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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

THE  NOVEL  OF  IMPRESSIONISM                    311

an intricate use of symbol; e.g. though the Buddenbrooks die
guiltless and in utter decency the last head of the firm, the im-
maculate senator Thomas, falls into a puddle in the streets and is
brought home stained and bleeding to die; or, in plain terms,
physical decay brings back the flower of gentility to the gutter.
The technique of the novel is on the whole masterly, with its slow
contrasts of character and its minute rendering of the milieu of an
ancient Hanseatic city; faulty, perhaps, is the Dickens-like cari-
cature of the eccentrics and villains; and very dubious is the use
of leit-motifs, i.e. the wearisome repetition of facial and personal
peculiarities and tricks of diction and gesture. This not only tends
to bore if not to irritate the reader, it limits the characters; that is,
at a certain moment they must say a certain thing or make a certain
gesture - they are bound up in the piffling trammels of their per-
sonal habits instead of having unrestricted freedom of movement
and self-revelation. To this practice, however, Thomas Mann
keeps; thus in Konigliche Hoheit Imma always speaks 'with pouted
lips', and the Grand Duke always sucks his upper lip.

The most poignant expression of the artist's tragedy, perhaps,
is in Tonio Kroger (1903), the story of the Liibeck boy with a correct
father and an exotic, passionate mother; he strays into art and
longs to get back to decency, and is not surprised that when he
returns as a famous author to his native city he is nearly arrested
under suspicion of being a criminal. The three collections of short
stories Der kleine Herr Friedemann (1898), Tristan (1903) and Das
Wtmderfdnd (1914) contain more than one acknowledged master-
piece. Asceticism and joy in life, or in other words dualism, are
the theme of the short tale Gladius Dei and of the literary drama
Fiorensra (1905). In Gladius Dei a religious fanatic declaims against
the flaunting indecencies and the display of physical beauty in
Munich, the typical art-city of our days; in Fioremyt Savonarola
faces and defies Loren2O dei Medici, while Florence, symbolized
as the courtesan Fiore, has to choose between the two, between
ascetic spirituality (Geist) and art that snares the senses. In K&tig-
liche Hoheit (1909) the individualism of the impressionists turns to
the altruism which the expressionists were soon to proclaim: a
prince (with a withered hand - bold symbolism before 1914!)
stands for the artist or unusual character; he achieves salvation by
sacrificing himself for the good of the community. The problem
of the extraordinary personality here finds its solution, which is