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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

THE  NOVEL   OF   IMPRESSIONISM                  287

the women he has loved, the face of Eve, of the Urmutttr^ which
lures to rapture, to birth, and, as the last grasp of her love, to
death. But ere he has time to shape the mystery of her face she
folds her hands round his heart and shapes him - to the will to
death, to the fading of the fire she wakes. And before he dies
Narziss, the lonely scholar with the fine face shaped by thinking,
has bent over him and kissed him with the only kiss that life grants
him. In DerRurgast (1925) and Die NiirnbergerlLeise (1927) there is
again the problem of nature's urges and the controlling function of
the mind, and in the latter we read that nature is, as flowers are,
lovely but fast fading, while reason, though it wearies, is durable
as gold. Morgenlandjahrt (1923), with its secret league of sterling
characters, comes still nearer to the synthesis of these opposites
which is symbolically achieved in Das Glasperknspiel (1943). This
story of the bead-game, in the province of Kastalien round about
the year 2400, shows mathematics and art in unison contriving
control of the functions of existence. These bead-players live like
monks, sundered from 'the forbidden and inferior world', devot-
ing themselves to the works of the spirit, as happened in Goethe's
p&dagogische Proving in the Wanderjahre. In days following the havoc
of a great war, which has brought degradation to mankind, the
bead-players in the peace of their Alpine valley practise this game
of glass pearls which, *der Inbegriffdes Geistigen und Musischen\ syn-
thetizes intellectual disciplines and in which all dissonance becomes
unison. The purpose of their order is to rescue the world from
that degradation of mind which had come from the 'warlike age*,
'dasfeuilktonistische Zeitalter*> and to safeguard order, norm, reason,
law, and measure. The protagonist is Josef Knecht, whose life is
chronicled from his early orphan days till he rises to be Magister
Ludi, the High Priest of this gamefal religion. But he is initiated
into historical studies by Pater Jacobus (what is quoted points to
Jakob Burckhardt as model), and he learns that all historical phases
are transitory. He realizes, too, that the bead-players preserve
cultural values, but do not create them, and he observes that every-
thing tends to change to its contrary. Thus he himself, Knecht by-
name, is Master of the Order. He discovers that he is not merely
a Castalian, but a human being as well, and that as such his con-
cern is with the world as a whole and not with a fraction of it*
And so he sets out to find his earthly transformation, breaks way
into the common life, and is drowned in a mountain lake.