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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

3<>                      MODERN   GERMAN  LITERATURE

world, and Hauptmann lights up, sympathetically, the genesis and
growth of their delusions, as well as the effect of their preaching
on credulous minds. It is perhaps unfortunate that the career of
his hero is so closely modelled on that of Jesus; for even to free-
thinkers who take the book as it is meant, as an interpretation of
the Gospels, the taking over of fact after fact - for instance, the
hovering doves when Quint is baptized - will seem too obviously
inartistic; while to some, of course, the story will be blasphemy.
Again, the novelist has kept too close to science to keep the
illusion of art; the events are so scientifically possible that they
are improbable. The Moravian atmosphere of Silesian mountain
villages, however, the atmosphere in which Hauptmann grew up,
is wonderfully well reproduced; we are made to feel that religious
revivals are just as inevitable among these weavers and tillers of
the soil as they are in Wales. In The Fool in Christ, as in other
books by Hauptmann, there is a struggle between the spirit and
the flesh; but Emanuel Quint conquers the flesh by persuading
himself that he is a spirit. This belief explains his teaching. He
thinks that the Lord's Prayer is an address to the Ghost - that is,
to the God-Spirit in man. It is with the spirit, therefore, that he
baptizes. But he that is baptized of the spirit is born again of the
spirit, and is therefore the Son of God. Quint merely wishes to
save men from their dead selves - i.e. their bodies - by making
them spirits, or God; but his hearers do not follow his admirably
simple reasoning. To the learned among them it seems labyrinthine
madness; to the starving peasants it seems to be the self-glorifica-
tion of the Messiah, and as such they worship him, forming a
community which wallows in mad orgies till he forbids them to
read the Bible, the source of their delusions and selfish hopes.
Quint is a prophet preaching in the wilderness; what his disciples
want is not the kingdom of the spirit but better times. In the end
he wanders about Germany, knocking at doors and saying he is
Christ; and he is last seen in the mountains of Switzerland. When
his corpse is found after the spring thaw there is a sheet of paper
in his pocket, and on it, still legible, are the words: 'The mystery
of the kingdom?' With this query the book ends.

Apart from the religious and psychopathic problems, there is
much that is interesting in The Fool in Christ. There is an auto-
biographical element: Kurt Simon is clearly a picture of Haupt-
mann as an agricultural student; none the less self-portraiture is