Skip to main content

Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

See other formats

3J2                   MODERN   GERMAN  LITERATURE

pretty closely the model of Sudermann's Frau Sorge; and David
Copperfield obviously provides the story of Jorn's sister, who
goes astray like little Emily, and is sought for in strange places by
her weird uncle from the Geest. The construction is very poor:
the characters have the habit of telling stories which are mostly
irrelevant to the main theme and nullify characterization by being
in the author's language, not in that of the character; what results
is a farrago of folklore embedded in a story which might be en-
thralling but for this anecdotal discursiveness. There are pages and
pages of parson's preaching - already sporadically anti-Christian.
What delighted readers in the first onslaught of the regional craze
was the boisterous face-to-face style of the narration, and this cer-
tainly is often excellent, particularly where it reveals the mentality
of children; but this style is taken over from Bjornson's peasant
tales. (This style ofjorn IWis later seized and distorted by EL F.
Blunck, who obviously claims it as the native saga style of Schles-
wig-Holstein.) There is of course a healthful tone in the book, and
the showing up of race-proud wastrels is in the best sense moral;
as is too, in the author's intention, the repeated stressing of the
sexual needs of robust women. If Frenssen is at all original it is
here, in his bold denial that nature is the devil. In his next novel,
Hilligenlei (1906), Frenssen unfrocks himself for the sake of nature
and natural religion. He unfolds with epic ease of movement a
picture of life in a hallig, but the action leads up to a Life of Christ,
modernized in accordance with the higher criticism of the gospel
story and written by the hero Kai Jans, a freethinking Protestant
parson whose life of religious speculation and self-sacrifice has
close affinities to that of the Saviour. The Low German name
Hilligenlei is rendered as 'Holy Land', and the story wistfully belies
the local legend that some day this grey township by the sea - a
kind of Bethlehem whose Jerusalem is Hamburg - should bring
forth a saviour of mankind. At thirty Kai goes into the wilderness
- of Berlin - to ruminate; and here, in the sight of suffering in
tenement houses swarming with criminals and paupers, his faith
is formed. From the point of view of Church doctrine there is
marked anti-Christian feeling in the novel (in particular the Virgin
birth is ridiculed), but the simple ethical teaching of Jesus is
accepted as spiritualized Socialism, which accepts extra-marital
cohabitation as human and therefore 'holy'; thus the inevitable
robustious woman of the story does not reveal to the man she