Skip to main content

Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

See other formats

394                  MODERN   GERMAN  LITERATURE

he says; *I have smashed the gate open, and now I stand in the
softest meadow green. Over me streams the blue of heaven.' Here
again Gluck rhymes with yuruck as in the village idylls of Voss and
his followers. In the two parts of Gas (Gas I, 1918; Gas II, 1920)
Kaiser deals with the problem of the mechanization of humanity
by factory labour; the son of the millionaire who in KoraJ/e is
executed for murder tries to liberate these mechanized slaves, and
fails lamentably: they will not relinquish, for healthy natural labour
amid the fruit and flowers of the field, the quick gain that machines
bring them. They are not even frightened by an explosion that
wrecks the factory, although they are aware that it may be re-
peated. The factory hand is not to be turned into the cnew man';
in his case it is too late for Wandlung. Faultlessly symmetrical and
gruesome in its Wellsian glare of futuristic science is Gas II, which
ends with the extinction of all and everything by a pellet of poison
gas. Kaiser managed to remain in Germany during the Nazi period
- but silenced and almost starving - until just before the outbreak
of the war he found a refuge in Switzerland. Here he wrote thir-
teen plays, the most successful of which was Der Soldat Tanaka
(1940); the hero is a Japanese private soldier who suddenly realizes
what a horrible business soldiering is. Thereafter Kaiser turned,
like Gerhart Hauptmann in his final stage, to Greek themes; his
Hellenic trilogy (1948) Zweimal Amphitryon, Pygmalion, and J&//OT-
phon is in iambic verse. It might be shown that the 'classical" form
in these Greek dramas is negatived by an absolutely modern and
brutal form of realism which is, or is not, compensated for by
Kaiser's specific symbolism or playing with ideas ^Denkspiehn?\
whereas Hauptmann comes nearer to the traditional form of Greek
drama on (more or less) the Greek pattern. The trilogy might
actually be classed as anti-myth; for not only is a great part of the
action reduced to crass reality by the reflection that provides the
modern symbol, but the gods and goddesses themselves are, in
greater or less degree, comic. The other dramas of Kaiser show
the same flair for piquant plots (Der 'Brand im Opernhaus, 1919;
Holle, Weg, Erde, 1919 - one of the great successes of expressionist
staging; Der geretMe Alkibiades, 1920; Die Flucht nach Venedig,
1923 - de Musset and George Sand). Kaiser tried his hand at a
novel with Es ist genug (1932): the theme is a father's prepared
plan of incest with his own daughter.
ERNST TOLLER (1893-1939) pairs with Kaiser as a Communistic