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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

THE  LITERATURE  OF   RACE  AND   SOIL            433

Kldnge (to use Wiechert's own way of putting it), the basic com-
mon sense of its rebellion against ingrained prejudice and biblical
illogicality. Jedermann (1931) is a sequel; it recounts the experiences
of Johannes in the war. The novel amounts to an uncompromising
rejection of war as unnatural; there is, it is true, war in the pro-
cesses of nature, but this is organic, never organized. In Wiechert's
allusive symbolism, moreover, war is an outrage on the Mother-
land; for in his mystical mother-cult 'mother* embodies all that is
good and creative; and therefore this more or less pacific war
novel is in stark contrast to the general run of war novels with
their cult of the Fatherland. But there is the reverse of defeatism
]& Jedermann; the good that comes from defeat is that it binds men
together for common service and tolerance, to Jews as to all
others. Wiechert's theme of escape from misery, which is the basic
theme of Jedermann, is more mythically handled in Die Magd des
]urgen Dostocil (1932); the hero is an East Prussian ferryman on
the Memel, a primitive gifted with second sight, and with age-old
pagan beliefs piercing through his crust of Christianity. The in-
grained heathen qualities surviving in these fastnesses of nature
give the story with its inwoven undertones a luring charm. The
hero of Die Majorin (1934) returns, after twenty years' service in
the Foreign Legion, from a prisoners' camp in Africa and lives an
outlaw's life in an East Prussian forest, till he is won back to faith
in life by a great-hearted woman. Die Hirtennovelle (1935) is today
classed as one of the finest short stories in German literature.
Michael is a shepherd lad who guards the flocks of a lonely East
Prussian hamlet near the frontier; there are cows, sheep, and goats,
but the pride of the herd is Bismarck, the bull. One day the shep-
herd of the neighbouring hamlet, Laban - a name given in the
district to chaps big in the bone but weak in the head - invades
Michael's purlieus; there is a fight, and Michael hits Laban straight
between the eyes with a stone from his sling. This Goliath re-
covers, but henceforth keeps his distance. The tale is marvellously
fitted detail by detail to the Bible story of David, though the note
is of halcyon peace till the war comes and the Russians and Michael
is killed as he tries to save one of his lambs that has strayed from
where he had hidden flock and village folk. Das einfache 'Leben
(1939) introduces a third period of maturity: the gospel of the
second period is still the staple, but it is reasoned more logically
and with less acerbity of argument. Sex is clean cut out; the tone