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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

FROM   BAHR  TO  DEHMEL                           9!

planned a cycle of twelve novels which were to establish his new
conviction that society must be transformed and that 'real life'
must be created by "real men'. In Die Rahl (1908) he shocked
Vienna once again: a famous actress whose identity was guessed
relieves a Jew grammar-school boy in one night of love of his
virginity. Other novels of the series (Drut, 1909; 0 Mensch! 1910;
Die Rofte Korab,1 1919) further reflect Bahr's irresponsible concep-
tion of 'real life'. Taken all in all, the man and his milieu are likely
to be more interesting to posterity than his works; and in that
respect his Tagebucher (1918), in which his expressionistic phase is
recorded. Das Hermann Ba&r-Bucb (1913) and Selbstbildnis (1923)
will serve for an epitome.

In the literary cafes of Vienna Bahr shared presidential authority
with PETER ALTENBERG (1862-1918), the aphorist among the im-
pressionists. His genius splits into fragments; and perhaps a com-
parison to diamond splinters, loosely collected, some brilliantly
polished and too many with a muddied glitter, would be a fit
description of his work (Wie icb es sebe, 1896; Aschantee^ 1897;
Was der lag mir ^utragt, 1900). It is customary to classify him as a
'MomentphotograpW \ and his best pieces are indeed instantaneous
photographs of something seen - Vienna with its suburbs, recol-
lections of childhood, delicately pencilled portraits of women
fyervysittertt Weibschattenmsetf} and girls (the Wiener Madl above
all), cruelly clean sketches of predatory men; and all coloured by
shifting moods. Grotesquely contradictory is the self-portrait of
T.A.' which stands out from these fragments: the habitue of
L,iteratencafes? where he sits with his adoring and adored harlots,
the poet of impromptus and apercus, and with all this a pose of
social reformer and preacher of the open-air life, controlled diges-
tion, healthy bodies. Cynically colloquial, elegantly vulgar, pre-
tentiously personal, ironically impaling the cliches of journalism,
he is unique in his period, though historically in the line of the
French moralistes (but what a moralist!) and of Lichtenberg, But,
for all his keen observation and his sense of rhythm, he fails,
because he has not the deadly earnestness of the true moraliste,
whose very inspiration is pain of the spirit, while Altenberg's pain
is that of the invalid poisoned by the perverse life of cities.

1 Notable for its discussion of the problem of the Jews.

2 ^ Such a presidential poet with his halo of harlots in his Viennese Stammcafe
is pictured by Werfel in Barbara.