3 out of 4 stars
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Without Mephisto! told the incredible tale of Heinrich Heine (Henri), a chronic womanizer in the city of Paris. It narrated the intimate sexual experiences and romantic escapades he shared with Chloé Maurel (Morrelle), his lover. The book also captured his attraction and romantic fantasies with Morrelle's niece, Crescence Mirat, who he later called Mathilde. Henri sought to spend the rest of his life with Mathilde because he had always wanted true love and believed he found it in her. The reader would be ushered into Heinrich's queer sexual fantasies that confounded popular imagination.
Without Mephisto! is not a regular romance book. Günther Stark, in his brilliant exhibition of the vast knowledge of poetry and prose, made a hybrid version of the romance genre laced with incredible writing style and infusion of multiple languages. The author presents the book's content in the English, German and French languages, with English being predominant. The writing style is highly classical, and the book's lines are heavy with intricate words and sentence construction.
What I liked most about this book was the author's ability to blend most classic works of literature, which were referenced, into perfect lines to communicate this book's core theme to the reader effectively. He painted an excellent picture of the protagonist's present thoughts and predicaments with his brush of words. For instance, he used the relationship between the main characters of Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus, Doctor Faust and Mephistophelia, to explain how Henri saw his lover, Morrelle. The reader would also find Dante Alighieri's adventures in Divine Comedy play out dramatically in this narrative. This book was indeed a brilliant exhibition of strength, finesse, and intelligence by the author. He narrated the sexual promiscuity, fool's paradise, and love life of the protagonist uniquely. The book was perfectly written and professionally edited.
One of the few things I disliked about the book was that it was extremely challenging to read and understand for the most part. However, I had to get to about 70% of it to get the story's gist. This made me go back to re-read the pages I had initially covered.
While testing his language prowess, the author offered little to no explanations of the meaning of the German and French words and phrases he used in the book. I found myself continually reading over some passages to understand what he was trying to communicate. It was too demanding to the point that, if I had a single lapse in concentration, I would miss his point and would go back to where I lost track. This was what I disliked the most.
I believe this book wasn't written for leisure, as it required deep thinking, critical analysis of the wordings, and proper research of some references to make sense of the work. Above all, the author failed to keep it simple with his descriptions — when he did describe things. Henri's sexual escapades were so awkwardly described that I couldn't make mental pictures of the scenes he was describing.
However, I objectively rate this 3 out of 4 stars because I appreciated the author's excellent work and flexibility when I exercised the patience and endurance to read the book. I did not give it a 4-star rating because it was very challenging to read — not many readers would exercise the patience it took me to read this book. However, if they do, they'd be able to see the author's intelligence and creativity. I recommend this book to people who enjoy reading romance novels and classical books — both in prose, poetry, and drama.
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