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List of articles written by Joseph Wechsberg for The New Yorker: 1940s.
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1970s1960s1950s — 1940s

Letter from Warsaw; 22 October,1949, page 76. Click for summary.

Polonaise; 8 October 1949, page 54. Click for summary.

Orchids in Siberia; 24 September 1949, page 59. Click for summary.

The Rules of the Game; 1 October 1949, page 28. Click for summary.

The Finest Butter and lots of Time; 3 September 1949, page 40. Click for summary.

Letter from Prague; 9 August 1949, page 44. Click for summary.

Rouge, Impair, et Manque; 9 July 1949, page 25. Click for summary.

The Self Exiled; 7 May 1949, page 76. Click for summary.

Coachman behind the Curtain; 18 December 1948, page 58. Click for summary.

A Balatoni Fogas to Start with; 6 November, 1948, page 38. Click for summary.

The Singing Pharmacist; 2 October, 1948, page 30. Click for summary.

A very late Pilgrim; 4 September, 1948, page 23. Click for summary.

No Weeping Tonight, Bacchetta!; 10 July, 1948, page 25. Click for summary.

Black Sheep; 19 June 1948, page 26. Click for summary.

The Children of Lidice; 1 May 1948, page 34. Click for summary.

Hot Spot; 3 April 1948, page 64. Click for summary.

Cameron, Lewis, Laborde, & Gorodnistov; 6 March 1948, page 61. Click for summary.

White Fog at the Opera; 24 January, 1948, page 52. Click for summary.

Letter from Karlsbad; 8 November, 1947, page 68. Click for summary.

Long Ties for the Ship’s Musicians; 25 October, 1947, page 64. Click for summary.

Sweet and Sour; 27 September 1947, page 31. Click for summary.

The Bureaucrat; 19 July 1947, page 25. Click for summary.

Vojta and the Angel of Death; 9 November 1946, page 33. Click for summary.

If there is Anything Left; 10 August, 1946, page 19. Click for summary.

Going Home–II; 23 March, 1946, page 48. Click for summary.

Going Home–I; 15 September 1945, page 57. Click for summary.

Corps de Ballet; 24 February, 1945, page 22. Monte Carlo. Click for summary.

Back to the Place Pigalle; 24 February 1945, page 46. Click for summary.

The Claque Chef gets an Ovation; 13 January, 1945, page 21. Click for summary.

Last Waltz; 9 December 1944, page 32. Click for summary.

Music for the Steward; 25 November 1944, page 22. Click for summary.

Anybody see a Violin in Djibouti?; 21 October 1944, page 29. Click for summary.

Big Business; 23 September 1944, page 23. Click for summary.

Audition; 19 August 1944, page 20. Click for summary.

Complaint; 22 July 1944, page 11. Click for summary.

Assistant Croupier; 1 July 1944, page 40. Click for summary.

The Sleepy Piano Player; May 13, 1944, page 25. Click for summary.

Captain’s Dinner; April 8, 1944, page 26. Click for summary.

My Life in the Claque; 19 February 1944, page 22. Click for summary.

“Looking for a Bluebird”; 12 February 1944, page 68. Click for summary.

Pier 99; 15 January 1944, page 40. Click for summary.

The Cosmopolite; 14 August 1943, page 57. Click for summary.

The Corsican Express; 19 June 1943, page 69. Click for summary.

Letter from Warsaw: The threat of war is taken as a joke by the people of Warsaw, and the conclusion must be that some people must be fed up with the way things are going. From 60 to 70% of the population doesn’t like the Communist dominated regime, though perhaps less on ideological grounds than on patriotic ground The Polish Communist bosses are Poles first and Communists second. Private enterprise is still encouraged to build small factories; speaks of the slowness of land-reform, and the government’s grave problems-the Church and the peasants Speaks of anti-British and anti-U.S. propaganda, mainly again “The Voice of America.” The Poles are rebuilding faster than any nation on the western side of the Iron Curtain. Tells about horse racing in Poland their love for flowers, etc.

Polonaise: A FAR-FLUNG CORRESPONDENTS piece about a visit to Warsaw, an Zelazowa Wola, the birthplace of Frederic Chopin. Poland is this year celebrating Chopin Year, and concerts and festival in commemoration are held everywhere. The Frederic Chopin Institute, in Warsaw, which collects Chopin manuscripts and other relics, is this year planning radio broadcasts, and films, poems, booklets and novels. Everything Chopin ever wrote has been published in volumes kept at the Institute. During the German occupation there were hidden in thebasement of a house in the suburbs. The house was destroyed but not the basement. Tells about a concert held in the park surounding the house in which Chopin was born.

Orchids in Siberia: REPORTER AT LARGE about Dubsky, a Czech businessman & reserve officer in the Czech Army, who spent 23 months in a Russian slave labor camp in Siberia. Before Germany took over Czechoslovakia, Dubsky fled to Poland where, according to rumors he’d be able to get a visa for England. A Warsaw Embassy man advised him to go to Russia where he wouldn’t be killed for being a Jew. Dubsky had no Russian visa & was immediately picked up by Russian soldiers; interviewed by a Russian officer who accused him of being a spy, and burned his identification papers. Tells about a succession of train journeys and prisons, until he finally was put on a prison train headed for Siberia. Dubsky tells about the 32-day train Journey to the camp and life of the internees. He was released in the early spring of ’42.

Rules of the Game: Walter Bradford was entertaining three Viennese guests at afternoon coffee in his new country house. When Mr. McCabe, a neighbor, dropped in, the atmosphere became a bit awkward as he seemed out of place with these Europeans. Walter Bradford was a Viennese, too, but he had changed his name from Blum and had become so Americanized that he scarcely seemed like a foreigner. (His English was good because he had studied at Cambridge in England). His daughter Peggy, 11, was of course thoroughly American. McCabe’s daughter, Ellen, and she were great friends. It was when he listened to the two children and McCabe that Walter realized what a big gap there was between him and people born and brought up in the U.S.

The Finest Butter and lots of Time: REPORTER AT LARGE about a visit to the famous Restaurant de la Pyramide, at Viennes, run by Fernard Point. It is located 17 miles south of Lyon. One must phone for reservation in advance, and sometimes M. Point will not admit you. You do not order your meal, he tell you what to eat. After an overnight ride on the train Wechsberg arrived at Viennes, and put up at a hotel. When the got to the restaurant, he was greeted by M. Point and given a glass of champagne, then introduced to Pierre Cauvon, the sommelier and a great conniesseu of wines. Then he was taken on a tour of the wine cellar. After a visit to the kitchen and an introduction to the chef, Paul Mercier, lunch was served with appropriate wines. Tells about the meal.

Letter from Prague: Czechoslovakia behind the Iron Curtain. Speaks of the mark left by the six-year German Occupation. The Czechs hated the Germans and many of them now hate the Czech Communist. There is an anti-Communist resistance movement, but it is sadly disorganized. Almost all Party members back up the government in a pinch, simply out of interest in their own survival. There is however, a lot of dischantement among the rank and-file members. To what extent the Communist regime will eventually be tolerated by its opponents, whose number has been put at 50 to 75% (meaning that that proportion would vote against the Communists were free and secret elections to be held), will depend on the success or failure of the Five-Year-Plan. Tells about the purging of the Army and of the efficiency of the police; rationing; the lowing of the living standard, etc.

Rouge, Impair et Manque: PROFILE of a Monte Carlo croupier, Gaston Raymond an of the Casino. It was founded in 1858, at the request of Prince Charles III of Monaco. The first concessionaire, a M. Frossard, from Lisbon went broke right away. His successor M. Duval, from Paris, threw a large party, it cost so much money he had none left to carry on with. Then the Societe Lefebvre, Rriois, et Cie, took over, and the Casino move to its present spot. By the time the new Casino was ready to open the concessionaires had gone broke, and M. Francois Blanc stepped in. He brought in his friend Charles Garnie who had designed the Paris Opera, and asked him to enlarge the Casino. Blanc’s corporation took the name of Society Anonymes des Bains de Merdu Cercle des Etrangers a Monaco The company became a success almost immediately. Tells about famous gamblers, among them “The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo,” an Englishman named Charles Wells.

The Self-Exiled: OUR FOOTLOOSE CORRESPONDENTS visit to a home in the American colony in Monte Carlo. There are 42 Americans, almost all past middle age, & the women outnumber the men about 2 to 1. The host said that after being away from the U. S. 15 years one loses all desire to go back. The climate is fine, & living much less expensive. They have good concerts, good opera, & a good bridge club. They can motor in a day to Milan, Geneva, Lake Como. Mountains & lakes are within easy reach. They keep in touch with America by reading papers & magazines. They do not gamble, they contribute lavishly to local charities. One guest, a local juweller, points out to the writer, that actually none of the Americans will ever be completely assimilated – they will always be treated as foreigners. They no longer have any use for America, ripping it to pieces in their conversation.

Coachman behind the Curtain: FOOT-LOOSE CORRESPONDENTS piece about a visit to the Hungarian-Rumanian border at a point where refugees from Rumanitry to cross, most of them without proper papers. This illegal traffic has gone on for months with the silent approval of both governments. Some 30 refugees were waiting at the border station. Visit to a nearby tavern where peasants gather on market days. Tells of their political discussions pro-and-anti Communism; credulous peasants being taken in by lawyers, the parasites of illiterate Rumania. One man made the observation that the lag in Rumania’s progress was the ingrown backwardness, & apathy of the peasants, & that Communism had done something to shake them out of it. Speaks of the plitht of women in Rumania who still remain slaves.

A Balatoni Fogas to Start with: REPORTER AT LARGE about Gundel’s Restaurant in Budapest, owned and run by Charles Gundel, a 65-year-old Budapestian who has contributed more to the fame of Hungarian cooking than any other man. Since 1910, the year he became a full-fledged restauranteur in Budapest, Gundel has been thru two world wars, two inflations, two occupations, two revolutions. In 1918, he was catering to a Hapsburg archduke, and the following year he was serving the followers of the Communist Bela Kun. During Horty’s regime, Gundel became what amounted to official caterer to the Hungarian government. Ten years ago he was catering to King Carol, and last winter to Ana Pauker, Rumania’s Strong Woman, as well as to Minister of Bulgaria. Tells about a dinner at Gundel’s.

The Singing Pharmacist: The ironical story of M. Bertrand, the pharmacist, who sang a different opera each day in his shop in La Condamine, a town near Monte Carlo. He let his wife, also a pharmacist, do all the work – at home and in the shop, while he sang. Seventeen years later, the writer went back and discovered that M. Bertrand had run off with an Italian coloratura. Now, they were living in South America she was singing in a cheap theatre, and he was at home doing the housework.

A very late Pilgrim: Robitschek, a Central European refugee who has been in the United States for 8 years still does not feel as though he belongs – he is uncomfortable when people ask his name and nationality. When he visits his friends at Cape Cod this feeling is intensified. It is somewhat lessened, however, when the eccentric local storekeeper, Ann Hopkins, accepts him. She was in the habit of ignoring most summer people.

No Weeping Tonight, Bacchetta!: REPORTER AT LARGE visit to Cremona, Italy, home of Antonio Stradivari, celebrated 16th century violinmaker. Renzo Bacchetta, a professor at the Scuola Internazionale di Liuteria, Cremona’s school of violinmaking, and also a prominent journalist, is the town's expert on Antonio Stradivari. He deplores the fact that the town is indifferent to great violins made by Stradivari and others. He hopes to publish the diaries of Count Alessandro Cozio di Salabue, which reveal much about Stradivari.

Black Sheep: Uncle Max, native of Czechoslovakia, went to America in the days before World War I. His relatives back home considered him a black sheep until he started sending munificent presents and paid off all the money he had borrowed He never got to visit them in Czechoslovakia, and his nephew missed him in New York when he was in the city some years later. Although his relatives had suspected that he was a gangster his nephew discovered that he was a respectable stock broker.

The Children of Lidice: REPORTER AT LARGE about the massacre at Lidice, the destruction of the city by the Germans. Of the village’s 500 inhabitants, 192 men & boys were shot, the 203 women were to concentration camps, and the 104 children were scattered over Europa. Of the 203 women, 50 died of torture and mistreatment; 141 have come back to Czechoslovkia and have been domiciled by the government in a little colony in Kladno. Only 16 of the children have returned. Interview with three of the children who were sent out of the country and have since returned: Vaclav Haf, 14, his sister Maruska, and her girl friend Marie Dolezalova, 15. The children told how they were treated by the Nazis. It is believed that 600,000 Jewish, Polish, Norwegian, French and Czech children were killed by gas at Chelmo, Poland.

Hot Spot: FAR-FLUNG CORRESPONDENTS from Trieste. Maj. Gen. Bryant E. Moore, the commander of T R U S T, and his staff live and work in Miramare Castle which was built in 1857, for Emperor Francis Joseph’s brother Archduke Maximilian who was executed in 1867 in Mexico. Thereafter, Miramare Castle was occupied, in succession, by Crown Prince Rudolf, who died at Mayerling; Archduke Ferdinand, who was assassinated in Sarajevo; the Duke of Acosta, who was killed in N. Africa; and Brig R.W.M. de Winton, of the British Army, who was shot a year ago in Paris. The superstitious Triestine say that the castle is like a jealous woman, for it kills off every inhabitant after he leaves her.

Cameron, Lewis, Laborde, & Gorodnistov: REPORTER AT LARGE Vienna must be the most patrolled city on earth. Beside the city’s police force and the routine military-police maintained by each of the four occupying powers, there are several more or less secret police outfits, such as Russia Ministvo Vnutrennykh Del, or MVD; and the American Army’s criminal investigations division, or CID. The most unusual of Vienna’s police forces in the International Patrol. It was organized by the former American Provost Marshal in Vienna, Col. Wm. B. Yarborough. Tells how the patrol functions; how misunderstandings with the Russians are ironed out; and about accompanying one of the Patrols on its round one Saturday evening.

White Fog at the Opera: REPORTER AT LARGE about what has happened to the Vienna Opera House; the cast, and the Vienna Philharmonic, between the afternoon of Mar. 12, 1945, when the opera house was bombed by American planes, & the present time. Interview with members of the opera company & the philharmonic Elizabeth Honger, a first mezzo-soprano; Joseph Krips, the conductor; Alfred Jerger, a baritone, and Alfred Boskowsky the Philharmonic first clarinettits. Dr. Egon Holbert, who as head of all state theatricals & also boss of the Staatsoper, told of the opera’s activities since the bombing. The Russians contributed 2 million schilling toward the rebuilding of the opera house.

Letter from Karlsbad: The city was surrendered to two American Army captains, Max E. Zera and Gardner Botsford on V-E Day, for a few hours. When the Russians got there about a week later, they turned the spa into a village; parking hay wagons in front of majestic villas; turning hotel gardens into stable sites. The Imperial Hotel, one of the most luxurious in Karlsbad, is still occupied by Russians, and has been stripped of its grandeur. According to Soviet doctors Red Army soldiers have to be very ill to get to Karlsbad – from observation the citizens think otherwise. There is no fraternization. On occasion prominent Communists in Karlsbad have invited Russians to their homes but their invitations have been brusquely turned down.

Long Ties for the Ship’s Musicians: A FOOTLOOSE CORRESPONDENTS piece about the De Grasse, a French Liner, who after having been refitted has again taken up the N.Y.-Le Havre run. Speaks of the gay, lighthearted days of 1929, when the westbound trips were one long binge and the changes that have taken place. The De Grasse made her maiden voyage on Oct. 4, 1924. On that occasion, Nat Levine’s orchestra had played on the portside of the promenade deck while Ben Bernie and his Hotel Roosevelt Orchestra were working on the Cafe Terrace.

Sweet and Sour: A boy in a small Czechoslovakian town is forbidden to go into a new delicatessen, full of imported specialties, because of a family feud. He is so anxious to try the delicious food that he accepts an invitation from the shop owner’s daughter to go on a picnic. Sadly, instead of bringing food from the store she brings conventional food from home. The boy is disappointed beyond words.

The Bureaucrat: As a young man in Czechoslavakia the writer meets a government civil servant who delights in red tape. Many years later he meets the same man in Washington, D.C., again a civil servant, and happily involved with a lot of red tape.

Votja and the Angel of Death: Several young students at Prague University were in the habit of visiting a dental technician’s office to read the American magazines which he had. All went well until, one of the students was accidentally forced into the dental chair and had a tooth pulled in painful manner. After that the boys kept away from the dentist’s office.

If there is Aanything Left?: A refugee from Czechoslovakia and his old mother have been living in New York since 1940. Now, in 1945, they hope to go back to Prague. When the son discovers that all has changed over there and that is is inadvisable to return he does not have the heart to tell his mother.

Going Home–I; REPORTER AT LARGE about author’s return to his homeland, Czechoslovakia, after an absence of several years spent in [the USA]. As a member of the U.S. Army Psychological Welfare Division his mission took him to his home town Moravska-Ostrava. Describes the journey; the railroads which are in wreckage, were choked with Russian Army outfits bound for duty in Czechoslovakia or going home to Russia. The roads were equally crowded with Russian convoys; anything that ran on wheels had been pressed into service to transport the Army. Speaks of the contrasting reception given the Russians in the villages, which ranged from fervid enthusiasm to hostility.

Going Home–II; REPORTER AT LARGE about a visit to the town of Moravska-Ostrava, in Czechoslovakia, which is today a Russian garrison town. Tells about finding the only remaining relatives, author’s mother-and-father-in-law, and a few friends. Relates some of their experiences.

Corps de Ballet: The accordion player who performed lying down. He was also a ballet enthusiast and knew most of the members of the Monte Carlo Ballet Russe. Tells about a radio performance by author and the accordion player given in Nice. The radio station was located above a fire station.

Back to the Place Pigalle: OUR COMBATANT CORRESPONDENTS After an absence of sixteen years, author returns to Montmatre, where he had worked a long time as a musician. Tells about the reunion, reminiscing with old musician-friends; their stories of what had happened during the German occupation of Paris.

The Claque Chef gets an Ovation: Joseph Schostal, the claque chef of the Vienna Opera House gets an ovation. Recalls the claque’s ovation for Jan Kiepura, Lotte Lehman, Jeritza, and other famous singers and ballerinas.

Last Waltz: Ships musicians on an old tub making the Indo China run. The captain was an old misanthrope who made their life an unhappy one. Then there was an Italian circus troupe, one of the members a young girl with whom the radioman fell in love. There was the run-in with the captain who ordered the musicians to play ten hours a day instead of five. They talked this over with one of the passengers, an American businessman. He suggested they throw the piano overboard, he’d pay for it. They did. When the captain discovered what had happened the American had already debarked. The captain gave the boys 12 hours to raise twelve hundred and fifty francs. The previous evening’s collection would have covered the sum, but the girl who had collected the money had hid it in the piano.

Music for the Steward: Ships-musicians. The Annamite steward and his love for music.

Anybody see a Violin in Djibouti?: Ships’ musicians on the Messageries Maritimes liner: Porthos, Dimitrij, Gaston, and a Herr Mullendorf. There was also a young boy who played the percussion instruments after Gaston jumped ship; Yvonne, a French beauty, who flirted with the youngster. Tells about buying a violin in Dijibouti, an emergency, because the first violinist had the misfortune to have his violin fall apart due to weather conditions.

Big Business: Author, a ships-musician and his friend Marcel, also a member of the orchestra, take a holiday trip to South America. Author is asked to look after the South American interests of a Czechoslovakian malt and hop firm. The two are joined by a young American who had taken the trip for the express purpose of stealing hotel towels, of which he already had a considerable collection. Tells how the towel-thief and Marcel ruin the hop-and-malt deal.

Audition: Shipboard musicians. Tells about Franzl, a Czechoslovakian bank clerk’s audition before Monsieur Arnold, musical director of the steamship line.

Complaint: TALK OF THE TOWN on American fighting fronts the Army prints a little one-sheet newspaper, in the enemy’s language, giving full and accurate late war news on one side and on the reverse setting forth the advantages of immediate surrender. The sheets are dropped in back of the enemy lines by plane or shell. The other day in Normandy, a Nazi surrendered and, in the course of interrogation by our intelligence officers, pettishly asked what had happened to the little newspaper. His platoon hadn't had any news for several days, he said and was getting bitter about the service.

Assistant Croupier: Author tells about his experiences at Nice; his appearance as soloist at a concert symphonique; his acting as assistant croupier at the Casino Municipal, and his friendship with a baron and an American heiress, which led to an incident that caused the assistant croupier to lose his job.

The Sleepy Piano Player: Of a piano player en route on a liner from Europe as a member of a band whose most ardent habit was sleeping. To attain this he would vanish, and hide so that virtually everyone was in continuouse search. His most famous retreat was a passenger’s bed, belonging to a widow of some means from Boston. Upon discovery and with due apologies, the widow had found him charming and understanding – the only person that would listen to her talk. Shortly after arrival in New York, he was again missed and his absence acknowledged by a wire: “Boston is a nice, quiet place, colder than Algeciras, but a good place to sleep.”

Captian’s Dinner: Tells about the Captain’s Dinner aboard a west-bound French passenger liner. An energetic American club woman had practically taken charge of all social activities during the trip. At the musical entertainment that followed the dinner, she insisted on singing a couple of arias. It was a complete fiasco.

My Life in the Claque: Author recalls his experiences as a member of the claque at the Vienna Staatsoper.

Looking for a Bluebird: When the “Blackbirds,” famous American all-Negro review came to Paris’ Moulin Rouge Music Hall, late in the summer of 1928, I and five other white violinists were hired to form a string section in the orchestra. Tells about the first performance…the touching friendship between the mother of the Polish violinist and one of the “Bluebirds” musicians, a Negro by the name of George Washington. Author also relates his experience as a movie musician in Madame Dubois’s Boulevard-Cinema in Aubervilliers.

Pier 99: The second violinist of a ships orchestra sees New York for the first time. The day before they landed, the orchestra leader urged all the members of the band to borrow all the money they could and buy liquor at the bar. They got it at a 50 per cent discount. Author was delegated to go to a drugstore and call up a long list of people. All he had to say was “La Bourdonnais is in port.” They all seemed delighted at the news. Later in the day they came down to the steamer and got roaring drunk. The orchestra members tripled their investment.

The Cosmopolite: Tells about an experience with Henri Philippe Petain, back in 1930, when author was working as orchestra leader on shipboard.

The Corsican Express: Description of a journey on the Corsican express and a visit to the home of the only direct descendant of Christopher Columbus.

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