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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

EXISTENTIALISM  AND   SURREALISM              493

ANNA SEGHERS (1900- ) is the chief exponent of the new socialist
realism in the novel as Bert Brecht is in the drama. She fled from
the Nazis, who banned and burned her works, to Paris, resided
in Madrid during the Spanish Civil War, and in 1941 emigrated
to Mexico. In 1947 she returned to Berlin. For the rest of her life
she has been a link between East Germany and the Soviet. She
made her reputation with her novel Der Aufstand der Fischer von
St. Barbara (1928); it has marked originality of style and handling,
but the depiction of the life of a small fishing port in Brittany is
rather romancified than realistic; the village whore, for instance,
plies her trade with too much femininity to be physically possible.
In her later work she develops a hard masculinity which ruthlessly
eliminates all traces of warmth of feeling. Her total task is a coldly
critical examination of the rise and fall of Fascism. Die Gefahrten
(1932) describes the experiences of Communist emigrants after
World War I. In Der Kopflohn (1935) the life of a village in the
summer of 1932 is plastically described, and the climax of the
action is the mishandling of the hero by SA ruffians. In Weg durch
den Tebruar (193 5) we have the rebellion of the workers in Vienna
against the Dollfuss government. In Die }Lettung (1937) there is a
close depiction of the years 1929 to 1933, just before the accession
to power of Hitler. It begins with a harrowing account of the
entombment of a gfoup of miners for eight days in a deep shaft;
one of them, the good Catholic Bentsch, sustains the others by
his example till they are rescued and is then acclaimed as a hero.
But there is a second ILettung which is the real theme of the novel:
the miners are still entombed - they have escaped from peril to
limb and life to be sucked into the long-drawn-out starvation of
body and mind in the slump. The details are inexorably charted -
the queueing up, the marking of the day's ration on the loaf. The
seven miners sink into the dumps of apathy; but there is a spokes-
man who rouses them to rebel, and the message to the masses is
pressed home when Bentsch leaves them to form a cell of resis-
tance against the Nazis. The MS. oiDassiebteKreu^ (1941)? written
in exile in Russia, was saved from the Gestapo by a French teacher.
The novel had a phenomenal success in America, where it was
filmed. The nominal hero, Georg, is one of seven prisoners in the
concentration camp at Westhofen in the Maitifc district He es-
capes, and his sufferings in his struggle to reach safety are des-
cribed; finally he is helped by friends and anti-Nazis to get away