Skip to main content

Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

See other formats

34                   MODERN   GERMAN  LITERATURE

ously ill and he returns to the fold. This theme of redemption by
love is necessarily the main moving force in her work, for it is the
integral concomitant of the Catholic faith. What constitutes the
interest of the two novels is that sustained conflict between world-
liness and unfettered thinking on the one hand and Catholicism
with its rigidity of doctrine on the other which in our days marks
the political history of Germany and Austria and in literature as
in politics amounts to a Catholic revival. Of this Catholic revival
she is a prop and stay. It is natural, therefore, that Das Schweisstuch
der Veronika should have the stamp of all her subsequent fiction.
Generally speaking her novels and short stories have to be classed
as historical; but this is only chronologically so, for she is every-
where at grips with the problems of the present, and her solution
of the conflicts round which she winds her intrigues points to the
final goal where, as her shaping of the action shows, salvation lies.
Critics deny that she preaches; and this holds good in the sense
that truth is not something that can be taught, but is there, im-
mutable, where the author sees it. The key to her striving - which
is to save souls from the dark powers that threaten them - is that
her works were composed during the onward rush and sweep of
nationalistic and communistic doctrines. Both the great theological
novels with their depiction of a girl's sacrifice of family tradition
are written in the first person, and that has frequently been taken
to indicate that they are autobiographical; this she emphatically
denies - she uses the Ichform^ she says, because it is particularly
suggestive where the narrator's aim is to lay bare the inner nature
of her chief character. Moreover, she affirms, her characters are
not portraits painted from life, but types; that is, what happens in
their minds is more important than what they are as persons. In
other words they are evolved, as a mathematical proposition might
be. But whether for this very reason they live, as do the characters
of Enrica von Handel-Mazzetti, to whom the historical placing of
her characters brings her close, is a moot question. Der Papst aus
dem Ghetto (1930) brings the Jewish problem into the story of
Anaclet II, the Jew pope who in 1130 was set up as antipope to
Innocent II. Die 'Let^te am Schafott (1931) is a sort QiHeiligenlegende
written in letter form by a novice, the youngest of sixteen Carmel-
ite nuns, who dies as the last of them during the French Revolu-
tion, with all the legendary heroism of a martyr. It is the base of
Francis Poulenc's opera Dialogues des Carmelites (1956), with a