Summary: The two novels of management guru Peter Drucker, the first of which is an interlocking tale of the lives of bankers and aristocracy in pre-World War I Europe as they face an impending meeting, the second a tale of an act of kindness by a Catholic college president that goes horribly wrong.
Yes, this is that Peter Drucker who was known for his insightful business books and management consulting practice. He also wrote two novels, which are combined in this forthcoming edition.
The first focuses around the lives, loves, aspirations, and choices of four aristocrats or bankers. First is Prince Sobieski, Austrian ambassador to England, beseiged by his daughter to help her husband, a military man. All this leads him to consider his life, his, and his wife’s affairs, financial empire and more. We turn next to McGregor Hinton, a British banker whose real love is mathematics and a mulatto prostitute to whom he is secretly married who is dying of cancer. The third figure is Julius von Mosenthal, an Austrian Jewish banker preparing for a major restructuring of a bank in which Sobieski and Hinton are partners. The final figure, Baronness Rafaela Wald-Reifnitz, does not quite seem connected to the rest except by class. The novel ends rather than resolves and what we have is really a set of portraits of a class and a time that died with the guns of August 1914. Drucker explores the choices we make that shape and preclude the realizations of our aspirations. While insightful in places, this seemed more a set of character sketches than a novel with a real plot line.
The second novel focuses around Father Heinz Zimmerman, the visionary and energetic President of St Jerome University. Father Zimmerman, confronted by the unbalanced wife of a faculty member who had been refused tenure, attempts to secure him another teaching position. The plot line unfolds as an example of the axiom that “no good deed goes unpunished.” The wife begins a campaign of innuendo against the university and impugns the character of Father Zimmerman. Virtuous people overreact inflicting pain upon Zimmerman and his long time administrative assistant, and jeopardizing Zimmerman’s highly effective presidency. Around this swirls an underlying tension of whether a university can be both great and Catholic. What is fascinating here is the development of a plotline underscoring the banality of evil, in the form of the pettiness of university conflicts.
The latter novel, while having a more interesting plot line seemed a bit heavy-handed. For those who are fans of Peter Drucker (as am I) you might find this edition of his two novels interesting to see how Drucker would write a novel. Insightful as each is at times, I cannot commend these as great writing. Give me The Effective Executive any day.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher via a pre-publication e-galley through Edelweiss. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”