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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

392                   MODERN   GERMAN  LITERATURE

concentrate in a symbol expanding and bursting like a gorgeous
tropical flower the physical need which is the source of existence,
is realized in the final scene where the virgin widow, who has
saved herself by a swing of Holofernes' curved sword from the
trampling lust of the Assyrian army, is again brought by her decent
family to the sacrifice, this time to be thrust for religion's sake
into a loathsome virginity. She writhes and recoils, as she had done
at the first sacrifice of her body; but as, while she is held, the priest
from Jerusalem is stripped shred by shred of his ceremonial vest-
ments and his manly beauty of thews and sinews lights the black
gloom of the Temple, her struggles cease: 'leise fasten ihre Finger,
denen die Hande mit grosser en Fldchen langsam nachgehen, an den eigenen
Gliedern herab. Ihr Leib spanntsich - undaus aller Verfolgung, Vorwurf
mdJSestimmung baut er sich neu und voller auf. Ihre Finger Bittern um dm
Saum ihres kttr^en Rleides, ah hbben sie daran. Die Sdule ihres %ur Erde
stehenden Haares trdgtdie Stirn ihrerschonen Madchenkrap, me die Krone
heiligsten Gebietens* Such a picture, electric and sated with symbol
- the self-sacrifice and consummation of love in the Holy of Holies,
where priest is husband and husband is priest - is the measure of
Georg Kaiser's exploring spirit. Through Konig Hahnrei (1913)
Tristan and Isolde move almost as hallucinated automatons, while
the interest is concentrated on the senile erotic impotence of King
Mark. In hiding he has heard Isolde tell Tristan how in Ireland
her boy brother embraced her with his feet pressed on her lap;
the picture becomes a fixed idea, which drives the old man crazy.
The end is vivid: Mark hurls a spear, Isolde covers Tristan's back
with her breast, the spear pierces both, and unites them in death.
The "new man* of expressionist ethics stands four-square to the
blasts of fate in Die Burger von Calais (1914): when six volunteers
are called for to be delivered up to King Edward, seven come
forward; one too many means that one may hope to survive; the
sacrifice for the city would thus be a gamble; but one of the seven
slays himself to end the conflict. He is the new man who is born:
he who readily sacrifices himself for others. The play is notable
for the chiselled majesty of its language; it is as monumental and
rugged in words as Rodin's group is in brotize. Europa: Spiel und
Tan% (1915) is a skit on the aesthetic effeminacy of modern times.
In Von Morgens bis Mitternachts (1916) Kaiser pursues his idea that
industrial man is an automaton: a bank-clerk turned by routine
into a calculating machine runs out into life - with 60,000 marks