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Empty Theatre: A Novel

9780374277925 fc
Digital, MCD × FSG, 2023
Releases 02/21/23

A wildly over-the-top social satire reimagining the mad misadventures of the iconic royal cousins King Ludwig and Empress Sisi, from the incomparable Jac Jemc.

History knows them as King Ludwig II of Bavaria and Empress Elizabeth of Austria, icons of the late nineteenth century who died young and left behind magnificent portraits and palaces. But to each other they were Ludwig and Sisi, cousins who shared a passion for beauty and a stubborn refusal to submit to the roles imposed upon them.

Ludwig, simultaneously spoiled and punished for his softness and "unmanly" interests, falls hard for the operas of Richard Wagner and neglects his state duties in the pursuit of art. Sisi, married at the age of sixteen to her beloved Franzl, bristles at the restrictions of her elevated position, the value placed on her beauty, and the simultaneous expectation that she ravage her body again and again in childbirth. Both absurdly vain, both traumatized by the demands of their roles, Sisi and Ludwig struggle against the ideals they are expected to embody, and resist through extravagance, petulance, performance, and frivolity.

A tragicomic tour de force, Empty Theatre immerses readers in Ludwig and Sisi’s rarefied, ridiculous, restrictive world—where the aesthetics of excess belie the isolation of its inhabitants. With wit, pathos, and imagination, Jac Jemc takes us on an unforgettable journey through two extraordinary parallel lives and the complex, tenuous friendship that linked them.

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  • "This novel is a triumph."

    Kirkus (starred review)


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Jac Jemc