Skip to main content

Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

See other formats

THE   NOVEL   OF   IMPRESSIONISM                  293

morbidity of subject he had scorched in his pamphlets. There is
delightful humour in Wilhelm Brinkmeyers Abenteuer (1911), Alt-
mdnnersommer (1925), and Humoristische Er^ahlungen (1936). Gener-
ally speaking Rudolf Huch's aim was to educate the Burger to a
realization of the vacuity of his existence; he is in this respect the
most academically minded of a group to which belong Friedrich
Huch, Heinrich Mann, Carl Sternheim, and Leonhard Frank.

EDUARD VON KEYSERLiNG (185 5-1918) is an impressionist in the
true sense of the word: there is in all his work a nervous refine-
ment of style, and the goal of his characters is not a moral mastery
of life but sensuous enjoyment of it. For him, when love ends,
life is over. His affinity is with that master of sensitive Danish
prose, Hermann Bang,1 whose works, with their subtle delineation
of culture-worn aristocrats, had a great vogue in impressionist
Germany; but it is inevitable that he should be compared with
Friedrich Spielhagen, for both depict the junkers of north-east
Germany. The region of Spielhagen's predilection is Pomerania,
that of Keyserling is his native Courland, but the junker type is in
the characterization of both essentially similar. There is, however,
a difference which moves them worlds apart - while Spielhagen
describes these landed gentry as an outsider of radical and even
revolutionary views (though with a suppressed admiration for a
socially superior class) Keyserling takes it for granted that their
qualities are the prerogatives of their class. And these qualities -
the most questionable to us are the right to adultery and the
manorial right (exercised by all males of the family) to any girl on
the estate - to Graf von Keyserling represent vitality ('Lebens-
kraf?\ adventure, 'the pleasurable sensation of the beast of prey5
^angenehmes ILaubiitrgefiih?}* These junkers have no morality, but
they have HerrenmoraL However, - and this is the note of his work
- the characters he chooses to depict are not the bold bad Baltic

1 Born in 185 8, Hermann Bang lived in Berlin. His first novel - Hoffniwgs-
lose Gescblecbter in German  has for hero the last decadent scion of a noble
race. In his later works he has Maeterlinck's conception of fate as a secret
force which breathes around us. With the short stories otLebett md Tod his
attitude to life moves to a naive hedonism: we can defy fate, and snatch what
fleeting joys we can: 'esg'bt nicbts als den Trieb; der afkin ist Herr mdMeister*;
*/#/ ist Btut; das mil sieden, bis es matt ist oder halt ist" Keyserling's Hema-
menschen have the frightful sensation of loneliness of Bang's characters, due
to the tragic intensity of their feeling that there is nothing io life but this
snatching at pleasure which must be shot with pain because it passes, and
because in the face of fate, which ironically permits it, it is so mean.