Skip to main content

Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

See other formats

506                   MODKRX   GKRMAX   LITERATURE

kaiserlich-koniglich period - the date is 1910) he rents a cheaper
flat on the third story with windows which look down on to the
flats; opposite; since his new abode has been unoccupied for some
time those who live in the flats below are unaware that they can
be observed from above, and the very first night he sees full-
bodied ladies preparing for bed in the nude or near it. The course
of the story shows that he has lived as a troglodyte; his very lan-
guage, as copious extracts show, illustrates the Dienstpragmatik of
officialdom. But the close-wrapped folds of custom fall from him,
and his marriage to a plump Posfoherofffqi&lini who, being full
woman, has remained human, gives us a novellistic, though allus-
ively ironical, happy ending. Though Doderer specifically rejects
both Zeifrow&n and historical novel as illusory and therefore out-
worn, his historical studies (he graduated in Geschichtswissenscbaft&i)
peer out from the baroque ceremonial and depiction of custom in
Em \]mmg\ and they serve him too for the outlines of what to
some readers will seem his most moving work, Das lefctfe Aben-
temr (1953). It is a tale of troubadours and errant knights; a
Spanish hidalgo has heard the story of a lovely lady in whose
forests a dreadful dragon roams at will; he sets out with page and
retinue to slay the monster; his sword is blunted on its scaly back;
but the lady welcomes him, if not as a dragon-slayer, at least as a
champion who has struck oft" the beast's horns. By all the laws of
old romance he should marry the lady and be lord of her realm;
but he is not drawn to her, and, ripe widow as she is, she prefers
his page, now newly dubbed a knight. He sets out once more with
a new page, and beyond the forest comes to villages where cot-
tages are being burnt down and bodies of defenceless villagers lie
on the roads; he finds a marauding gang, attacks them single-
handed and forces them to flee; but in the moment of his victory
he sinks from his horse and is stretched out dead, he too a victim
of war as we know it today* The tale is dreamful and symbolic;
the meaning lies embedded in what passes in the knight's mind.
The dragon is Fate, and we are powerless to fight it; evil whelms
us. We find the interpretation of this little story - and of much
else in Doderer's work - in the Atttobwgmphisches Nacbwort which
is appended; the author, quoting the saying of Mephistopheles:
Wer lange tebt, hat ml erfahrm, agrees but stresses that lange refers
not to the chronicle of years but to the intensity of experiences;
those whose experiences lay between 1871 and 1914 lived a short