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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

82                     MODERN   GERMAN   LITERATURE

ticularly in the sentimentalism of Frau Sorge and Der Kat^ensteg;
what he does (in his less reputable work at least) is to transfuse
the German pretence of moral goodness with French cynicism.
Maupassant's translator was Georg Freiherr von Ompteda, and
Ompteda strove doggedly to be the German Maupassant; the
German novelist who made the most of Maupassant's technique
and pose was, however, Heinz Tovote.

HEINZ TOVOTE (1864-1946) and GEORG VON OMPTEDA (1863-1931)

were both natives of Hanover. The glaring difference between
them is that while Ompteda takes over from Maupassant the cult
of piquancy and abnormality his sexuality is, comparatively speak-
ing, sane and normal, while Tovote is genuinely decadent. Their
portraits alone proclaim this radical difference: Ompteda's solid
square face and clipped hair contrast with Tovote's elegant pointed
beard and shock of well-groomed hair. Fallobst (1890) is a collec-
tion of Novellen dejfined by Tovote himself as 'Novellen der Wurm-
stichigkei?', and this 'wormeatenness' is equally high to the nostrils
in Ich, nervose Novellen (1892); what Tovote gives us in these tales
is a series of hectic short studies of the fixed ideas or obsessions
of nervous people. For instance: two young people ripening to
the crisis of fruition have their blood chilled by the sight of a
horse's blood spilt in an accident (this is of course less telling than
Maupassant's story of a husband who ceased intercourse with his
wife because one day when she was ill he was sickened by the faint
odour of physical decay which met his nostrils as he bent over her).
Tovote made his reputation with his novel Im Liebesrausch (1890),
the hero of which is an aristocrat who marries a carter's daughter,
a girl with a past: as a waitress she was Lucie Nagel, as a sort of
lady she is Kitty Nail. Georg von Ompteda scores by his illumin-
ation of the life of officers; and in this respect his trilogy of novels
Deutscher Adel um 1900 (Sylvester von Gejer, 1897; Eysen, 1900;
Cacilie von Sarryn, 1901) may prove to have permanent importance
as pictures of social conditions. In this trilogy the influence of the
Goncourts is pointed out by critics; but this influence too is less
discernible in Ompteda than in Tovote, in the sense that Tovote's
creatures are more literally (to quote Edmond de Goncourt's self-
definition) machines a sensations rendered with an accent fievreux.
Sylvester von Gejer describes the life of a Saxon officer from the
cradle to the grave; his tragedy is that he is poor and that his
efforts to perfect his character are hampered by fits of nerves.