reading espionage and crime novels set in pre-and post-WWII Berlin (John Lawton, Joseph Kanon, David Downing, Philip Kerr, Luke McCallin), Alexis Landau's character study of the Perlmutter family adds dimension and humanity to the fascinating and terrifying period that was Weimar Germany. I thoroughly enjoyed her novel.
Where does acculturation end and assimilation begin? How do overlapping ethnic/religious and national identities on the one hand, and majority and minority cultures on the other, shape our individual identities? These are some of the issues Alexis Landau explores in the setting of an intermarried family in Germany in the second and third decades of the Twentieth Century (before the Nazis took power) in her debut novel The Empire of the Senses, which was published earlier this month by New York based publisher Pantheon, an imprint of Random House/Bertelsmann.
The Empire of the Senses, by Alexis Landau (Pantheon; 478 pages; $27.95). Landau’s elegantly crafted and psychologically astute novel offers intimate portraits of so-called ordinary Germans stumbling both blindly and deliberately toward their dark future.