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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

jg                    MODERN  GERMAN  LITERATURE

though traditional in form, are excellent in their genre-painting.
ARNO HOLZ (1863-1929) it was who, in conjunction with his
friend JOHANNES SCHLAF (1862-1941), put the match to the gun-
powder. Arno Hob;, an East Prussian, had begun as an imitator
of Geibel, but in his volume of verse Buck der Zeit (1885), though
the form is traditional, there is already Armeleutepoesie. Holz has
described in his prolix treatise Die Kunst: ihr Wesen und ihre Geset^e
(1890-92) how he discovered 'consistent realism'. On his return
from Paris, where he had studied Zola's critical writings, he had
taken rooms with his friend Schlaf in a Berlin suburb, and there
he came across a boy's drawing of a soldier on a slate; to anybody
else it might have been a camel, to the boy it was a soldier; the
boy had failed in the first place because his tools were inadequate,
and in the second place because he did not know how to handle
the tools he had. From this Holz deduced his famous law: Die
Kunst hat die Tendency wieder die Natur ^usein. Sie wirdsie nach Mass-
gab e ihrer jeweiligen ILeproduktionsbedingungen und der en Handhabung.
That is: art differs from nature only in the means of representation.
There are as many forms of art as there are means of representing
it. Since art strives to be nature, the stern aim of art must be to be
'consistent', or unswerving in the exact reproduction of nature.
In illustration of this truth, Holz and Schlaf wrote three Novellen,
which were published in 1889 as Papa Hamlet by Bjarne P. Holm-
sen. The name of the alleged author reflects the popularity at that
time of Scandinavian writers. Papa Hamlet is an old actor who is
always declaiming passages from Hamlet\ when his baby Fortinbras
cries he puts a pillow over its face; in the end he stifles the child.
The characters of the three tales are grey ordinary beings; we get
chunks of daily life narrated with photographic reality. Zola had
defined art as life seen through the artist's temperament; Holz
eliminates the artist's temperament and, in intention, photographs
like a camera, with no apparent interest either in his characters or in
their speech, which he gives in fragments and disjointed. The best
of the tales is the third: 'Bin TW,the description of a night passed by
students at the death-bed of a comrade who has been wounded in
a duel. Here the unfinished sentences and the three full stops to
represent the unspoken words produce an atmosphere and admir-
ably suggest the sleepy crawling of the night-hours. This style is
known as Sekundenstil (the term was first used by Adalbert von
Hanstein in his book Dasjungste Deutschland, 1900), i.e. a style