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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

EXISTENTIALISM  AND   SURREALISM              475

years (the holy number of fulfilment!) which cover World War II
and what went before it: Germany, cthe heart-shield of the West',
runs the argument, was seized by the Demon that drove her to
war; but the nations round about her were passive in their Tragbeit
des Herons and therefore equally guilty. The result is that Germany
must suffer in their place (stellvertretenf). All this may seem strange,
but it is part and parcel of the obsessional Messianism of the
Germans: Germany is chosen to save the world; and therefore:
6 Volker, vernehmt mit uns alien das Gottliche; Metanoeite /' But Bergen-
gruen's lyrical work is mostly religious in tone and substance:
Die Rose von Jericho (1946), Der ewige Kaiser (1937), Die verborgene
Frucht (1938), Die heile Welt (1950). In 'Lombardische Elegie (1951)
the poet recalls his Baltic origin, reflects on the fate of his ancestors
and their possessions, and connects all this with his description of
the great plain of Lombardy, which serves him as the starting-
point of his excursions into the world of the past.

In the Supranaturalismus of the Rhineland novelist ELISABETH
LANGGASSER (1899-1950) the fusion of past and present is extreme
and extravagant. For her ]et%t und Hier are one with Immer und
Emg: 'Zeitlosigkeit undZeify she says, 'fallen ^usammen.9 Not only is
the unity of all life her continuous theme but also the unity of the
pagan antiquity of Greece and the Middle Ages with the world of
today. She is a master of interior monologue. Her novel Proserpina
(1932), a personal myth of childhood, was followed by Triptichon
des Teufels (1932.) and Gang durch das EJed (1936). The theme of Die
}Lettung am Rbein (1938) is Grace abounding, as it is declaredly of
the masterpiece that made her famous, Das unausloschliche Siege!
(1946). The novel must have been written in the full consciousness
that she was half a Jew, that she had been condemned to twelve
years of silence, and that her elder daughter had been thrown into
the concentration camp at Auschwitz. The chief character of the
novel, Belfontaine, is a Jew complete, but he turns Catholic to
marry into a Catholic family. He is in good circumstances and a
bon viveur\ and he accepts baptism cynically and keeps to his free-
thinking. At the outbreak of the First World War he is on holiday
on the Loire and is interned. Years after we find him at Senlis
near Paris as a naturalized Frenchman married to a Frenchwoman.
All seems to be going well with him, and he is still flaunting his
Voltairean vice of enlightenment (Vernunfi) when he hears a voice
calling him in a thunderstorm: 'Icarus, komm herausT He dis-