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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"


Dauthendey's first novel, Josa Gerth (1892), takes place apart in
his work as being entirely psychological and having a German
setting. The heroine, a highly gifted girl, comes in her growing
years, unsatisfied and hysterically seeking, in the very exuberance
of her girlish ripeness manntoll, to the gradual perception that the
most ideal man is beast by impulse; she marries a clergyman, and,
after her first night of physical disgust, is estranged by her con-
viction that atheism is a riper stage of religion; when her husband
forbids her to publish the book she has written to prove this thesis,
she leaves him, but returns to him when a consumptive botanist
- a portrait of J. P. Jacobsen! - to whom she turns, unselfishly
refuses to live with her. Having married the Swedish love of his
lyrics Dauthendey took her to Mexico in 1897, intending to settle
as a farmer; but what the experience brought him was his strange
blend of novel and travel description, fLaubmenschen (1911). The
title relates to the ostensible theme: 'the world is all rapine (fine
Raubwelf) and a man has to take from others even the woman he
loves'. The real interest is in the poetic re-creation of Mexico:
tierra caliente, Aztec ruins, and a curse over the land. Dauthendey's
colour obsession appears even in such a casual observation as that
of three red tomatoes, like red-hot coals, on a piece of blue linen
print in front of a tawny Indian woman. The volcanic landscape
broods over the hero's senses like a nightmare, and his timorous
sympathy for the descendants of the Aztecs with their demonic
ways puts the book in the front rank of the Mexican exotism of
the period. The sensationalism which mars Raubmenscben fails to
grip, too, in the poet's two collections of Oriental short stories,
Lmgam (1910) and Die acht Gesichter am Biwasee (1911). In Ungam
the base of the narration is stark reality, fantastic only because it
is literally Oriental, and (in intention) physiologically real because
the strange happenings grouped as 'lingam' - the Indian symbol
of sexual union - represent naive Oriental phases of the truth that
love is life. The tales range eastwards from India by way of Ceylon
and Singapore to China and Japan, and the moods and colouring
shift from country to country. What weakness there is - and it lies
in a too naive wonderment at exotic phases and a too physical
interpretation of states of mind - can be best gathered by com-
paring the Chinese tale Im Mandarinenkdub with Klabund's Derletitfe
Kaiser•: in the background of both the boy Emperor dies in the
sinister shadow of the Dowager Empress; but while Dauthendey's