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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"


science at Halle, while Georg taught in a school at KasseL He is
attracted by Karoline Michaelis - later the wife of August Wilhelm
Schlegel and then of Schelling, and Schiller's 'Dame Lucifer' - but
marries Therese Heyne, the daughter of the famous Gottingen
professor of Latin. She is unfaithful to him, but he forgives her,
and they go to live at Mainz, where the plot thickens and history,
with the French occupation, leads the characters deeper into the
labyrinthine tangle. The effect is somewhat televisionary: there is
too much grouping of figures familiar to us all as Germanists:
these figures are vividly portrayed, but too much in the ideal light
of literary history - even such figures as Schiller's friend Huber.
The sting of the criticism should be that, interesting as the group-
ing of these familiar figures is, it is only so in a sense extraneous
to the sense of the novel as such: certainly they rob the story of
concentration on the protagonists: Georg Forster is not so much
the hero around whom the groups revolve as one of a crowd.
Moreover, he is depicted as a pathological figure, so that the novel
has naturalistic Heldenlosigkeit. However, the depressing tale does
give a psychological interpretation of the marital promiscuousness
of the period - particularly of the tendency of the literary ladies to
sample poet after poet. Forster himself is of the type of Schiller
when he wrote Freigeisterei der Leidenschaft - and for the same
reason: he is so intellectually excited that his sexual activity is
dormant or spasmodic. The tale ends with Therese living under
Huber's protection while Georg goes to Paris as a deputy of the
Mainz Convention. Here he dies in misery; and ere he dies he
realizes that life is a labyrinth, through which we grope, with hope
vanishing, to that terrible mystery the Minotaur - that is, death.
Ina Seidel's masterpiece is Das Wunscbfdnd (1930). The hero's
mother is the daughter of a patrician family in Mainz; she is
married to a Prussian officer, whose child - das Wunscbkind - she
conceives in the night before his departure to fight the French
revolutionaries. He is killed. As the boy grows up the situation is
that of Parzival's mother: the boy belongs to a Prussian family of
officers; he must fight; he is dedicated to death as his father was.
The mother's sister marries a French officer who has risen from
the ranks; and in time the child of this union, a daughter, is
brought up with the old grandfather, a man of heroic mould, on
the Prussian estate. The boy falls in love with his cousin, though
the French blood in her veins makes her flighty and unfit for a