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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

THE  NOVEL  OF  IMPRESSIONISM                  303

novel, 1920, has this title; then follow Oberlins drei Stufen, 1922;
Ulrike Woyticb, 1923; and Faber oder die verlorenen Jahre> 1924) the
idea of psychic discontinuity comes into play - an individual is
made up of various Fs which come to the surface under the pres-
sure of events; and this idea continues in I^audin und die Seinen
(1925). Then in a trilogy of novels Wassermann probes his way to
what he conceives as a new cerebralogically attested system of
ethics and religion. Der Fall Mauritius (1928) is the most ambitious
detective novel in German literature, but qua detective novel it is
incredibly naive and boring. Very irritating is Wassermann's tech-
nique, here relentlessly applied, of 'Entschkierung - strip-teasing
should be the translation of the word: there is a mystery which is
revealed shred by shred. Etzel Andergast,a boy of sixteen, sets out
to unravel a murder mystery. His father, an attorney general, had
procured the verdict; and he too, after Mauritius, the man con-
demned for the murder, has been doing penal servitude for eigh-
teen years, renews the investigation by sitting with the prisoner
day by day in his cell (!), listening to his interminable self-dissec-
tion. Etzel runs away to Berlin, where he ingratiates himself with
the man who had been the chief witness at the trial, a homosexual
Jew scholar, Waremme, who is clearly modelled on du Maurier's
Svengali. Mauritius, married to Elli, had passionately loved Anna,
Elli's sister, a strange creature compact of positive and negative
qualities (with her 'ichlose Selbstischheif she is *nar%isshaff, 'Frau
HolleimSchnee\ teineseeknlosel^emure'>^ 'eineTLeiche, diemangalvanisieren
muss"). Anna has been violated by Waremme, and she is hypnotic-
ally controlled by him as Trilby is by Svengali; and, though she
fired the revolver and killed her sister, Waremme's diabolical will
directed her aim. The real purpose of the novel, apart from the
inquisition into problematical mental states, is the bitter Com-
munistic accusation of German justice and of justice generally,
continued from Der Moloch and Caspar Hauser. Efcffl Andergast
(1931) is the sequel to Der Fall Mauritius: the titular hero is now
the pupil of a medical specialist, Joseph Kerkhoven, who pierces
into the innermost mind of the crowd of characters, Joseph Kerk-
bovens dritte Existen^ (1934) takes up the threads again. Bula Mafarf
(i 93 2) and Cbristoph Columbus (i 929) mark the culmination of Was-
serman's morbid skill in the delineation of strange characters. It
had been said that the heroes of his tales were fantastically baroque,
as unreal as (say) Lohenstein's Armiaius: here he dissects his-