Skip to main content

Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

See other formats


ment. Not merely theologians like Bruno Wille turned Socialist:
there was the glaring case of Moritz von Egidy, a lieutenant-
colonel, who preached a kind of Saint-Simonian Christianity or
Christian Socialism freed from all sectarian dogma; he stated his
creed in Ernste Gedanken (i 891). Such a socialization of Christianity
was signalled at the Evangelisch-Sozialer Kongress in 1890.

One more distinguishing feature which should be pointed out
is that, while naturalism proper is Socialistic, decadence tends to
be Nietzschean. The question might at once arise: how can Nietz-
scheanism, which is the cult of the strong, ruthless man, possibly
be identified with decadentism? The answer is that Nietzsche's
idea of the superman ('Der Mensch ist etwas, das uberwunden mrden
soir} implies contempt and loathing for man in his present state
(see pp. 103-4). This self-loathing is not in contradiction with
that admiration of the strong men of history which in the case of
Jakob Burckhardt and Conrad Ferdinand Meyer took the form of
worship of the ^.enaissancemensch\ and generally speaking we may
say that in the nineties literary Nietzscheanism in Germany splits
into two phases: (i) the identification of the man of the Renais-
sance with the superman, principally in impressionism (e.g. the
novels of Heinrich Mann); (z) decadent individualism; the latter,
strengthened by the cult of Baudelaire (the French Satanist as
Przybyszewski is the German Satanist), turns to Satanism, to
Neronism (Ich-Anbetun^ and to the glorification of the weakling
with suicidal tendencies. Thus we get two main types of hero:
der Held der Tat and der Held der Kmst.

The Zolaesque novel begins with Conrad Alberti (or Sittenfeld)
and Max Kretzer. CONRAD ALBERTI (p. 23), the swashbuckler of
naturalism, had the typical cynicism of Berlin Jews; his drama
Brot (1888) is an attempt, before Gerhart Hauptmann's Florian
Gejer, to dramatize the Peasant Rebellion; his novels (Wer ist der
Stdrkere? 1888; Die Alten und die Jimgen, 1889; Kecht auf Uebe
1890; Mascbinen, 1894) died in their own dirt, and count only as
experiments. In the short stories of his Pkbs (1887) he sketches
with a loose grip the life of Berlin metal workers and seamstresses;
his imitation of Zola comes out more in the panoramic vision of
Berlin which he tries to read into his novels; he fails because he sees
merely a drab monotonous city, whereas Zola redeems his horrific
picture by vivid and grandiose symbol. MAX KRETZER (1854-1941),
an artisan who gradually shaped himself into a literary man but