Skip to main content

Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

See other formats

THE  NOVEL  OF  EXPRESSIONISM                  37!

(1920) deals with the son-father motif. [Georg Kaiser, too, in
Holle, Weg> Erde (1919) had shown that the victim of a would-be
murderer was guilty of the crime.] The drama Paulus unter den
Juden (1926) deals with the problem of Jesus and the Jews. The
doctrine of 'love thine enemy' is the theme of the tragedy Juare^
und Maximilian (1924), a contrast of monarchical and republican
ideas in Mexico, and of the "novel of the opera' Verdi (1924), in
which Verdi and Wagner are contrasted. For Thomas Mann Wag-
ner is an inspiration breathing through 'die mssende Wehmut der
Sterbensreife* \ to Werfel he is decadent over-ripeness. Wagner in
this novel is the she-man from whom erotic effulgence emanates,
the impersonation of the picturesquely abnormal, while Verdi is
the embodiment of self-sacrificing goodness and duty, the artist
turned citizen in Thomas Mann's sense. The novel reads like a
counter-blast to the romantic idea of a musical genius in Wasser-
mann's Das Gansemdnnchen\ both novels deal with the history and
technique of music. Verdi has not found peace of mind, for in his
rural retirement he is mentally sterile, and his fame has been
eclipsed by that of Wagner; he has with him the score of Tristan^
but in his instinctive fear of its alien genius he keeps it locked up,
He goes to Venice, where Wagner is staying, but when at last he
nerves himself to visit his rival he finds at the door that he has
just died. His jealousy fades into love, and he composes Otello.
Apart from the main theme, the Wandlung of the hero, there is
much that is fine in the novel, particularly the symbolization of
Venice cradled in age-rotted mud and dying to the rhythm of
lapping waves; Venice, moreover - *the terrible temptress, tired
from too many loves' - identified with a Halbweib, a prima donna
who moves through the tale with nothing more than a batser
colombin and hysterical quiverings for her lover, decadent Venice
answering the baton of decadent Wagner. Some of the foundation
work of the tale may be from d'Armutizio's II Fuoco, in which
Wagner dies in fevered, autumnal Venice, and in which the experi-
ences of Duse and her lover are only lightly veiled. The Novellen
Der Tod des Kleinburgers (1926) and Gehimnis ernes Menschen (1927)
were followed by the novels Der Abituriententag (1928) and 'Barbara
oder die Frommigkeit (1929). "Barbara is mainly interesting for its
dramatic psychic problem: during the War the hero, an Austrian
lieutenant, is in charge of a firing party who are to shoot three
men for treason; one of them is the son of the old nurse (Barbara)