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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

EXISTENTIALISM   AND   SURREALISM               479

the story of an elementary teacher from a comfortable home who
at the beginning of her scholastic career, in a fit of reforming zeal,
exiles herself to a remote moorland village. The beastliness of the
peat-cutters here is incredible; they are sub-human. One hope
Daniela has: the young priest, not long in the hamlet, robust, and
fervent in faith. The name for him in the village is cder Heilige*;
but it is a term of contempt. Daniela has some practical success
with her de-lousing and general cleaning up of her pupils; but her
efforts at moral cleansing are laughed at. She hears the priest ser-
monizing his flock, and in the sermon and in talk with Daniela
there is much play with the idea that God has instituted sin am
Mitleid-wtth humanity; He leaves us the choice between good and
evil. The reasoning amounts to this: man is an animal, so made by
God; the priest and Daniela are in an environment of animality;
and they too, when the moment comes, fall. The problem of the
book is the celibacy of the clergy; and this is a theme with a long
pedigree from Zola's La conquete de Plassans and Lafauie de Fabbe
Mount onwards. The priest falls in Peter Rosegger's Maria im
Elend (1852); and another Austrian woman, Emilie Mataja, who
wrote under the name of Emil Marriot, made a speciality of such
tales of priests; her novels Der geistliche Tod(\ 8 84) and Mitder Tonsur
were famous. The finest handlings are George Moore's The Lake
and Gerhart Hauptmann's Der Ket^er von Soana. There is a run-
ning chain of motifs in all these novels; and there is this and
that in Daniela which has its parallel in what has preceded; thus
Daniela, like George Moore's heroine, is not abashed by the ex-
pectation of an illegitimate child; in The Lake as in Daniela the
woman is an elementary school teacher, and in both these novels
the heroine refuses to allow her priest to join her when he has
taken up a new vocation. This last detail, however, agrees with
Luise Rinser's practice; she has stated in a Selbstportrat that she
has no liking for happy endings; in Daniela as in Mitte des Lebens
the reader is free to guess what the future will bring. Generally
speaking, though in style and handling of the problem Luise Rinser
is influenced by Georges Bernanos, Daniela is almost outrageously
original. The title (one thinks of Daniel in the lions' den) suggests
that to the author the woman is the principal character, not the
priest, whom in any case she dominates (one might venture to
say: whom she seduces - aus Mitleid)y and this would conform to
her line of attack in Mitte des Lebens, in which the men, even if