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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

494                  MODERN  GERMAN  LITERATURE

by ship. What is new in the novel is that there is no concession to
sentiment; what has happened to the other six internees, who did
not escape, is episodically described and serves as a foil to the
central figure, who gets away, not because he is the hero of the
tale, but because he is the type of the tough average man who
stands up to the buffeting of fate; he is not clearly defined as an
exceptional individual, but is automatically impelled by the urge
to save his skin, whereas the other six have the tragic weaknesses
that lead to failure, while the subsidiary characters whom Georg
meets as a fugitive - working men and middle class people, the
representatives of the resistance movement - come into the picture
one by one as the die-hards ready to risk all to help a comrade on
the run. One may say that the collective hero of the book is the
average man in his relationship to the Nazi creed before the war;
the groups of characters coalesce to one firmly limned total type.
Transit (1948) again describes the sufferings of people fleeing, in
the years 1940 to 1941, from the Nazi terror. The harrowing story,
a prose epic of hopelessness, is told with cold precision; it is in
some sort one of Kafka's nightmares lived through in relentless
daylight. In Marseilles, at a time when North France but not yet
the South was occupied, a band of terrorized fugitives are waiting
with flickering gleams of hope for their transit visas; they are sent
away from shipping offices and consulates, and only a chance
accident can open the way out. The narrator, Seidler, does actually
get his visa, but only because he is supposed to be using a cover-
name for the famous author Weidel. But Weidel, as Seidler knows,
had committed suicide in Paris when the Nazis marched in. He
falls in love with WeideFs wife, who haunts the cafes in search of
her husband, although in the meantime she has escaped with a
doctor whose mistress she now is. Seidler, realizing that she still
loves the husband she had, lets his documents pass their due date.
And by doing so he saves his life, for the ship in which Marie and
the doctor sail, and for which he too had a ticket, is wrecked. He
himself finds refuge with French friends as a labourer on their
farm. Die Toten bleibenjung (1949) - outwardly a Zeitroman but once
more a species of prose epic - covers the period from the revolu-
tion at the end of World War I to the collapse of Germany at the
end of the second. All the political movements take their turn,
with Rosa Luxemburg and Liebknecht, wtthBorsenkrache, inflation,
the slump, and with Hitlerism to cap all. All classes of society play