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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

THE NOVEL  OF  IMPRESSIONISM                   299

solidly constructed truth, not that of revelation fired with the
sublime ecstasy of faith. The mysticism is that of a schoolmaster
whose class has expanded to a nation; and probably only the Ger-
man nation could be fascinated by novels so religiously formative.
Some at least of the tales of JAKOB WASSERMANN (1873-1934)
may be ranked as Heimatkunst: born at Fiirth, where he began life
as a clerk, he describes Franconia, and with great intimacy Nurem-
berg: in Die Juden von Zirndorf'and other tales he is the accredited
interpreter of the spiritual and physical environment of the Fran-
conian Jews. But, since Wassermann is a Jew, his native province
is not so much Franconia as a world of ideas, unctuously Oriental
to a great extent in substance and presentment, although, in his
autobiographical sketch Mem Wegais Deutscher undjude (1921), he
has energetically asserted his claim to all the German heritage of
soul and language. The declared aim of his laboured writing is to
bring about the birth through tribulation of spirit of "the new
man', simple, humble, and good, who calls himself brother to the
outcast, and will kneel (in Christian Wahnschaffe] even to a criminal
who has raped and murdered a little girl. (A murderer is innocent,
runs the argument in Stehr's Der Heiligenhof, in the depths of his
soul, just as on the ocean bed there is peace while tempests rend
its surface; we shall see that the expressionists proper will show
that not the murderer but the murdered is guilty.) Wassermann^
didactic tendency clearly runs parallel with that of Hermann Stehr,
but there is a wide disparity in their technique: Stehr leads up to
his Seelenmensch by inner experiences which illumine and purify the
soul they awaken; Wassermann's characters are transformed in a
welter of crass sensationalism which has elements of Eugene Sue
or of the Police Gazette, If only by reason of this lurid excitement
and concentration on physically criminal types one is forced to
question the permanent value of Wassermann's writings. Of in-
terest there is no lack; the obvious reason for his comparative
failure is that the cerebrally evolved characters act, not dynamic-
ally, but to illustrate the theory (proclaimed in Christian Wabn-
scbaffe) that to reveal humanity the novelist must *sink himself into
sick souls', and unveil what is secret and hidden by inquisition*
into the causes of moral disease. Wassermann's creed as a novelist
is set down in the treatise Die Kmst der Er^ahlmg (1904), *M mil
nicht die Verhiupfung attswrer Erhbnisse fffaf, he says, ^sondern dh
Wirrnis der inmren; ich set^e keimn 'EJbrgii^ darin, F&fen ^