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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

JZ                      MODERN   GERMAN  LITERATURE

essay): his own characteristic addition is orgiastic blood-lust, as
in Hahnenkampf, the story of a cock-fight in Die Eesessenen (1908),
his most typical volume: the fighting cocks are stripped Spaniards
with daggers in the gaunt mountains of Andalusia. Orgies of sex
and blood fill the culminating scene, to which he leads up horror
by horror, of his picture of hoodoo ceremonial in Haiti. In the
cock-fight the obsession of blood is a matter of race and heroic
milieu; in the hoodoo tale it is that frenzy of sex in the heat of
tropical forests and sun-baked bodies which accounts for much
of primitive religion.

This metaphysical fundament of Ewers serves him to probe a
visionary truth behind the illusion of reality. As it happens, how-
ever, his own mind is of that variety which would look to real
profit even in the exposition of irreality (he made his first repu-
tation as a reciter for the "Qberbrettl, the history of which he wrote
in Das Cabaret, 1905). What he gives us, therefore, is not so much
metaphysical tales as sensational best-sellers. However, he forms
the link between Poe's mathematical lucubration of mystery and
the Romantic uncanniness of E. T. A. Hoffmann before him and
a group of Prague Jews who do capture the mystic illusion of a
supersensory reality, apparently because they have ethical concep-
tions for the suggestion of which they bring in the mystifications
of the Jewish cabbala. Of these Prague Jews Gustav Meyrink and
the painter Alfred Kubin (1877-) do not disdain sensationalism;
in Franz Kafka, who combines the ethics of the expressionists
with the raw realism of the naturalists, we have a pure mystic.

GUSTAV MEYRINK'S (1868-1932) novel Der Golem (1916) is by
reason of its allusive handling of the robot-theme one of the most
readable tales of the period. The Golem is an artificial man made
according to a lost specification of the cabbala by a rabbi of Prague
in the seventeenth century, to help him ring the bells of the syna-
gogue. The creature lives only with a 'half-conscious vegetable
life* by the virtue of a magic card (Zettel] inserted behind his teeth;
this draws down the sidereal powers (the symbol is apparently
that of the automatism of modern society; Heaven still moves us,
though in our limp life of routine we are unconscious of it).
When, one evening, the rabbi forgets to remove this card from
the creature's mouth he runs amok through the streets, smashing
whatever comes in his way, until the rabbi captures him and re-
moves the card (symbolically: reduces the robot to brute matter -