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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

MODKRX   GERMAN"   LITERATURE

appears, to appear again in 1943 as an old Jew beggar who roams
about between Russian concentration camps and Russian partisans,
rich in the joy of prayer and in (rod's grace. This is the story that
can be fished out of the ocean of monologues that wind on and
on, insertions, and multifarious matter, and the leap-frog chrono-
logy between 1858 and 1945; the happenings range in scene from
the Rhineland through France to the Pyrenees and eastwards to
Russia. There is no psychology; for the fundament of all we read
is that man is object, not subject; what is visioned and shown is
the direct action of God on man. There are two opposing worlds:
the world of saints - Therese of Lisieux, Bernadette Soubirous at
Lourdes, and the rest - and the world of demons, and to these
belong the marionettes of Satan, such as Bel Fontaine. The conflict
is thus betxveen God and the Devil; they fight for the souls of
men* Belfontaine is saved in his sin; For he is baptized. His baptism
was a fraud; but, being baptized, he bears a seal that cannot be
effaced* A vile Voltairean might object that if the mere ceremony
of baptism is miraculous, it is a heathen fetish; but symbol is
heaped to prove that the baptismal font itself is a miracle; and in
addition the grotto at Lourdes and exren dk weibliche Scham (and
this is typical) are symbolized as fonts in which the miraculous
process of salvation is carried out by God. The greatness of the
novel is in description, in symbol; in short it is rather prose
poetry than narrative. Marvellous is the use of classical mythology
to image the common human conduct of all time; thus Leda with
her swan serves to show forth by a callous spread of limbs the
mechanical sexual receptivity of woman. The symbol is often raw,
to mark the impulsion of brute desire; but it may have the loveli-
ness and the rareness of a poet's vision. The artistic justification
- if there can be one - of all this slow savouring of adultery, of
Lesbian love, incest, brothels, is that it is necessary for the picture
of 'purple HelP. But the other-world contrast is the cloister with
flagellation and fevered visions. Physically untrue as the presen-
tation of mental states is, there is psychological interest in so far
as the author's own obsessed psyche is revealed. She is the reverse
Qianima naturatiter christiana^ she is a forced flower of fanaticism;
and to many her aversion to Luther may be distressing, Der Torso
(1947) and Das Labyrinth (1949) are collections of short stories.
Of prime importance is her posthumously published novel on a
vast scale Markische Argon&utenfahrt (1950), in which we find the