The Guiltless by Hermann Broch
"Murder, lust, shame, hypocrisy, and suicide are at the center of The Guiltless, Hermann Broch's postwar novel about the disintegration of European society in the three decades preceding the Second World War. Broch's characters - an apathetic man who can barely remember his own name; a high-school teacher and his lover who return from the brink of a suicide pact to carry on a dishonest relationship; Zerline, a lady's maid who enslaves her mistresses, prostitutes the young country girl Melitta, and metes out her own justice against the "empty wickedness" of her betters - are trapped in their indifference, prisoners of a sort of "wakeful somnolence." These men and women may mention the "imbecile Hitler," yet they prefer a nap or sexual encounter to any social action. Broch thought the kind of ethical perversity and political apathy exhibited by his characters paved the way for Nazism. He believed in the purifying power of writing and hoped that by revealing Germany's underlying guilt he could purge indifference from his own and future generations. In The Guiltless, Broch captures how apathy and ennui - very human failings - evolve into something dehumanizing and dangerous." --Book Jacket.