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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

THE REGIONAL NOVEL                         347

labour (as the hero of Ebner-Eschenbach's Das GemindeMnd'does)
'like a lion on his prey'. We may surely reckon Heimatkunst as an
integral part of naturalistic and impressionistic literature, for it is
governed by the same cult of externals - the essential thing is the
rendering of milieu, and character is more than ever shaped by
surroundings. Definite criteria, by which one might at once class
a novel as Heimatkunst or not, are impossible; generally speaking
the main thing in the genre is that peasants are idealized. This rules
out Ludwig Thoma and Josef Ruederer, to whom the peasants of
their native hills are more or less dirty louts and the more so the
merrier (for their artistic purpose).

One thing is clear: masterpieces must not be expected in regional
literature. No Thomas Hardy appeared in Germany. The most
tangible result is the new picturesqueness won for given localities,
the bringing into relief of racial characteristics, and the stressing
of the lesson - to be exploited by the Nazis - that the soil is a
shaping as well as a nourishing force. The trumpet-blowers of the
movement worked out this doctrine in journalistic polemics and
in their journal Die Helmut (i 900- ). As creative writers they them-
selves are mediocre. ADOLF BARTELS (1862-1945), a peasant's son
born, like Hebbel, in Wesselburen, wrote a historical novel, Die
Ditbmarscher (1898), in glorification of his native heath; but he
is best known for the absurd anti-Semitic virus of his various
histories of German literature. FRITZ LIENHARD (1865-1929) ex-
pounded his ideas in Neue Ideale (1901), wrote the regional and
historical novel Oberlin (1910), Uieder ernes E/sassers (1895), and
ILesedramen (some Arthurian), which have thematic interest. HEIN-
RICH SOHNREY (1859-1943), an elementary teacher to begin with,
has the lovable nature of the genuinely popular writers. He is one
of those authors, formerly suppressed by supercilious critics, who
have moved up since 1933. He himself put all his pride in being a
Volksschriftsteller - a writer not indeed for the masses but for the
simple in heart, whether rich or poor. Not that he is naive: he
writes naively because the readers he desires are good in the par-
son's sense, and therefore naive. He plainly regards it as the stern
duty of a Volksschriftstelkr to sacrifice his artistic ideal to his social
ideal. The didactic note is as insistent as in Jeremias Gotthelf *s
writings, but without the Swiss parson's black vigour of outline:
it really amounts to a gospel of salvation by unquestioning labour,
of slavery to the soil that feeds us, and to the masters set over us