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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"


Rind about 1900 an attack was launched on the literature
of town life (Grossstadtroman), and a demand was made that
writers should turn their backs on the cities-to which for
the most part they had migrated from the provinces of the country-
side - and confine themselves to the description of their native
province: Asphaltkunst should give way to Heimatkunst. Experi-
ence was to show that this amounted to a return to the 'Bauernroman
or the DorfnoveJ/e; and as a matter of fact this rural literature formed
part even of naturalism - certainly in the Lusatian novels of Wil-
helm von Polenz. The attack was led by three writers - Heinrich
Sohnrey (a Hanoverian), Fritz Lienhard (an Alsatian), and Adolf
Bartels (fromDithmarschen). Heimatkunst, they urged, would make
the novel deutschnational or heimisch: born of the soil and redolent
of the soil (Schollendichtung), national in its ideals as in its traditions,
whereas the Grossstadtroman was for a great part the purlieu of
international Jews who would have no literary life off the asphalt
whose stink they loved. (Actually it was a philosophical Jew,
Berthold Auerbach, who had given the village tale a classical habi-
tation in the Black Forest.) The movement, which in England
produced the regional novels (Hardy for Wessex, etc.), was, how-
ever, not merely literary but also a spontaneous development due
to a heightened love of locality; and in Germany, too, the develop-
ment would have been inevitable without the fanatical propaganda
which merely made it conscious of its tendencies. Even the first
requisite, the change of scene from urban to rural, was illusory:
for, strictly speaking, a town is just as much Helmut as a village,
so that the main difference in the new orientation is that whereas
the naturalistic novel devotes itself to the proletariat and the brain-
workers, Heimafkunst prefers for hero the horny-handed tiller of
the soil, stolid and grimly determined, throwing himself on manual