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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

56                    MODERN   GERMAN   LITERATURE

dance lovers like moths round a flame. In the sequel. Die Buchse
der Pandora (1904), long condemned by the censor, Lulu has de-
generated into an object bought and sold; in the gruesome scene
- very fine as Grand Guignol - at the end she is slit open in a
London attic by Jack the Ripper. She shares this thrilling death
with a countess who has clung to her with the devotion of a dog
and the torments of unsatisfied Lesbian love. But to whatever
depths of degradation she sinks she is, in Wedekind's intention,
guiltless: within her is an elemental force which drives her, an
unconscious victim, to destruction. Hidalla (1904) records the
squabblings of a sect - 'The International Union for the Breeding
of Beautiful Thoroughbreds' - who swear to give themselves in
love at first asking to any fellow-member: a deed of public service
in the interests of the race, since all are eugenically certified. Only
the secretary, Karl Hetman, is deformed1 and queer; since, how-
ever, he has an intellectual fascination the full-blooded females in
sheer illogical perversity gravitate to him.

Whether Wedekind's presentation of reality by distortion merely
reflects his serio-comic impression that life is a Hell of a joke (fin
hbllischer Spass] - with the joke delightful because it is Hell -, or
whether, if one penetrates the surface, a more poignant solution is
to be found in his personal tragedy of frustration, is problematic.
Certainly the unmistakable self-portraiture cuts deeper in Der Mar-
quis von Keith (1901) and So ist das L,eben (1902). In any case, sheer
nausea may turn serious students of drama away from experiments
in drama that are at least as academically interesting as the equally
lurid milestones in literature which we group as Sturm und Drang.
The Marquis von Keith - title and name are stock-in-trade - is a
scoundrel and impostor, but by calculation as well as by the urge
of his blood; hereditarily stated, he is the bastard of a mathema-
tician and a gipsy, or, as self-stated, a cross between a philosopher
and a horse-thief. One cardinal point of his ethical and commercial
creed is: 'Siinde ist eine mythologische Be^eichnungfur schkchte Geschafte*;
but the course of the action and the victory of society as consti-
tuted, backed up as it is by massed idiocy, forces him to confess
that 'das glan^endste Geschaft in dieser Welt ist die Moral*. He trains
the woman he cohabits with to be such a I^ebenskunstkr as he is
himself; but as events prove she too is commercialized; for when

1 Wedekind had a lame foot. The attraction of contraries explains his
admiration of strong men, particularly of the circus variety.