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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

374                   MODERN   GERMAN  LITERATURE

refinements to a plain narration of sensations, physical and mental
His Novellen um Claudia (1912) mark an experimental innovation:
a series of short tales are fitted together to form a novel. There is
the same striving for Sacblichkeit in his collections of Novellen
Fruhe Fahrten (1925) and Regenbogen (1926). Der Streit um den Ser-
geanten Grischa (1926-7) is one of the most notable of the War
novels: a recaptured Russian prisoner is sentenced to death as a
spy because he has assumed the name of a Russian soldier making
for home in an opposite direction: his identity is proved, but
Headquarters say the original sentence must be carried out, and
the Divisional Commander resists in vain. Sergeant Grischa is just
a simple soldier; he is the victim of Prussian bureaucracy - who
shall count how many others ? Here lies the poignancy of the story:
any soldier is a man, with senses that cling to love and life - to the
war machine he is not a man, but a number. Sergeant Grischa was
planned as the first of eight novels which were to epitomize and
analyse the years following World War I. The second novel, Junge
Frau von 1914 (1931), is, however, the chronological start; it is
the love story of a Berlin banker's daughter and an author without
means who is called up; the background is the upheaval of the
war, the moving spirit is vicious criticism of the conditions which
led to it and of those (particularly Jews) who profit by it. The title
of Einset^ung ernes Konigs (1937) refers to the candidature of the
Duke of Teck for the throne of Lithuania; the incompetence and
arrogance of German officers is exposed; the intelligentsia tends
to be the Jewish non-commissioned officers, who have mostly
soft administrative jobs away from the fighting. The hero ends as
a Communist. The paltry intrigue c>ŁEr%iehung vor Verdun (1935)
involves a like accusation of military justice. De Vriendt kehrtheim
(1933) is a vie romancee, though the name of the real hero, a Dutch
poet, is changed to De Vriendt, who is shot by an orthodox Jew
in Palestine; the interest is not so much in the hero's conflict with
the Zionists and his literary avocations as in the complication of
his psyche by homosexuality. In Das Beil von Wandsbeck (1947) a
man of examplary character, a master-butcher, feeling the com-
petition of the chain-stores in 1937, takes the chance of restoring
his finances by secretly acting as executioner to the Nazis, a func-
tion for which he sharpens 'the axe of Wandsbeck*, a family heir-
loom.
ERICH KASTNER'S (1899- ) Ljriscbe Haus-Apotheke (1938), an