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THE  WOMEN  WRITERS                           329

Brand had familiarized the idea. Michael Unger is man as Ricarda
Huch fondly imagines him: the tortured angel, lured by beauty
but fettered by duty, to whose problematic lips woman would, if she
could, bring the balm of bliss: an utterly romantic and feminine
estimation of the male. The woman Michael loves is unconvincing:
nothing she says or does has the flash of magic personality; all
that is clear is that she is capable and solid and that she is ready to
mother her man when he comes to her with his plea - sufficiently
hackneyed - of loneliness of spirit. There is attraction for the
literary reader in the description of student life in Zurich, that
home of die Internationale', and still more in two portraits - one
obviously of Ernst Haeckel in his conflict with established religion
and in his senile eroticism: dismissed from his professorship he
takes over Michael's discarded mistress; and the other - quite
delightful! - of Stefan George as Aristos, the latest sensation in
poetical fashion: 'sein Gesicht war hager und knochig und so farblos,
dass er mit gesMossenen Augen einem Totenkopfglich*. .. 'ungeheuer me
ein ewiger Gletscher\ From Conrad Ferdinand Meyer Ricarda Huch
takes over the device of the TLahmener^ahlung: Ludolf Ursleu un-
folds the saga of the past much as Dante does in the Swiss novel-
ist's Die Hoch^eit des M.onchs\ and in Aus der Triumphgasse (1902)
the patrician owner of a medieval mansion (the home of his an-
cestors), now decayed to a hive of flats, little by little reveals the
tangled lives of his tenants and their neighbours in this ancient
street of Trieste through which thedarknarrowroad climbs through
a Roman Arch of Triumph - an ironical erection! More fitting
were Dante's I^asciate ogni speran^a, voi dfentrate\ and indeed the
Arch and what lies before and behind it is a symbol of life itself:
through such a gateway youth climbs, but to the defeat of all hope
and to the endless strain and struggle by which all that is human
lives. In this street with the illusory name is crowded, like vermin,
the scum of the city - cripples, murderers, thieves, and girls who
give themselves for bread or passion* At their worst these crea-
tures, as Ricarda Huch shows, with her detached, fondling touch,
are intensely human; at their best they may be heroic. Starvation
cannot blunt their avid hold on life and may, when the heart is
good, give them a ripe humour that lights up even this sordid
existence. They are ministered to by a mysterious young priest
with a beautiful, sad face: the foster-brother of a murderer and a
prostitute who are still close to his heart. In so sad a book humour