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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

HUMORISTS,   SATIRISTS,   SATANISTS,   VISIONARIES    69

of ether and chases the rolling world. He is distinguished from his
immediate circle of Berlin friends - Dehmel and Przybyszewski
in particular - by his elimination of eroticism (AntierofiK), which
comes into his 'prentice novel only: Tarub, Bagdads beruhmteKochin
(1897). In Na, frost! (1898) he flies in an octagonal bottle into
space. In Die wilde Jagd (1901) and Kometentan^ (1903) the planets
dance, while Perpetuum mobile (1910) discusses what the title indi-
cates. And yet these tales bear no relation to those of Jules Verne1:
Scheerbart's purpose is not primarily to foresee the advance of
science, but to caricature the tendencies of his time: ' AMS Wut bin
ich sogar Humorist geworden? he says, *nicht aus Liebenswurdigkeit?
He breaks ground for the cosmic impressionists because to the
individualism of Nietzsche ("the God of journalists', he calls him)
he opposes that cosmic feeling which foresees the future: 'Der
Welts eele wo Hen wir naher sein* he says.

From the memoirs and diaries of the nineties we know of Scheer-
bart, Przybyszewski and Dehmel as three jolly boys in Berlin;
entertaining Strindberg, for instance, in a night-club; and this
companionship influenced literature profoundly in ideas of sex
and Satanism which came from the strange brain of STANISLAUS
PRZYBYSZEWSKI (1868-1927), who in these Berlin days of his wrote
German but after his return to Poland was a leader of the Polish
Moderne. Though his novels are now read by scholars only they
have to be taken into account as the sources, partial at least, of
the decadent Satanism of the period. Thus the wife of Bierbaum's
Prinz Kuckuck deceives her husband with a Satanist whose creed
is clear in the light of PrzybyszewskFs teaching; and, though the
question of origins is complicated by the popularity of Barbey
d'Aurevilly (Les Diaboliques, 1874; Histoire sans noms, 1882), Bau-
delaire, Huysmans, and Oscar Wilde, wherever there is decadent
adoration of evil we are likely to have the influence, possibly in-
direct, of the demonic Pole. That Satanism as a theme should
appeal to the naturalists is natural enough; for they describe life
as it is, and life as they see it is diabolically wicked. If Satanism is
taken to mean the negation of Christian principles - literally or

1 The prototype of the scientific novel in Jules Verne's sense is Auf %wei
Planeten (1897) by Kurd Lasswitz (1848-1910): a war between Mars and the
earth is decided by the use of aeroplanes and submarines. Bernhard Keller-
mann's Der Tunnel (1913), the most popular novel of this sort, ranks rather
with the anti-machinery literature: the hero just fails to construct a tunnel
under the Atlantic, and the enterprise swallows up human lives like Moloch.