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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

460                   MODERN   GERMAN   LITERATURE

findet nicht, aber mr nkht swbt, wird gefunden? This, Kafka might
have said, is the theology of today - the theology of time-wearied
men in great rotting cities.

Close to Kafka is HERMANN KASACK'S (1896- ) allegorical novel
Die Stadthinterdew Strom (1948), somewhat in the nature of Albert
Camus' La Pwte (1947). It is not so much the City of the Dead
that is chronicled as an intermediary station (Zmschenreich] where
those who have crossed the river from earth make a stay before
their dissolution. The story is that an orientalist who has fallen in
love with the wife of another man accepts a post as archivist in a
town 'across the river', and that by his experiences here he acquires
insight into the nature of life and death, above all the knowledge
that life, washed round as it is with death, is a continuous process
of clarification (Klarung) and purification (Lantmm^. To this state
the archivist attains in the embrace of the woman he had loved
on earth and whom he finds here again - in her bare arm he notices
a long scar from an incision and suddenly realizes that she is not
flesh but spirit. She had committed suicide. Now his carnal passion
for her fades into that human pity which we should all feel if we
stripped ourselves of the trammels of self (Entselbsttw^. The doctor
now recrosses the bridge earthwards, and crisscrosses the country
in a series of linked railway trains which serve him in his mission
as an itinerant preacher driving home the lessons he has learned.
Life as it is on earth, he now comprehends, is at its best a trans-
position of matter to spirit; but all that is earthly must, because it
is matter, be broken up after its term and returned to its origin
for rebirth. This is symbolized by the two factories in the City
across the River - in one of them artistic slabs are produced and
these are then sent to the second factory to be ground into powder
and afterwards returned to the first factory for re-making. His
first impression of the City was that it had been laid waste by
bombs, and when regiment after regiment of soldiers came march-
ing over the bridge he had realized that a war was raging. This
throws light on the origins of the novel: the first half was written
1942-44 and it was finished in 1946. It is thus one of the N^
kriegsromam of the late forties. The concept may owe something
to Thornton Wilder's Our Tom atid The Skin of our Teeth.1 The style

1 The work is also highly reminiscent of Sutton Vane's play Outward
Bound, produced at the Everyman Theatre, London, in 1923 and later made
into a film.