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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

IV

THE NOVEL OF NATURALISM
AND DECADENCE

Aar as the novel is concerned it is difficult to draw a clear
line of demarcation between naturalism and decadence; the
two movements merge. There are, however, distinguish-
ing features of each. Naturalism implies sympathy for the working
classes (Armeleutepoeste) and for outcasts of all sorts - prostitutes
particularly, waitresses, factory workers, tramps, scamps; decad-
ence is in the main the depiction of the artist as by his very nature
misplaced in society and conventions, the hectic man of nerves,
the seeker after sensations. Decadence is naturalistic in the
sense that it claims to photograph real life; but it tends merely to
photograph the inner life of exceptional beings, who as such are
decadent, in a milieu either of drab reality or of Bohemian strange-
ness represented as real Where, as in the 'artist novels', this strange
lighting is focused on the strange hero, we have technically not
naturalism but impressionism; but even here the milieu is likely
to be more or less naturalistic. The swathing of a sensitively
visioned inner picture by folds of raw reality indeed continues
through the succeeding schools of impressionism, expressionism,
New Sachlichkeit, and Schollendichtmg^ by this alone we can measure
the importance of naturalism, once established, as a necessary part
of certain phases of literature, particularly of the novel. A term
which approximately comprises all novels of these schools which
have at least a base of realism is Milieuroman. 'Experimental novel"
(Experimentalroman, experimenteller Roman) on the other hand fits
only those novels of the eighties and nineties which are built up,
according to Zola's theory, by 'documents humans'> that is, by the
actual study or scientific observation, or (in Germany, at least)
the pretence of such study or observation, of the characters and