"A strange, haunting, exhilarating debut novel about survival and love in all its forms: about sexual awakenings and dark secrets, about European refugee intellectuals who've fled Hitler's armies with dreams intact and who have come to an elusive new (American) "can-do, will-do" world they cannot seem to find. A novel steeped in surreal storytelling and beautiful music that transports its half-broken souls--and us--to another realm of the senses. From the much-admired, award-winning poet, author of Flying Inland and With Robert Lowell and His Circle: Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Elizabeth Bishop, Stanley Kunitz, and Others. The setting: New York, the early 1940s, with the spectre of a red-hot Europe at war. At the center of Kathleen Spivack's Unspeakable Things: Anna (known as the Rat), an exotic Hungarian countess with the face of an angel, beautiful eyes and a seraphic smile, with a passionate intelligence, an exquisite ugliness, and the power to enchant... her second cousin Herbert, a former minor Austrian civil servant who believes in Esperanto and the international rights of man, a wheeler-dealer in New York, powerful in the social sphere, yet under the thumb of his wife, Adeline... Michael, their missing homosexual son...Felix, a German pediatrician who dabbles in genetic engineering... the Tolstoi String Quartet, four men and their instruments, who for twenty years lived as one, playing the great concert halls of Europe, for whom music is their life; escaping to New York from Bremerhaven, smuggled out on a German submarine, their money sewn into the red silk linings of their instrument cases... And watching them all, Herbert's eight-year-old granddaughter, Maria, witnessing the family's strange comings and goings, being regaled at night when most are asleep with the intoxicating, thrilling stories of their secret pasts...of lives lived in St. Petersburg... of husbands being sent to the front and large, dangerous debts owed to the tsar of imperial Russia, and of a strange pact made in desperation between the Rat and the mystic faith healer Grigori Rasputin, their meeting night after night in Rasputin's apartments, and the spell-binding, unspeakable things done there in the name of penance and pleasure.."-- Provided by publisher.