Skip to main content

Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

See other formats

318                   MODERN   GERMAN   LITERATURE

there is something of an implication that culture brings incapacity
for business in the person of Uncle Jason, who has a distant
resemblance to Christian Buddenbrook, not however as the fool
of the family but as one by the bent of his character forced apart
from the family, an enfant terrible, a man about town and a wit, a
collector of rare books as well as of costly porcelain; he speaks
himself (in distinctly Mannsian terms) of his 'seelische Empfindung
des Ausgescblossenseins von der Famlie, de?n Burgertum^ dem Staat\ The
spirit of the story is, however, different from that oiBuddenbrooks*,
and where in details of technique, such as the ticketing of indi-
vidual characters by recurrent phrases and long passages in which
season and weather move in lyric unison with the story, both
authors, no doubt, are directly imitating Dickens. Decay by cul-
ture is certainly not the theme: the revered ancestor, the Court
Jeweller of his day, had culture (of the Voltairean sort) to his
finger-tips, and he combined a robust capacity for life with fine
feelings (ILebensstdrke und Sinnenfeinbeif), while his brother, Uncle
Eli (the patriarch among the Geberts, a blunt old fellow whose
culture runs to carriages and horses) and two of his children,
Salomon and Ferdinand, have less fineness of nerves but undimin-
ished capacity for business. The decay is in the reverse direction to
that o^Buddenbrooks, except, of course, in the case of Uncle Jason,
The main reason for Uncle Salomon's and Uncle Ferdinand's lack
of intellectual interest is family environment: they have both mar-
ried Jacobys, Polish Jewesses from the Posen district, squat little
women with eeyes like two black currants in a fat bun*. And here
we have the obvious theme of the story: the stark contrast and
the unending conflict between two types of Jew represented by
the Geberts and the Jacobys - and the Berlin patricians, being
honest and restrained, must be outmanoeuvred by the unscrupu-
lous, bumptious immigrants from the dirty East. The Berlin Jews
have the indifference to ritual of men of the world; the Posen
Jews put all their narrow pride of race into the observance of
every racial rite. The pride of race of the Berlin Jews springs from
quite a different source - they consort with Christians, but they
are true to their tribe because of age-old memories of unjust perse-
cution. And when the heroine of the tale, Jettchen Gebert, falls
passionately in love with a handsome young Christian, Dr Koss-
ling, an author at the beginning of whatever career the future may
have in store for him but therefore to sound business men for the