Skip to main content

Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

See other formats

FROM  BAHR   TO   DEHMEL                           87

flection of nature in art differs as infinitely as artists differ in
temperament. Only vision is true. A child watches its mother in
a green shade and says to papa: 'Mama has a green nose!' Papa
says it only seems so, but the child knows better, it says what it
sees. Papa knows too much; his superior knowledge corrects his
vision. In reality we never see anything as our intelligence tells
us it is. But the appearance which intelligence says is untrue is
beautiful; and art portrays the beautiful, which is the real, only
the real is underneath it. Am farbigen Abglan^ haben wir das Leben*
wrote Goethe.

Impressionism first appears as programmatic in a novel which
ran as a serial through the first volume of Die Freie Bitbne, Hermann
Bahr's Die gute Schule (1890). This is a typically decadent novel,
with as much Nervositat as anything of Tovote's, and today its
interest lies more than anywhere in the detection of the influences
which go to its making; for it is an amalgam of imitations which
are in themselves indicative of the fiction which follows. Critics
insist on the crass use of Strindberg's misogyny, but certainly the
chief influence is that of Huysmans' A rebours, which is, however,
coupled with the psychogrammatic notation of Bourget's Le Dis-
ciple, then - it had appeared a year before - a literary sensation.
Similarities have also been pointed out with George Moore's A
Modern Trover (1883); both writers agree that cthe life of an artist
should be a practical protest against the so-called decencies of life'
(Confessions of a Young Man). HERMANN BAHR (1863-1934), an Aus-
trian from Linz, had just arrived - elegant and scented, with
pointed beard and Lavalliere cravat - in Berlin after a stay in Paris
(1889-90), where by this time the symbolist doctrines were the
latest thing. The hero of the tale is a young painter who, after
eating red salmon in green sauce, is pursued by these colours: he
sees symphonies first of green, then of red ('Es war der 'Lyrismus
des Roten . . . ein krdftiges, mannliches und tdtiges 'Kof is a sample of
the erotic symbolism of the book). The sub-title is Seelische Zu-
stdnde (i.e. etats d'ame), and this is symptomatic: the notation of
states is here transferred from the outer to the inner world. 'The
good school' is that of erotic experience: 'das Hamletische im Kunstler
verlangt eine Matresse unbedingf\ and the more perversity the greater
the refinement of the nerves. Woman is, however, no more than
an instrument in the refining process; she is and must be, as
woman, a whore, *ein liederliches Gemisch am Kot und Honig*. When