Skip to main content

Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

See other formats

304                  MODERN   GERMAN   LITERATURE

torical characters, and lays bare what he considers to be their
secret soul - together with its disease. In Bula Matari he illumin-
ates the inner psychology of Stanley. To him Stanley is a type of
conquistador - a conquistador not merely of vast new spaces of earth
but of his own mysterious urges, and of úthe quagmire of life'.
What makes the book alluring is the obvious influence of another
adept in strange mentalities, Joseph Conrad: the whole book is
indeed planned more or less as an interpretation of Conrad's Heart
of Darkness by the light of Stanley's psychological experiences;
perhaps, indeed, as an interpretation of the mysterious psychology
of Conrad's tragic hero generally. Whether this interpretation is
not too naively Freudian may be questioned: at all events Wasser-
mann cannot understand Stanley's ostensibly clean sheet of erotic
experience unless there is an assumption of paederasty; the ex-
plorer's bewilderment at the collapse of the subordinates he had
left in charge of the rearguard in the Emin Pasha Relief Expedition
is questioned as either naivete or puritanical pretence, since it must
be clear that these normal British men had succumbed to the erotic
allurement of the African jungle. Only religious heroism of char-
acter (Livingstone, Stanley) can lead out of this poisonous inertia
of the jungle, or symbolically the quagmire of life in general (Trag-
heit des Her%ens\ while those who have not this heroic strength of
will (Emin Pasha, Stanley's subordinates) sink deeper and deeper
into it. Wassermann's Columbus is a drastic case oiEntheroisierung:
he is a creature of impulse rather than discoverer, sailing the seas
blindly, and 'buried in his own dark self, a joyless exile'. Wasser-
mann is mainly concerned in denouncing the destruction by dyn-
astic and religious greed of a symbiotic community.

Stehr's obstinate seeking for a new religion and Wassermann's
programmatic Buddhism are symptomatic of the change that takes
place in the novel after 1900 in the choice of hero: the great per-
sonality (Nietzsche's Adehmensch\ who has replaced the decadent
Nervenmnsch, tends to be a Gottsucher^ or at all events he seeks
some new moral way of escaping from the quagmire of life; the
progression to the humanistic or communistic hero of the expres-
sionists is typified by the sequence of Wassermann's social rebels.
Many of these novels of the new century are, since they describe
the development of the hero from youth to maturity through weal
and woe, 'BUdungsromane or Entwicklungsrotnane more or less in the
old sense; but the best of them are so intensely personal that they